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More than Mixtapes....

We've decided that we want to give some shine to someone who's important to this thing we call hip-hop, but seldom acknowledged. In part, we also want to give salute to his brainchild that he left behind and take an active role in promoting its longevity...

This is the first of many pieces to be featured in the coming days with regards to Justo and the annual Mixtape Awards

Words by Kye Stephenson

Justo Faison got his start studying telecommunications and radio broadcasting at Cuyaga Community College in Albany, New York. There, he worked at the school radio station and made connections that led to him landing a job at Nervous Records around 1992. It was at Nervous that the Brooklyn native learned to use mixtapes as a way to promote music. Taking into account the small budget at Nervous, Justo used the tapes to get artists such as Black Moon and Smif-n-Wessun heard beyond the local barbershop. He was one of the first to use the mixtapes in this way and garnered much love from the local DJ's for hittin' them with new shit.

After three years working at Nervous, Justo spent the next several years doing marketing and promotions for Atlantic and Epic Records. At Atlantic he worked on projects from Junior M.A.F.I.A ., Lil' Kim and Aaliyah and realized it was time to give back to the DJ's that had flooded the streets with his label's music. It was around that time, Faison started the Mixtape Awards.

The first Mixtape Awards show was Justo's way of giving back to those that had helped him in his career. He wanted to create a venue for the mixtape DJ's to gain recognition as well as show them that they could make a living in the music business. From Florida's DJ EFN to Houston's DJ Screw, to Kay Slay and Clue, anyone who is someone has attended Justo's Mixtape Awards. His awards shows have given national attention to those DJ's that were grinding in the streets and helped create new outlets for DJ's to make a living. DJ Clue was one of the first big winners at the Awards Show and has used his fame to land gigs on radio and as a VJ on MTV. Kay Slay—who Justo at one point helped manage for free—won so many times at the Award Show that he was forbidden to get any more awards. He now holds down a gig on radio station Hot97 and has released two albums. Both can attribute much of their success to the attention they received from Justo's award show.

More recently, Justo created the first ever documentary of the mixtape hustle. His DVD, Justo Presents The Mixtape Documentary was released in 2005 in conjunction with his hugely successful 9th Annual Mixtape Awards Show. Justo also had started Just Entertainment and was doing promotions for various artists and companies such as T-mobile and Lil' Kim.

Justo's contributions to mixtapes and Hip-Hop will never be forgotten. But to me, Justo was more than just the mixtape king, he was a great person and showed love to all.

I first spoke with Justo Faison in January of 2005. I had started doing freelance writing for a Hip-Hop website and one of my first assignments was to contact Justo and get the scoop on his new Mixtape Documentary. I hit him up and got his thoughts and everything went smooth. A couple days after the story ran, I picked up my cell one day and noticed I had a voice-message from a number I didn't recognize. It was Justo. He had called to thank me for the story and tell me how much he appreciated it. I was taken back, I was like, "Damn, he ain't have to do that." I went on to talk with Justo a few more times after that first occasion and I remember how gracious he was. Often when we talked I would digress and start delving into my lurid opinions on various topics and Justo would just humor me and listen. He even helped me out with contacts in the industry and seemed to take a general interest in my so-called career. Oddly enough, the week of Justo's passing, I had been sitting in front of my computer thinking to myself, "Man, I need to call Justo and see what he's up to." Later that week I learned of his death and was saddened not only that I wouldn't be able to talk to him again, but for Hip-Hop as well.

Undoubtedly, Justo's contributions and accolades will be spoken of and acknowledged greatly, but Justo was more than mixtapes, he was a positive force in Hip-Hop and a great person in general. He will definitely be missed.

For more info...

Words by Kye Stephenson

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