Hip-Hop Pioneer Rodger “Uncle Jamm” Clayton Dies

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Roger Clayton, aka Uncle Jamm

Rodger “Uncle Jamm” Clayton, one of the first promoters of hip-hop on the West Coast, reportedly died Sunday of a heart attack, TheUrbanDaily.com has learned.

Clayton, as the leader of “Uncle Jamm’s Army” in the early 1980s, threw roving parties that attracted thousands of rap fans, and filled venues like the Los Angeles Sports Arena with little more than photocopied fliers and word of mouth. The Uncle Jamm’s Army gigs were instrumental in jump-starting the careers of Ice-T, Egyptian Lover and many others.

Greg Mack, the legendary programmer of seminal Los Angeles rap radio station KDAY and one-time rival of Clayton’s, remembered him fondly in this statement:

Rodger Clayton, leader of Uncle Jamms Army, was one of the most influential people on the west coast when it comes to the hip hop movement. When I first moved to L.A. in 1983, I was shocked that a promoter could fill the L.A. Sports Arena with 8000 people for a “dance.” No artists, just djs’ such as Egyptian Lover and DJ Bobcat. When setting the programming for KDAY I had asked Roger to allow us to be a part of the excitement…he said, “NO, we don’t need radio.” At that time he was right. It prompted me to start my own group, The Mixmasters, and a rivalry began; it wasn’t always friendly but it was respectful, most of the time. When Rodger decided he did need radio, he and I ended up in a lawsuit because he didn’t feel we were running his commercials properly. His lawyer, the late Johnny Cochran represented him. After realizing how stupid we both were, we ended being even closer friends. Rodger went on to work at KGFJ, KDAY, KJLH, and several other radio stations in L.A. doing mix shows and certain events. Within the last years he owned multiple record stores specializing in oldies and promoted for Niederlander Concerts doing several shows at the Greek Theater and surrounding areas.

I last spoke with Rodger a few weeks ago and he sounded happier than ever saying he was bringing a big show to Fresno. He wanted me to know he had some tickets for me and looked forward to seeing me. He will truly be missed and I hope that people will now take a look at everything he created for the people of L.A. and Riverside. Not only did he give light to West Coast Artists but East Coast artists as well. He never wanted to do interviews when people would ask him for his story, he always wanted to do his own book and/or movie for Uncle Jamms Army, so he was hesitant to give anyone an in depth interview.

I’m proud to say that he and I had many talks over the last few years regarding all that had happened in his life and mine. We talked about a lot of things, and more importantly we found out how much respect we did have for each other. He and I also would comment on how “little” documentation there has been of the West Coasts’ rap history, we both felt it inadequate. And I still do.

I will miss him…

–Greg Mack

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