no idea exactly when or where it was that I met Jesse Wolfe. It was
probably sometime in 2005, when we were both burgeoning members of a
Boston rap community that was on the brink of nothingness. At the
time, Hub hip-hop had graduated cats like Edan and Akrobatik, but had
yet to fully nurture talents like Slaine and Dre Robinson. There
weren't many fans in the stands, but Jesse – not unlike me – was
a dedicated cheerleader, prone to crashing random shows from the
Western Front to Avalon.
course no one on the Bean rap scene called him Jesse. To those of us
who frequented those hip-hop haunts, he was simply J-Dub. It's a
wildly generic moniker – no doubt – but Jesse had enough
personality to wear it with unique gusto. Like so many other boom bap
diehards, J-Dub also harbored his own MC and DJ aspirations. But
unlike that egomaniacal mass, he recognized his role as a fan first
and foremost, and faithfully supported local artists making moves.
turned out, we had mutual allies. Jesse was born and raised in
Concord, New Hampshire, but had gone to Curry College in Milton with
friends who I lived with when I first came to Boston. It was also at
Curry where J-Dub met Mr. Peter Parker – both kept rap music
bumping on the school's station, WMLN – and where he developed an
ear for regional flavor. By the time he graduated college, dude
wanted nothing more than to touch the industry in some capacity.
Parker, Jesse linked with Boston rap promoter Edu Leedz. While he's
well-established now, back then Leedz was just beginning to mark his
territory, and in J-Dub he found a dedicated soldier. From street
promo to ticket ripping to hosting shows, Jesse dove face-first into
his passion, meeting scores of underground icons in the process. He
wasn't interested in cheap fad rappers or overhyped newjacks –
J-Dub adored the legends, from Edo G to Kool G Rap.
restaurant adventures are stories for another day, but around 2006 I
somehow wound up in the food business, and in desperate need of help.
J-Dub was looking for side work, so I hired him to do whatever –
counter shit, deliveries, you name it. It was a temporary arrangement
– he'd just gotten into a laborer's union, and was awaiting
well-paying construction gigs. But it was a ripe fit for the both of
us; for rap geeks of our order, few things are more fulfilling than
opportunities to talk about music for hours on end.
honesty, Jesse was far from a star worker. From what I remember, he
didn't show up a few times, and definitely fucked up his share of
deliveries. I didn't really care though; in an industry that thrives
on stress, J-Dub was a tower of positivity, if not constant hilarity.
When we weren't marinating with new tracks in the kitchen, we were
laughing hard and plenty. A gracious and compassionate soul with a
knack for the dozens, his humor came from both genuine aloofness and
an awareness that people underestimated him.
are just a few things that came to mind when I heard that Jesse died
in a fatal car crash in New Hampshire last week. But what I'll
remember most is his strange and inexplicable affection for the City
of Brotherly Love. Despite its being just two cheap Chinatown bus
rides away, J-Dub had never been to Philly, but rooted for the Eagles
with insane vigor, and even had a Phillies tattoo on his left
shoulder. Without trying to be funny, he told me several times that
he wanted to retire there.
day – I think in early 2007 – Jesse told me that he'd landed
steady union work. On top of that, he had a baby on the way, and had
decided to move back to New Hampshire to be a dad. We didn't keep in
touch beyond social media, though I did see him at a few shows over
the years, and we had some laughs about our old restaurant days.
Scrolling through his Facebook posts in the wake of this tragedy, I
saw that Jesse finally did make it to Philly – for an Eagles game a
few weeks ago. Under ordinary circumstances, that news would have
given me a good chuckle. But instead I'm sitting here writing, honoring his
legacy, and wondering why yet another young, hopeful person with a
big heart was forced into an early retirement.