NEW YORK – Legendary hip-hop DJ Jam Master Jay, one of the founding members of rap pioneers Run DMC, was shot and killed Wednesday evening near the New York neighborhood where he grew up, police said.
Publicist Tracy Miller confirmed the death of the 37-year-old DJ, whose real name was Jason Mizell.
The shooting happened at a recording studio on Merrick Boulevard in the Jamaica section of Queens, a law enforcement source said on condition of anonymity.
Two men were buzzed into the second-floor studio shortly before shots were fired inside its lounge at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, police said. As of early Thursday, police had made no arrests.
Run DMC fans gathered at the scene, some hugging each other and crying.
"Rest In Peace Jam Master," Run DMC's official Web site read early Thursday, underneath a picture of Mizell.
Mizell was shot once in the head and was dead at the scene, said Detective Robert Price, a police spokesman. He said the shooter remained at large and said police had no information on a motive.
A second man, identified by police as 25-year-old Urieco Rincon, was shot in the leg and was taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital. He was released from the hospital Thursday. He was among five witnesses being questioned by police, said a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"They're checking out varying theories, including, 'Was it the result of a personal feud? Was it linked to this East Coast-West Coast rappers?' and other possible motives," the law enforcement source said.
Another source, also speaking anonymously, said: "They're looking at some sort of dispute, anything from a personal dispute to some kind of rap rivalry."
But many in the rap industry questioned whether Mizell, known as a family man and social activist, would ever be caught in a violent flare-up -- especially a coastal feud that seemed to have little to do with him.
"There's no reason," said the victim's teenage son, Jason Mizell Jr. "He didn't really do anything wrong."
"Before the media rushes to attribute this to East Coast-West Coast violence, they should examine Run-DMC's two decades of contributions and Jam Master Jay's personal character," said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, whose brother Joseph founded the group with Mizell.
Whether the shooting turns out to be a feud or not, some say rap culture has become too violent.
"My response was a strong indication that hip-hop culture has been desensitized to senseless death," Angela Young, A&R coordinator at J Records, told Fox News.
Bereaved fans outside the crime scene laid flowers, candles, personal notes and an Adidas sneaker -- a reference to the group's hit song "My Adidas" -- with "R.I.P JMJ" handwritten in marker.
Mizell served as the group's disc jockey, providing background for singers Joseph Simmons, better known as DJ Run, and Darryl McDaniels, better known as DMC.
Miller said Mizell and McDaniels had planned to perform in Washington, D.C., on Thursday at a Washington Wizards basketball game. Mizell had performed on Tuesday in Alabama, she said.
"He's one of the rap pioneers; there are only a couple of others, such as LL Cool J, who have maintained career longevity in this game like Run DMC has," Young said. "Another fallen angel."
Chuck D, the founder of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, blamed record companies and the advertising for perpetuating "a climate of violence" in the rap industry.
"When it comes to us, we're disposable commodities," he said.
Doctor Dre, a New York radio station DJ who had been friends with Mizell since the mid-1980s, said, "This is not a person who went out looking for trouble. ... He's known as a person that builds, that creates and is trying to make the right things happen."
Dozens of the fans gathered near the crime scene were from the Hollis section of the Queens, where the members of Run DMC grew up.
"It's a shame that another artist has been murdered, and it's leaving a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths toward hip-hop," local Queens R&B artist Andre Bruce told Fox News. "This is a lot of undeserved negative press."
Another fan who lives nearby, Leslie Bell, 33, said the members of Run DMC often let local musicians record for free at the studio.
"That was their decision, to stay here and give back to the community," Bell said. "He is one great man. The good always die young. He's the good guy."
Run DMC is widely credited with helping bring hip-hop into music's mainstream, including the group's smash collaboration with Aerosmith on the 1986 reworking of the 1976 hard-rock standard "Walk This Way."
"We always knew rap was for everyone," Mizell said in a 2001 interview with MTV. "Anyone could rap over all kinds of music."
The trio released a greatest-hits album earlier this year. In 2001, the rappers produced Crown Royal, breaking an eight-year silence.
In 1986, at the height of their popularity, the trio said they were outraged by the rise of fatal gang violence in the Los Angeles area. They called for a day of peace between warring street gangs.
"This is the first town where you feel the gangs from the minute you step into town to the time you leave," Mizell said at the time.
Fox News' Garett R. Nadrich and The Associated Press contributed to this report.