Hip-hop star, DJ Kay Slay real name Keith Grayson died on Sunday after his four-month battle with COVID-19. He was 55.
His death was confirmed by Hot 97 and his family;
“Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay,” read a statement from the Grayson family. “A dominant figure in hip-hop culture with millions of fans worldwide, DJ Kay Slay will be remembered for his passion and excellence with a legacy that will transcend generations. In memory of DJ Kay Slay, our family wishes to thank all of his friends, fans and supporters for their prayers and well wishes during this difficult time. We ask that you respect our privacy as we grieve this tragic loss.”
“Hot 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay. We cherish the many memories created through the 20-plus years he dedicated to the ‘Drama Hour.” A cultural icon, Kay Slay was more than just a DJ; to us he was family and a vital part of what made Hot 97 the successful station it is today. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and fans worldwide and we will always and forever celebrate the Drama King’s legacy.”
Slay is known for his “Streetsweeper” mixtapes featuring the likes of Nas, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar.
Slay’s rise to acclaim in New York’s hip-hop community came first in the late 1970s through his unique graffiti writing throughout the East River Projects where he was raised.
After getting out of stir, and proclaiming himself drug-free, Kay Slay worked odd jobs in order to build his own studio space in Harlem, and by the 2000s, he quickly became one of the Big Apple’s brightest DJs and MC battle referees. Starting with mixtapes such as “Say What You Say,” Slay tapes became a home for freestyles from the likes of Eminem, Xzibit, Swizz Beatz, Jadakiss, Fat Joe and Cam’ron. What truly boosted Kay Slay’s profile was being in the middle of the very real feud between New Yorkers Jay-Z and Nas.
DJ Kay Slay continued mixing and releasing wild albums such as 2017’s “The Big Brother” (whose “Cold Summer” track featured Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller), 2019’s “Hip-Hop Frontline” and December 2021’s “The Soul Controller” – all through the Streetsweepers/Empire label – the latter coming out right before his hospitalization for COVID began.
Before the likes of DJ Khaled, there was DJ Kay Slay (and just like they say, the first is always the best). May his soul rest in peace.