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Hip-Hop’s Gem DJ Kay Slay Dies at 55

Photo by: Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET

Photo by: Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET

Keith Grayson aka DJ Kay Slay, a prolific graffiti artist, and Hip-Hop icon, died of medical problems after a long fight with COVID-19. The East Harlem native died on Easter Sunday (April 17) at the age of 55.

Kay Slay’s death was first announced on Sunday evening, with Wack 100, a well-known music artist management, and legendary Hip-Hop promoter Van Silk allegedly confirming the news.

The unfortunate death of the trailblazing MC battle referee was confirmed by his family in a statement to the New York Post.

The heartbroken Grayson family said in a heartfelt tribute, “Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay.” “With millions of admirers around the world, DJ Kay Slay will be remembered for his passion and excellence, leaving behind a legacy that will last generations.”

They continued.

Photo by: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

“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.”

DJ Kay Slay has been hospitalized due to COVID-19 since December 2021, according to Wack 100, and had been put on a ventilator to help with his breathing.

“Pray for my brotha @djkayslay It’s not looking good,” Wack stated in an Instagram post. “He might be mad at me for this those that know Slay but he needs all the support he can get … Been 14 days fighting Covid and he’s just [been] put on a ventilator. Keep him in your prayers Please. [sic]”

In a post on Instagram last week, Wack 100 provided an update on Kay Slay’s health status, stating that the DJ was “still struggling.” he added, “He’s been off the #ECMO machine for a couple weeks now.” “Let us continue to pray for our brother as he fights.”

Born on August 14, 1966, in New York City, Grayson began his career as a graffiti artist under the nickname “Dez” and performed hip hop in his leisure time. During this time, he was featured in the hip hop documentary “Style Wars,” which was released in 1983.

Despite his ability for the craft, the rapper had no intention of becoming a DJ. In a 2019 interview with Forbes, Grayson revealed, “It was just something to do that was fun and that I enjoyed doing.”

Also known as “The Drama King” and “Mr. Smack Your Favorite DJ” signed a recording deal with Columbia Records and released his big label debut, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1, in 2003, which reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

The 55-year-old’s Streetsweeper, Vol. 2, his sophomore album, was released the following year and peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. During his career, he published six studio albums, the most recent of which being The Soul Controller, which was released in December 2021, just before his hospitalization.

During his career, DJ Kay Slay has worked with big acts such as Busta Rhymes, The Diplomats, Nas, Foxy Brown, G-Unit, and many more.

Photo by: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Grayson is arguably best recognized for his unwavering commitment to maintaining hip hop’s identity rather than succumbing to the changing interests of the public.

The New York Times dubbed him the “Hip-One-Man Hop’s Ministry of Insults” because of his diss-laden mixtapes.

The tragic news has the hip-hop community mourning the passing of the late hip-hop gem.

Popular hip-hop radio station Hot 97 has released a statement.

“HOT 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay. We cherish the many memories created through the twenty-plus years he dedicated to the “Drama Hour.” A cultural icon, The Streetsweeper 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.”

They added, “help us in sending prayers to friends and family and celebrating the life and impact of Keith Grayson aka DJ Kay Slay.”

Silk said, “Hip Hop lost a real gem,” rap promoter Van Silk, who initially reported the rapper’s passing to Hip-Hop DX.

He continued.

“My dear brother is gone. I’ve known him since he was 16 years old. He was my little brother. I introduced him to many and we did a lot of things together. We last talked December because we were finishing up the 200 rolling deep project. He was gonna do his video part with MC Sha-Rock.”

Lastly adding, “From the mixtapes to helping him launch Straight Stuntin’ magazine and the whole “What The Science” project, the world not only lost a real dedicated person to the culture of Hip Hop but a source of bridging the gap in Hip Hop. I’m gonna miss my little brother.”

Rest in Peace to a Hip-Hop gem! 

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