It's no surprise that artists from so many disciplines feel indebted to Jam Master Jay, nor that so many of them are enthusiastically volunteering their talents to honor his memory. Before he came along, there was a lot missing from urban youth culture. But in the mid-1980s, Run-D.M.C.'s high style and musical innovations harnessed the energy of rap and shot the genre onto magazine covers and the then-rap-free MTV, and into movies like Krush Groove. Without ever dissing its musical heritage (the guys were vocal Barry White fans), the group collaborated with rockers (notably Aerosmith on "Walk This Way") and made cultural connections no one thought possible.
One person who followed especially closely in Jay's unlaced footsteps was Chuck D, MC and driving force of rap gods Public Enemy. Mr. D won't attend tonight's event, but the organizers plan to screen an exclusive video in which he remembers his friend. Also on the bill are indie film director Kevin Epps; Spearhead MC Radio Active; DJs Polywog, Toph One, and GrandWizzard Theodore; plus the Coup's Pam the Funkstress. It's a tribute worthy of the man.