Dub Comes & Goes: RIP Jesse Wolfe (a/k/a J-Dub), Father, DJ, Friend & Boston Hip-Hop Superfan

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I have 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.

Of 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.

As it 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.

Through 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.

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My 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.

In all 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.

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These 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.

One 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.

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