In the culture of hip-hop, lineage is something that often can have several outcomes. As the son of a famous DJ, I know that the children of the game’s pioneers have several paths laid at their feet once they’re old enough to understand the impact their parents have had in this industry. You have the kids who blatantly use each and every opportunity to soak up as much as they can from their parents’ past achievements, those kids who steer clear of their famous lineage completely to create a story of their own, and then you have those who balance the two, knowing when to pull the card and when to keep silent and grind hard.
I received a text message from a friend of mine that I met in passing during this year’s Made In America festival asking me to check out this video of an artist he was working with. It was the middle of my workday, so I waited until lunch to check out the video link. It showed me a video of a DJ charging his turntables with what looked like a car battery, and with his three to four man team, he carried a pair of turntables onto the J train in New York City. So I initially think, “Hmmm, this is new, never seen this before.” So I watch the rest of the two minutes and change as the DJ cuts and chops several Jay-Z songs, fingers moving fluidly and intricately balancing the beat and the cuts. As they arrive to the Marcy stop on the J train, the crew packs up and heads home. Grand opening, grand closing. That was it. At that point, I look to the title, and it reads, “J Train to Marcy.” So yeah, I have the initial “Duh” feeling, but then I look closer to the name. TJ Mizell. The name sounded familiar. After a few minutes, it clicks: this is the late, the great Jam Master Jay’s son.
So suddenly I connected with this video on a new level altogether. This was a son following in his father’s footsteps, but using creative means to be heard. He wasn’t necessarily pulling his card, or rather his father’s name to get him a plug, but rather hard work and dedication. A question I often get whenever people find out who my father is, “what was it like growing up with a celebrity?” My answer, albeit real, is always the same: “it was great, different but great.” I had the opportunity to experience things that your average kid from Southwest Philadelphia didn’t, although it came at the price of my father not being there as much as I wanted. But because of his hard work, I never had a need in the world. Now I understand that everyone’s story is different, and my story and TJ’s (and his brother Jason, who I met through Mick Boogie at an Adidas event a few years back) story may not be the same, but to see someone who could very well be perceived as “Hip Hop royalty” working with the same hunger (and potentially even more) as the next man, it has my respect. My father always spoke highly of Jay when I used to ask about stories from back in the day, and for me and TJ to come across each other like this is a piece of rap serendipity. So keep up the great work and the hustle, TJ. Your pops would be proud.