Real Name: John Byas
D.O.B.: November 18th, 1961 Beaufort, South Carolina
The Original DJ Jazzy Jay is one of the original scholars of hip-hop, a pioneering DJ and producer and official member of Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation. He began his illustrious career on the streets of the Boogie-Down Bronx. During the early 1980’s club revolution, Jazzy’s name was catapulted from the street level jams spinning records into some of New York City’s hottest nightclubs. He would become one of the first jocks to bring Hip Hop music to the airwaves on KISS FM. His three-hour show was syndicated on the United Kingdom’s Radio One broadcast. Jazzy Jay was born into a Gullah family in coastal South Carolina. He moved with his family to New York City at a young age and took up the drums, his first instrument.
He began his career in hip hop in the 1970s in The Bronx, New York, the epicentre of hip hop culture during the first decade of its development, at the age of 13. An early member of Afrika Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation, he was a protege of Bambaataa as well as his older cousin, Kool DJ Red Alert. Beginning as a Zulu King dancer in the early 1970s, Jay later became a Universal Zulu Nation DJ and was a member of the Zulu group Jazzy Five, with which he recorded the single “Jazzy Sensation.” Although Jazzy Jay began performing primarily at street parties, in the 1980s he began DJing in New York clubs such as Negril, the Roxy, the Ritz, and Danceteria. He also hosted a hip hop radio program on KISS FM and in 1984 he played the part of a club DJ in the influential hip hop film Beat Street. Jazzy Jay and Afrika Islam performed some of the first DJ team routines, and teamed up to battle both Grandmaster Flash (solo) and Grand Wizard Theodore (solo).
Around 1984, Jay met Rick Rubin and assisted him in laying the foundation for what would become Def Jam Recordings. The label’s first official single was the single “It’s Yours” by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay. Jay later introduced Rubin to Russell Simmons, creating one of the most important partnerships in hip hop production. Jazzy Jay also put out Def Jam’s third 12” in 1985, entitled “Def Jam” b/w “Cold Chillin’ In The Spot,” which featured Russell Simmons on vocals. In 1986, he participated in the recording Planet Rock - The Album, which was certified gold. Also a producer, Jay founded Jazzy Jay’s Studio in the Bronx, where he produced early recordings by Diamond D, Fat Joe, Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, and others. He also began his own label, Strong City Records, through a partnership with Rocky Bucano. More recently, Jazzy Jay was featured in the 2001 turntablism documentary Scratch. In the film, he displays his extensive LP collection (kept in the basement of his home), which he claims comprises at least 300,000 to 400,000 records. In 2000, Jazzy Jay was inducted into the Technics/DMC DJ Hall of Fame. He sometimes performs together with another hip hop pioneer, Grand Wizzard Theodore.