March 17th may be St Patrick’s Day to most but to others it’s a celebration of the birth
of a pioneer and humanitarian. Just O (the “O” representing Orpheus) Faison was a
inspirational leader much like the character Morpheus in the film “The Matrix” released
in 1999. It is easy to credit his accomplishments among the entertainment industry but
it is just as important to pay homage to his fortitude as a father, friend, son, and genuine
individual. I had the pleasure of meeting Justo via Mecca Radio thanks to DJ Mecca in
Harlem, New York. I do not recall the year at this time but it had to be around 1995 or 96.
I was just getting my feet wet in radio. I do remember Justo being cordial, friendly and
ego-less. Throughout the years, he did not hesitate to assist me in advancing my
radio/DJ career. For those who do not know Justo like I did and it is unfortunate that
you do not here is a brief history on Just.
Justo began DJing in 1987 at Cayuga College in Auburn, NY, and would DJ at numerous
clubs and colleges in the years to follow. He held a position as an intern with the legendary
Bobbito Garcia aka “Bobbito The Barber,” who co-hosted the break through Hip-hop radio
show “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show.” In 1991, his dedication as an intern in the
college promotions department at Nervous Records would lead him to a position in mix show
promotions department, and eventually head of mix show promotions. In 1995 Justo (a former
DJ himself) earned a position as National Director of Marketing and Promotions at Atlantic
Records, gaining enough leverage to make a significant impact in the industry. He wasted
no time allocating the money from his counterparts to open the gates for those he felt were
Hip-hop’s underdogs—the DJs.
“The mixtape guys were working hard in their cribs, putting tapes together, putting them
on the streets, breaking artist, remixing their songs and they wasn’t getting the credit,”
“So I started the awards in ‘95. Craig Kallman [Atlantic Records CEO and Chairman]
and Manny Bella [former SVP of Urban Music, Atlantic Records] cut me a check to do
the first Mixtape Awards. Since then Clue got a deal, Flex got a deal, Tony Touch, Kay
Slay, Ron G., Green Lantern, and Envy— I mean everybody.”
-Justo Faison on the Mixtape awards--
While an executive at Atlantic, he formulated the first known “Street Team” and assisted
with the sales of over $22 million. He oversaw artists’ projects that included: Junior Mafia,
Little Kim, Timbaland, Brandy, Aaliyah, Mark Morrison, Quad city DJ's and Fat Joe as well
as The High School High, Space Jam and Dr. Dolittle soundtracks.
Before being hired as the VP of Urban Music for Sony/Epic Records in 1999, earlier that
year at GEE Street Records, Justo worked with RZA from Wu-Tang on his Bobby Digital
album. Only working on the project for six weeks, Justo set up promo tours and a marketing
plan that assisting in the sale of 700, 000 records. In 2000, Justo continued his entrepreneurial
dreams and started Just Entertainment. Under Just Entertainment he created the Jus Muzik
Group, a Music/Mobile Marketing and Advertising Company that consulted major labels on
their projects. He also started a Promotions and Duplication company, working with clients
such as BET, Bad Boy Records, Sony Music Group, T-Mobile, and Loud Records.
Justo’s hefty credentials deserve to be honored in the same light in which you do a Russell
Simmons, Sean Combs, etc. He is synonymous with that infamous tool of promotion, the mixtape.
Justo truly represented the true essence of Hip Hop. Unlike many others in the industry who
amassed enormous success, he never forgot his roots. His concern was never jumping on board
with an already big name (and he worked with plenty of them). Justo thrived on uplifting the little guy.
Here are some words from the DJ community he was a champion for:
"Justo was a motivator who put visions into reality," (DJ Kool Kid)
"Justo repped the DJs like no one else, he was the one fighting for DJs when the labels said we
we’re just like bootleggers." (Green Lantern)
“Even 50 Cent thought he wasn't official until he won the Justo award, it added more fuel to the
fire that 50 had in the streets." (DJ Whoo Kid)
"Justo handing me my plaque for the Mixtape Awards was one of the best moments of my life,
I couldn't make it to the Mixtape Awards one year because I was in Houston doing a tape with
Steve Francis. Instead of mailing my plaque to me or leaving it somewhere, he drove it to me
and gave it to me in my hand. He didn't have to do that. I am grateful forever” (DJ Sickamore)
Justo passed away in a tragic car accident just outside of Richmond, VA on May 14, 2005.
He will be greatly missed eternally.
Addtl citations: Tito Ruiz, Chris Harris, Shaheem Reid, Rahman Dukes