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.
Read tributes to DJ Kay Slay’s passing below.
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