DJ Kay Slay, a big name in the New York City hip-hop scene for decades, died on Easter Sunday after a long bout with COVID-19. Longtime friend Wack 100 said in January that Kay Slay, whose real name was Keith Grayson, had been put on a ventilator, Pitchfork reports. Last week, he said Kay Slay had been taken off life support but was "still fighting." Kay Slay, 55, was born in New York City in 1966 and grew up in East Harlem, witnessing the rise of hip-hop legends like Grandmaster Flash. He started out as a graffiti artist and was in the 1983 documentary Style Wars, reports the New York Post.
Kay Slay spent a year in jail after a 1989 arrest for low-level drug possession. He stayed clean in the following years and, in what he called an effort to "get right with God," worked at a Bronx facility that helped people suffering from HIV and AIDS. Kay Slay released his debut album "The Streetsweeper Vol. 1" in 2003—but by then, he had already long been known as hip-hop's "Drama King" thanks to his radio show and countless mix tapes in which some of the biggest names in hip-hop dissed each other, the New York Times reported in a 2003 profile. "He's like the Jerry Springer of rap,'' DJ Goldfinger said at the time. ''All the fights happen on his show.''
"A cultural icon, Kay Slay was more than just a DJ, to us he was family," Hot 97, home of Kay Slay's Drama Hour for more than 20 years, said in a statement. "The Grayson family said: "A dominant 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." (Read more hip-hop stories.)