DJ Kay Slay, the New York disc jockey and record executive, died yesterday (April 17), a representative confirmsed to Pitchfork. Hot 97, where Kay Slay hosted a radio show called The Drama Hour, also shared the news, following a statement from the family reported by the New York Post. No cause of death was given. DJ Kay Slay was 55 years old, according to The Post and Hot 97.
In the months before his death, Kay Slay had a serious bout of COVID-19, as documented on social media by his longtime friend Wack 100. In January, Wack 100 wrote on Instagram that Kay Slay had been put on a ventilator. Last week, he added that his friend had been taken off an extracorporeal life support machine and was “still fighting.”
Born Keith Grayson on August 14, 1966, in New York, DJ Kay Slay originally gravitated towards graffiti art, and appeared in the landmark 1983 hip-hop documentary Style Wars. Having observed the rise of legendary disc jockeys like Grandmaster Flash and Kool DJ Red Alert firsthand, he was inspired to try out the discipline himself. “I didn’t so much set out to be a DJ,” he told Forbes in 2019. “It was just something to do that was fun and that I enjoyed doing.”
DJ Kay Slay released his debut album, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1, in 2003. It included his highest-charting single, “Too Much for Me,” which featured Amerie, Birdman, Nas, and Foxy Brown. The next year, DJ Kay Slay released his follow-up LP, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 2, which featured the Three 6 Mafia single “Who Gives A… Where You From” and the Kanye West–produced “No Problems.”
In 2003, The New York Times dubbed DJ Kay Slay “Hip-Hop’s One-Man Ministry of Insults” thanks to his ability to capture high-profile beefs between the likes of Nas and Jay-Z, Eminem and Benzino, and Ja Rule and 50 Cent on his tapes. “Cats know it’s no holds barred with me,” he told The Times. “They know that I’m not going to edit anything. It’s going out the way you gave it to me. No watering down.”
DJ Kay Slay released several studio albums, countless mixtapes, and one collaborative LP with Greg Street titled The Champions: North Meets South. Throughout his career, he worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Nas, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Nelly, Juicy J, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, and Mac Miller. DJ Kay Slay’s most recent record, The Soul Controller, came out at the end of 2021.