Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.
Hip-hop royalty and Colorado cannabis have clashed again, and this time they go old school.
Jason Mizell, better known as Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, was shot dead in a New York City music studio in 2002. (After eighteen years, two suspects were charged with murder.) But two of his sons, TJ and Jesse Mizell, named a pre-rolled cannabis brand in Jay’s honor that Jam Master Jays brings to Native Roots pharmacies.
The joints are sold in retro cassette boxes with the photo of Jam Master Jay on the cover and are filled with Tahoe OG or East Coast Alien Flower. They are available at Colorado Boulevard, Speer Boulevard, and Tower Road Native Roots stores in Denver, as well as stores in Littleton, Frisco, and Trinidad. It launched on April 17th, when Native Roots and the Mizells brought A $ AP Ferg to celebrate product dropping.
The late musician’s boys bring a mix of art and business to the table, with TJ following in his father’s footsteps as a successful DJ and working primarily with A $ AP Mob and A $ AP Ferg. Jesse has a background in marketing and graduated from Berkeley College in 2017. We met with the brothers to learn more about their new cannabis brand and to honor their late father.
Westword: Why did you want to create a cannabis brand that pays tribute to your father?
TJ: I first smoked when I was around fourteen years old. I took a hit from a small piece and as I exhaled I realized, “Wow, my dad was a smoker. This is what his studio and car smelled like.” It was definitely a life changing moment for me. He had passed away about three years earlier, so it made me feel close to him and something Jesse and I could both share. It was something our dad did to become who he was and to help him express himself so creatively in this market.
What are some of your favorite memories of your father? How was he?
Jesse: It was super cold. That probably had a lot to do with the weeds. I was eight years old when he died and TJ was eleven. All I remember is that he was a really cool guy and always took us on family vacations and was really involved when he got the chance to come to our sporting events. When he picked me up after school, the teachers and other parents would ask for autographs and such. At a young age I realized that our lives and our dads were a little different from the other kids in school. But it was cool growing up in New York and being in that church.
How did Jam Master Jay influence hip hop and cannabis culture?
TJ: He was really a pioneer in what we now call pop music. Hip-hop is something that really took off in the early 80s and Jam Master Jay in particular pioneered it. Unfortunately, marijuana wasn’t something people could really talk about back then, and people couldn’t really express the fact that they were smoking because it was viewed in such a negative way. Jesse and I always hear stories about how Jam Master Jay was the guy who always had the best weed in the late 80s and early 90s.
Jesse: Yeah. JMJ was known not only as a smoker in the culture, but also as someone who really embodied what New York street culture meant and who really was the first to popularize it. The overall style of wearing Levi’s jeans and sneakers with laces and leather jackets, fur jackets or Adidas tracksuits were the clothes for men that were authentically part of New York City’s street culture. That wasn’t really popular culture prior to Run-DMC, and Run-DMC will tell you yourself that it was Jam Master Jay – and that’s just in line with his influence on hip-hop culture. He was just authentic and true to himself and I think if he had the opportunity he would have extended that brand, culture and ethos to cannabis. People say he was the master smoker before there was ever a master smoker. Snoop Dogg told us that himself.
How did you come to work with A $ AP Ferg?
TJ: I’ve been working with Ferg for about seven, almost eight years now. I was his tour DJ and he was very supportive of everything we do. He’s very excited to help us with everything we do with the JMJ brand and it just worked out. We haven’t really been touring for the past year and a half – December 2019 was the last time we played a show – so we’re always looking for cool ways to get back on the scene, and this was definitely one of them.
You selected Maywood Cookies in Los Angeles as the first pharmacy to drop the product. Why was Denver your next choice? And do you have plans to expand into your hometown after New York legalized recreational herbs?
TJ: Oh, sure. We moved to California in 2018 so we already had boots on the ground and had a few relationships with Cookies. That’s why we started there. We chose Denver because we come here every year. We’re here for the X Games and we’re working closely with the Burton family at the US Open. We’ve just made up our minds since Colorado has been on this wave for a while, why not come and bet [the brand] Here?
And Native Roots really loved the product and loved this collaboration. This is what they’re looking forward to for their business too, so it really worked out.
What else are you cooking for the future?
Jesse: We’ve been called Jam Master Jays since high school, and I think that just went well with what we wanted to do, like pre-rolls. But we definitely know that our father was a smoker of all kinds and would have had his own brand of cannabis. We’re thinking of ways to expand the brand and add other slants too, but slashes that are unique. Maybe not just tossing in a glass, but trying to change the game – like Run-DMC always did when they approached their music and marketing. They always came to do something that hadn’t been done before, and that’s our goal with this brand.
Keep Westword Free … Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we want to keep it that way. We offer our readers free access to concise coverage of local news, food and culture. Produce stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands with bold reporting, stylish writing, and staff everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Feature Writing Award to the Casey Medal for the Deserving Journalism have won. Given that the existence of local journalism amid siege and setbacks has a greater impact on advertising revenue, it is more important than ever for us to raise support for funding our local journalism. You can help by joining our I Support membership program which allows us to continue to cover Denver without paywalls.
Hilal is a Metropolitan State University of Denver alumni with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine, and is the current cannabis intern for Westword.