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"I looked and I thought he fucked up his words. And he was, like, going back and forth. He looked like he was getting dizzy. And he looked up and he fell back. And everything just stopped."
Jax's teeth were clenched tight and his body seized up. D.R.E.S. tried to relax his jaws enough to pry his mouth open so someone could give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Flux kept pumping his chest, trying to get him to breathe. Lenny's soundman ran to the stage and was feeling for his pulse, but it was almost nonexistent.
"To me, personally, it looked like he was leaving right then," says Flux. "But you know, I [wasn't] going to settle for that."
Once the ambulance arrived, EMTs took over administering CPR and rushed Jax to Grady Hospital.
News of Jax's passing earned the artist more press in death than he ever received in life. Message boards on Okayplayer.com blew up as fans, friends and former associates within the scene logged on to leave messages on lengthy threads. Allhiphop.com ran a story linking him to Phife, whom he toured Japan with in 2003. Even AOL.com posted a link on its home page.
While those closest to Jax are happy that his legacy is being honored, many feel like the post-mortem attention is too much, too little, too late. "Everybody's kinda sad, but we're also a little angry as well," says Kaos. "It's very frustrating, especially as an artist, because you see what happened with J Dilla, you see what's happening with Jax now. You just feel like as an artist, nobody even cares about you until you're gone. And once you're gone, people are like 'Aww, I used to love his music.' But it's like, word? You never bought nothing!"
While DJ Rasta Roots can empathize, he also tries to take it in stride with the same grace Jax demonstrated in life. "Just let it go, man," says Roots, who indirectly introduced Phife to Jax several years ago and traveled to Japan with them. "Jax was a happy dude. He was a good dude. And whatever happened and how he passed away, it didn't just happen by chance. It was for a reason. And I think one of the reasons was to unite the local hip-hop community here."
On the Saturday immediately following Jax's death, the Beatz & Lyrics Show dedicated the entire show to the memory of Jax. Longtime friends and former comrades, including Phife, DJ Rasta Roots, Stahhr tha F.E.M.C.E.E., DJ Drama, H20 of Massinfluence D.R.E.S., and remaining Binkis members DJ Mafioso, Flux and Killa Kalm came by or called in to reminisce on-air. Every now and then, host Jayforce would play a seconds-long snippet of Jax laughing that made it feel like he was still in the room.
"There's a lot of people that pass away in hip-hop and I read the comments and everybody's like 'He was such a good dude' and I'm like, 'You serious?' But I keep my mouth shut because why talk bad about the deceased. In Jax's case though, one can truly say that was a good dude," says Bobbito. "Naw, Jax wasn't the greatest MC, he wasn't the greatest artist, he wasn't the best indie artist, you know what I mean, but like he was a fucking good dude, man. And he enjoyed his craft and everybody loved him."
Lisa never got to walk down the aisle with Jax as they'd planned. "We were supposed to be getting married today [Nov. 22]," she said via phone from New York, exactly one week after his funeral took place there. When an opportunity arose on Oct. 17 for the couple to marry, Lisa and Jax went for it a month ahead of schedule and only two weeks before he died.
Now that she bears his last name, Lisa Watts Thurston will also carry the responsibility of protecting and administering Jax's catalog of music, which includes an estimated 100 to 250 unreleased songs.
While the family awaits further information from the medical examiner's office that might provide more answers about why Jax died so suddenly, there's one detail in the autopsy that's rather fitting. According to the report, Jax had a cardiac enlargement at the time of his death. In other words, he had an enlarged heart.
"It's symbolic 'cause he lived hip-hop and he died hip-hop," says Lisa. "I'm thankful that the young man did not suffer. I'm thankful he died for something that he truly loved."
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