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ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay?

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? Movie Poster Image
Docu about the murder of influential DJ has strong language.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 58 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Documentary explores the unsolved murder of Jam Master Jay, connects the case to the broader issue of the tensions between urban communities and law enforcement. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While there are some allegations that Jam Master Jay was attempting to be a drug dealer later in life, many of those interviewed in the documentary discuss at length his profound influence on rap music, performance, and fashion, as well as his generosity to family and friends in the neighborhood. 

Violence

Documentary centered on a homicide, discussed at length. News footage of the homicide, including brief shot of Jam Master Jay's covered body being taken out of the studio where he was working by police. One of the interviewees threatens physical violence to a retired police officer for his allegations regarding the shooting death of Jam Master Jay. 

Sex
Language

Occasional profanity: "Motherf---er," "f--k," "N" word, "bitch-ass," "pissin'," "hell," "damn." 

Consumerism

Footage of Run DMC in Adidas clothing and footwear, including footage from a tour sponsored by Adidas. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

News footage of someone smoking an unspecified drug. Talk of selling cocaine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? is a 2018 documentary about the murder of the influential DJ of Run DMC. There's occasional strong profanity, including the "N" word, "motherf---er," and "f--k." Some brief moments of violence, including a scene in which one of the interviewees threatens physical violence to a retired police officer who had made some speculations about the killer. News footage of the homicide, including brief shot of Jam Master Jay's covered body being taken out of the studio where he was working by police. News footage of someone smoking an unspecified drug. Talk of selling cocaine. While the documentary is about this particular case, the murder of Jam Master Jay (neé Jason Mizell) is also a starting point to address larger issues, such as the strained relationships between urban communities and the police and the disturbing pattern of rappers getting killed and their assailants literally getting away with murder. Families can use this documentary to dig deeper into these issues. 

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What's the story?

REMASTERED: WHO KILLED JAM MASTER JAY? explores the events surrounding the October 30th, 2002 murder of the influential Run DMC DJ. It traces the life and music career of Jam Master Jay (neé Jason Mizell), his influence on rap music, fashion, and style, and the meteoric rise of Run DMC. It explores Mizell's life in Hollis, Queens, and his connections to his community throughout his life. The circumstances of Mizell's murder are broken down through a retracing of the moments before, during, and immediately after the homicide, and through interviews with Mizell's friends and family. Mizell's unsolved murder is used as a jumping-off point to highlight societal issues such as the strained relationships between urban communities and the police, as well as the disturbing pattern of murdered rappers whose assailants are often never caught and charged with the crime. 

Is it any good?

Part biography, part musical history, and part true crime, this documentary manages to convey so much in under an hour. Friends and family discuss Jam Master Jay's impact on Run DMC's sound and image, and how he helped rap find an international audience while never forgetting his roots in Hollis, Queens. The unsolved 2002 murder of Jam Master Jay, aka Jason Mizell, is reconstructed, going through the list of suspects and their motives, and while ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? could have done the typical basic-cable sensationalized "true crime" route, the documentary makers dared to dig deeper.

Mizell's murder is the starting point to explore how his unsolved homicide is part of a much larger problem. Namely, the strained relationships between people of color in urban areas and the police. Why is Mizell's case one of many of rappers getting killed and their assailants literally getting away with murder? How does his murder highlight the assertions made by African American communities that there's one standard of justice for some and no justice for others? The balance between all of these issues and the story itself is impressive and should inspire discussion among families about not just who they think committed the murder, but also why it has remained unsolved in the first place. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music documentaries. How does ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay? compare to other documentaries centered on music and/or musicians? 

  • How did the documentary use the murder of Jam Master Jay as a starting point to discuss broader issues? 

  • How did the documentary balance biography with musical history? 

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