2 Turntables & A Microphone

posted January 05, 2010 12:01:00 PM CST | 15 comments

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When Hip Hop lost Jam Master Jay in October of 2002, we were left speechless. Jay brought Hip Hop deejaying into the mainstream, and he represented a core element of the most recognizable Rap group of all times. Remembered as a personable, friendly and outgoing spirit, his murder made no sense to anybody who was close to him. Even more senseless, that murder has never been solved, adding to one of the most sickening trends of Rap's last 15 years. Executive produced by 50 Cent, a project started and produced by Fredro Starr, Guy Logan's 2 Turntables & A Microphone documentary is a beautiful and shockingly honest look at the man under the black fedora.

Respectably, neither Fredro Starr nor 50 Cent were too heavy-handed in producing this film. The project, which reportedly began as the Onyx member's film before gaining financial support from Fif, is a true representation of putting down beefs to celebrate one icon's life. Biases are lifted, as interviews with Ja Rule are included, as the last major act from Hollis says that Jay's support was essential to landing him Def Jam backing in the late '90s. Starr clearly conducts many of the red carpet interviews. Although these segments, which include time with Kid Rock, Young Jeezy and Snoop Dogg lack the intimacy and focus seen in later film interviews, they help drive home the point that Jay influenced many genres, and all regions of Hip Hop throughout his 20 year career.

Oddly enough, Russell Simmons provides some of the film's most surprising commentary. Despite his own brother, Rev Run, being the unofficial leader of the group, Rush acknowledges that Jay was the one who not only cemented the crew's street resonance, but also the most musically-devoted member of the Run-DMC trio. It was Jam Master Jay who created the Kangol and leather jacket style that shaped Hip Hop's first superstars, and it was Jay who ensured his two bandmates were on time, even though, as Russell recalls, Run and DMC were both "sucka niggas" to their deejay in the earliest days of fame. Although perhaps not cohesive with the rhythm of the documentary, emphasis on Jam Master Jay Way (or lack thereof) and a stop to the trusted hat-makers used by the Profile Records stars add a tangible element of research and color to the film.

2 Turntables & A Microphone does not treat Jay as infallible. Both 50 Cent and last JMJ Records artist Rusty Waters explain that the pioneering deejay wanted lion's share portions of the deals he brought to the majors. Still, in an industry that celebrates greed, Jay's dealings are overshadowed to bring an extensive entourage from Hollis (and famed New York City photographer Ricky Powell) on world tours. Jam Master Jay is portrayed as a man who put and family and friends above everything, and balanced his deep and meaningful relationships with his dedication to the most recognizable Hip Hop group of all time.

The investigation that 2 Turntables & A Microphone takes on Jay's murder has guts. Akin to what Biggie & Tupac was willing to suggest in Nick Bloomfield's acclaimed 2002 film, Guy Logan's documentary overtly points the finger to longtime Jay associate and onetime JMJ Records head Randy Allen as culprit. Allen is not interviewed, but from testimony from Jay's cousin Phonz mainly, as well as other Jay friends and family point to a betrayal in pursuit of personal gain. Various Jay associates point to the fact that Allen left Queens after the deejay's murder as a sign of his guilt. Repeatedly, the fact that the surveillance tape from the recording studios went missing, and the fact the trigger-men were granted access to the second-floor studio to the sign that the murder was an inside job. Allen, as expected, was not willing to speak for the film. But even 50 Cent is willing to acknowledge that Jay's right-hand man in the final days of his label had selfish motives in mind. There is no finger-pointing, but starting with Phonz and family, the pain travels through the lens to the audience in the heartache that allowed a truly nice guy to die without justice.

It says something about Jam Master Jay that a film like 2 Turntables & A Microphone is made. For Fredro, one of Jay's most successful former pupils and 50 Cent, another discovery to collaborate on this speaks volumes. Both men thank their former mentor and provide the art and the budget necessary to do his impact justice. This film takes risks, and instead of focusing simply on glory or rose-tinted recollections, this film explains why Jam Master Jay is a G.O.A.T. in his own right, and why family, friends and fans will mourn him till they join him.

Purchase 2 Turntables and a Microphone: The Life and Death of Jam Master Jay

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