Happy Rotten Egg Day. I'm sure most of you have heard the news that Run DMC's Jam Master Jay was killed yesterday in a Queens recording studio. I don't want to become too philosophical or wistful about his death, but sometimes when something like this happens, I feel like another little piece of the past crumbles away. I've been writing for years now about my childhood awe of 1980s New York City, and Run DMC (the dorky Adidaswear, the love they gave to a mundane neighborhood in a banal outer borough, the hard-ass electrometal JMJ scratch-n-skronk that sounded almost TWICE as gleefully self-important as any of the king-of-rock nonsense being shouted over it) were a big big part of the way my city's music culture affected and influenced me. This is what we referenced in the schoolyard and on the bus, cuz we all knew it. This is the stuff that was playing on construction sites and inside of Korean delis and blasting outta headphones on the elevated D train out by Coney Island.
I mourned when the city waged a campaign to permanently wipe out all the grafitti (that awful, ugly urban blight!) from the subways; when I saw that they'd succeeded in turning these funny, bold, expressionistic art-punk aktions into empty canvases of boring, sterile metal, I considered it the end of an era. Not the end of hip-hop, just the end of a living urban mythology that was special to me. Hearing about this new crinkle in the '80s myth is like learning that a long-abandoned building has finally been demolished. You can remember it and romanticize it, you can furnish photos and other historical documents, but the building is gone for good.