CL talked to Jax's wife, Lisa Thurston, by phone on Nov. 22. It was the day they'd planned to hold their wedding ceremony in Atlanta, though the couple had actually gotten married on paper about a month before, on Oct. 17. From the New York home of Jax's parents, Lisa talked about the first time she met Jax in 2004 and what their first date was like.
We met at a show in '04. Binkis, Mars Ill and, I think, Dropbombz were performing that day. It was at Echo Lounge. I walked in and he made this comment later that he noticed me because ... I was a girl and no girls go to Mars Ill shows.
Then I went to his merchandise table and I bought a lot of stuff. I bought like close to $90 worth of stuff. He thought I had some money, so he said he was gonna holler. But you know, I kinda fooled him 'cause I'd just gotten paid that Friday.
Our first date, I went to the studio with him and that's when he recorded "Everyday." Then we went to RuSan's for some sushi. But what attracted me to Chris, at first it was really weird 'cause he was a gentleman. And you don't see that that often in young men. He was a gentleman. He was raised so well by his mother.
I remember when we first met, I was calling him "Jax, Jax, Jax."
And he was like, "Naw, my name is Chris."
And that's how I've always addressed him, as Chris. He did not want me to call him Jax because that's who he was onstage but I was with Chris.
Despite his underground status, Jax had such industry connections as DJ Drama – Binkis Recs' first DJ. When Drama got arrested in Atlanta over his Gangsta Grillz mixtape series in early 2007, Jax's response was heartfelt even though years had passed since Drama's Binkis Recs days. Lisa recalls conversations they had about DJ Drama.
Chris had connections. I mean, he went to Japan with Phife. Bobbito signed off on him. Everybody knows DJ Drama, and that was their original DJ. And that's something that Chris didn't want to do: He did not want to do the name-drop. He never wanted to do that.
'Cause I used to ask him, "You know Phife, what's up?"
He'd be like, "Naw, I'm good."
Chris wanted to do it on his own. And I appreciate that about him. But he appreciates everything that Phife and Bob and Dram have done for him.
That's one thing that Chris would say, too, "I'm proud of you. I heard what you did or I saw what you did and I'm proud of you. Keep up the good work."
That's something that always came out of his mouth. That he was proud of you.
I think when Drama got into his legal trouble, I remember calling him. I was like, "Yo, Chris, Dram got arrested."
He was like, "Yo, why are you lying?"
He got mad at me. He thought I was lying. I said, "Chris, I'm not lying to you."
Then he finally heard it from a couple of people and instead of him saying, "Yo, dude deserved that," he was upset. Like, he started the "Free Drama" campaign. He was upset. Nothing bad ever came out of Chris' mouth about him. And I think that's something that I have learned to appreciate.
Chris would say, "Dram's a hustler. Dram's gonna make sure that he's able to feed his kids" – stuff of that nature. And that's how Chris put it. It wasn't like, "Drama was my DJ, he's doing this, he's doing that, why is he not looking out for us?" It was like, "Yo, Dram is a hustler. I'm proud of him. He had to feed his kids and that's what he had to do." So he never bad-mouthed Dram. Never.
She recalls how Jax demonstrated his selflessness through his relationship with protégé Señor Kaos.
One person who I think benefited from knowing Chris is Señor Kaos. To me, Kaos is phenomenal. I think just being around Chris that he definitely took some of his traits. Kaos is a hustler, he's hungry, he puts out a mixtape like every two days, and he has also some humility. And that's somebody I can tell you Chris looked up to. Chris was like, "Dude is 25, he got his own crib, he's doing this, he's doing that." And Chris said, "Dang, dude is doing it."
And I remember from some of our last conversations, when we saw the [November 2008] XXL magazine with the 10 new faces of hip-hop, I looked at it and I was like, "Yo, somebody's missing."
And Chris said, "Yo, Kaos." And he was like, "Lisa, I'm going to devote my time to make sure that next year Kaos is on this XXL." He even said to me that he was considering stopping rapping to push Kaos.
And Sucio Smash [of Squeeze Radio] said to me if it wasn't for Chris, he would've never tried to get his own label. He said the reason why he got it is because he wanted people to hear Binkis. He wanted people to hear Jax.
So, I mean, there's a lot of people that Chris has influenced and had an impact on. Chris was a good dude. Not only was he a great rapper and MC, he was a great friend to a lot of people.
After purchasing a home in East Point, and moving in together in August 2008, Lisa got a close-up look at how deep Jax's love for making music went.
Our last, you could say, argument was over music. Because Chris was working on like three mixtapes at the very moment and we'd just walked into the house, and he was on the computer and I was like, "What'chu doin?"
He said, "Yo, I sent Ill this e-mail to see if he can loop up this particular song."
And I said, "Chris, what is this for?"
"Um, this is for this mixtape."
And I said, "Well, what about the other mixtape."
"I'm still working on that."
And I was like, "Chris, you have made like 158 songs in two hours. Nobody has heard none of these songs." And of course me being who I am, I don't do music so my thing was, if I'm going to make 10 songs, people are going to hear these 10 songs and I'm going to chill.
But Chris kept making songs, kept making songs, kept making songs. And I was like, "Dude, why do you keep making songs." I said, "Nobody's hearing 'em."
I said, "Yo, you really need to make some money off it."
And people who know him know he gave me this look like, "Girl, shut up." I mean, that's how he looked at me, like "Shut up."
And he said, "Yo, I do this because I love it. It's not about the money. It's not about me driving a car or whatever. It's because I love it."
And he loved it. That to him was his release. When he wanted to get away from everything, he'd go in the room, shut the door, play his iPod and he'd just start writing.
He'd be on our back porch at night with the little citronella candle burning, writing. And I'd come in there, I used to bother him; but then I came to the realization that that's his time. So that was like his peace.
While no one knows exactly how much unreleased music Jax has altogether, Lisa plans to work with Flux, Killa Kalm and DJ Mafioso of Binkis Recs, as well as Jax's mother, to determine how they will move forward with his catalog.
One of his names was Jax the Catalog, so I could imagine how much stuff this young man's got. I mean, just the stuff I heard just in the four or five years that we were together was ridiculous. People used to send him beats, and he would go ahead and do a song and you'd never hear it. Then he would bring it back up and I'd be like, "Yo, when did you record this?"
And he'd go, "Four years ago." So, it's a lot of stuff that he has done that people have not heard.
Since he's not here I'm definitely going to take over, because I want to protect him. I want to protect Binkis, I want to protect everything that these young men have done in the past 10 or 11 years that they've been together. So I definitely want to take over. And so I've talked to a couple of people that I know that will help me out as far as protecting them.
Chris' mother, she's an entrepreneur so she has my back in the situation. I know a lot of people in Atlanta have my back. So I definitely want to protect mainly Chris, but definitely protect Flux and Killa [Kalm] and DJ Mafioso. I want to protect them.
Though the autopsy report from the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office concluded that Jax died from natural causes due to hypertension, Lisa and the rest of his family still don't understand why he died so suddenly. They're awaiting further information.
We don't know what happened to him. And I guess that's one thing I really want to clear up – it wasn't a heart attack, it wasn't a stroke, it wasn't cardiac arrest.
The answer they gave me is the craziest answer I've ever heard in my life, which is hypertension. And so, that's why I'm still saying I really don't know what happened to him.
I just want to make this point to everybody in the community: Please go to a doctor. Especially if they're telling me that Chris having high blood pressure is what killed him. I just need people to get their blood pressure checked. It's a weird feeling that they're just telling me high blood pressure, but I am going to get a second opinion.
We were eating a little bit better, 'cause we were getting married. We were exercising more. We were taking our little walks around the neighborhood. We'd cut down on a lot of stuff. His pressure was elevated, but it wasn't like sky high. His pressure may have been 140 over 90, which is elevated but it's nothing, to me, that would kill you.
People who know him know he was a chubby kinda fella. He was chubby, but then he started losing weight. And so, we were losing weight together. But I think his weight loss was also due to him working at UPS.
I'd stopped buying sodas. We started eating in more than eating out, 'cause we were the eating out king and queen. We had started cooking around the house. And you know we had started drinking more water, taking more vitamins. We had just starting being healthier.
That's something that his mom and I were stressing to him. He had migraines and stuff of that nature, and we just wanted him to take care of himself. And then with me being around him 24/7, when we came up to New York his mom was like, "You know you're a little bit thin."
She'd never seen her child slim. She and I were stressing, "You need to go to the doctor." Whenever I had the chance, I would take his blood pressure but, you know, homie was busy. It's just a weird situation that he was a young man and he just collapsed and he could not be brought back.
I was telling a friend of mine, he wasn't meant to be here forever and the time that he was here was enough time because he had a very powerful and positive impact on a lot of people. The people who knew him, the people that met him are very thankful that they have. I mean, he wasn't meant to be here until he was 40.
It's symbolic to me that he died for hip-hop, and I'm thankful that the young man did not suffer. I'm thankful. I mean, that's what he did. He died for something that he truly loved.
I remember somebody called Chris the godfather of Atlanta hip-hop, and now that the godfather's not here, there's so many people here that can – I won't say take his place, 'cause nobody can take his place – but there's so many talented people here, and Chris saw it and hopefully these young men will see the talent that they have. So I hope that people do step up to the plate and try to support each other 'cause that's what it's about.
On Saturday, Nov. 8, Lenny's hosted a fundraising benefit in Jax's honor that brought out people within Atlanta's indie-rap scene that Lisa hadn't seen in years.
It was amazing to me at his – I call it his going-away party – that we had in Atlanta before he came here to New York, all those people [who] came out and it was like people whose faces I hadn't seen in such a long time because they were, you know, doing their grown man thing. They got married, they started having kids, they had to get jobs, they had to support their family.
It's a shame that it took somebody's death to bring all these people out. Hopefully it's a lesson learned. I wish people would have learned their lesson when DJ Ox passed away. But I don't know what it's going to take. It's all about support. The Atlanta hip-hop scene is about family, and you're gonna always support your family no matter what they do and how they act.
Lisa recalls Jax's well-known sense of humor before imagining her life in his absence.
Chris was a funny guy. He was very snappy with his little comments and stuff. I remember being up here in New York the last time we were here. We were at Squeeze Radio and Kaos had on those Questlove Air Force Ones, and they were ugly. I mean, they were like horrendous. And Chris said they looked like elephant shoes with ketchup on it.
These dudes were fun. A major part of the crew is gone but these dudes are still fun.
I definitely have to start my life again. It's just going to be hard because a major part of my life is not here. I mean, Chris was my homeboy. That was my partner in crime. You saw him, you saw me. To me, we were more than boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife. He was my best friend.
So it's gonna be hard not having my best friend anymore, because Chris gave great advice. He told you when you were acting stupid. He kept it real with me. So like I said, a major part of my life is not here. But my life goes on 'cause I still have his music, I still have him – not physically, but spiritually. But I just gotta get back to my life.
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