On Sunday, DJ Kay Slay succumbed to complications of COVID-19 after a lengthy hospitalization that began in late-December. The DJ was 55.
Sad news in hip-hop this week. On Easter Sunday, DJ Kay Slay was pronounced dead after being hospitalized with COVID-19 since last December, the news being confirmed by hip-hop promoter Van Silk via HipHopDX. “Hip Hop lost a real gem,” Silk told DX. “My dear brother is gone. I’ve known him since he was 16 years old. He was my little brother.”
Hip-hop manager Wack 100 first broke the news of the DJ’s condition in January.
After contracting COVID-19 in December, Kay Slay’s brother, Kwame Grayson, told HipHopDX in January that the East Harlem DJ was “getting stronger” due to being moved to a private hospital to continue his recovery. Kwame also denied that Kay Slay was put on a ventilator, saying that the DJ was instead put “on a machine that was helping him breathe.”
Born Keith Grayson on August 14, 1966, and raised in East River Projects Kay Slay emerged as “Dez” in the 1970s New York graffiti scene, his pieces being featured in 1980s hip-hop films Wild Style and Style Wars. Fascinated by Kool DJ Red Alert, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizzard Theodore, Kay Slay began a career in deejaying following the decline of the graffiti movement.
According to The Fader, the DJ went on to sell an estimated 500 bootleg mixtapes beginning in 1993 on the corners of New York’s West Village. Kay Slay’s mixtapes went on to feature JAY-Z, 50 Cent, Eminem, Nas and more. In 2001, Kay Slay premiered Nas’ famous JAY-Z diss “Ether.” A couole of months later, he hosted The Diplomats Vol. 1, one of the first artist-centric mixtapes. On Hot 97, Kay Slay hosted Friday segment “The Drama Hour” where guests could battle on-air. “He’s like the Jerry Springer of rap,” DJ Goldfinger said about Kay Slay to the New York Times in 2003. ”All the fights happen on his show.”
Kay Slay’s debut album The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1 released in 2003, while his final album The Soul Controller released last December with appearances from Snoop Dogg, Papoose, Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, and more.
Both Hot 97 and The Grayson Family have delivered statements following Kay Slay’s passing.
A Word From The HOT 97 Family: 🕊️
RIP DJ Kay Slay pic.twitter.com/TawxjRSSRh
— HOT 97 (@HOT97) April 18, 2022
An official statement from The Grayson Family on the passing of Keith Grayson aka DJ Kay Slay: pic.twitter.com/nUZn55k3yh
— HOT 97 (@HOT97) April 18, 2022
Read tributes to DJ Kay Slay’s passing below.
— Crime Rhyme Houdini (@JustBlaze) April 18, 2022
We lost one of the most SOLID MFs in HipHop.. I’ve been checking in on him his whole struggle in the Hospital. I honestly thought he was gonna pull through. This truly Hurts… F Covid. RIP to the Drama King 👑 #Kay Slay pic.twitter.com/5MyanPPPWo
— ICE T (@FINALLEVEL) April 18, 2022
— PUBLIC ENEMY (@PublicEnemyFTP) April 18, 2022
Rest in Power big bro. I can’t even believe I’m writing this. Travel well my old friend. My condolences to his family and other friends hurting right now. #DjKaySlay #Harlem pic.twitter.com/M7BFnG62iH
— Immortal Technique (@ImmortalTech) April 18, 2022
RIP DJ KAY SLAY
A true HipHop legend.
A New York legend.
A mixtape king.
long live the streetsweepers.
— juice wayne (@visecs) April 18, 2022
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Rest Easy King Dez aka Spade TDS aka DJ Kay Slay a legend in two games: graffiti and DJaying.
F Covid. Rest In Power 👑
— Dante Ross (@DanteRoss) April 18, 2022
Can’t believe I’m typing this. Rest in power DJ Kay Slay. Legend. Fuck! https://t.co/bljTndeQ90
— Statik Selektah (@StatikSelekt) April 18, 2022
In our hearts forever. Rest in Peace, DJ Kay Slay. pic.twitter.com/6yWr0nYYWj
— TIDAL (@TIDAL) April 18, 2022
RIP DJ Kay Slay
Dez. The Drama King. Mr. Smack Your Favorite DJ.
Not only did he premiere “Ether,” host Dipset’s first mixtape and unleash countless songs and freestyles. But he was also featured in the movie ‘Style Wars’ in 1983. A true pioneer, innovator and legend. 🕊 pic.twitter.com/Bm2gzfEGHK
— Andrew Barber (@fakeshoredrive) April 18, 2022
It’s a bunch of fake ass fraud people running around the culture and DJ KAY SLAY was the total opposite! Real as they come. Rest in Paradise my brother.
— CROOK (@CrookedIntriago) April 18, 2022
R.I.P. DJ KAY SLAY!!!! WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW MUCH OF A LEGEND HE WAS AND WHAT HE MEANT TO OUR CULTURE!!!! 💔💔💔💔💔💔
— Termanology (@TermanologyST) April 18, 2022
RIP DJ KAY SLAY! 55 Years Old Man SMH pic.twitter.com/nqRI7tdO0w
— First Class 🏁 (@1DJFirstClass) April 18, 2022