New York hip-hop legend DJ Kay Slay dies of COVID at 55
New York hip-hop influencer and graffiti artist DJ Kay Slay died on Easter Sunday at age 55 after a harrowing four-month battle with COVID-19.
The tragic passing of the pioneering MC battle referee was confirmed to the Post in a statement from his family.
“Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, known professionally as DJ Kay Slay,” the bereaved Grayson family wrote in a touching tribute. “A towering 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.”
They continued, “In memory of DJ Kay Slay, our family would like 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 mourn this tragic loss.
Grayson reportedly succumbed to complications from COVID-19 after being hospitalized with the illness in December and put on a ventilator, The Sun reported.
New York hip-hop radio station Hot 97 also paid tribute to the rapper in a statement to The Post, writing, “Hot 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay. We cherish the many memories created over the twenty plus years he dedicated to “the dramatic hour”. “
A week before his death, Wack 100 revealed on Instagram that the musician was “still fighting” and needed all the prayers he could get.
“He’s been off the #ECMO machine for a few weeks now,” they wrote, “Let’s continue our prayers as our brother continues to fight.”
Born August 14, 1966 in New York City, Grayson began his career as a graffiti artist and performed hip hop in his spare time. During this time, he was notably featured in the 1983 hip hop documentary “Style Wars.”
Despite his talent for the art form, the rapper didn’t initially set out to become a DJ.
“It was just something to do that was fun and I enjoyed doing,” Grayson told Forbes in a 2019 interview.
That changed when Grayson, nicknamed Dez, released his seminal album “The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1” in 2003. The prolific rap artist would create five more studio albums during his career: “The Streetsweeper, Vol. 2” , “More than just a DJ”, “The Big Brother”, “Hip Hop Frontline” and “The Soul Controller”.
In his last Instagram post in January, Grayson promoted single “In My Soul,” which he collaborated on with artists Tre Williams, Papoose and AZ.
Grayson is perhaps best known for his dogged dedication to preserving the integrity of hip hop, rather than catering to the ever-changing tastes of the masses. Dez was also known for his diss-laden mixtapes, earning him the nickname “Hip-Hop’s One-Man Ministry of Insults” by The New York Times.
The hip hop community mourned the late lyricist
“Hip-hop has lost a real gem,” rap promoter Van Silk, who originally reported the rapper’s passing, told Hip-Hop DX. “My dear brother is gone. I’ve known him since he was 16. He was my little brother. I introduced him to a lot and we did a lot together. We last spoke in December because we were finishing Project 200 rolling deep. He was going to do his video part with MC Sha-Rock.
He added, “From the mixtapes to helping him launch Straight Stuntin’ magazine and the entire ‘What The Science’ project, the world has not only lost a true person dedicated to the culture of Hip Hop, but a source to bridge the gap in Hip Saut. I will miss my little brother.
“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,” they wrote. added. “Our hearts go out to his family, friends and fans around the world and we will always and forever celebrate The Drama King’s legacy.”
“Rest Easy King Dez aka Spade TDS aka DJ Kay Kill a legend in two games: graffiti and DJaying,” wrote rapper Dante Ross on Twitter. “F Covid. Rest in power.