Keith Grayson, better known to hip hop faithfuls as New York City’s DJ Kay Slay, died on Sunday following an extended bout with COVID-19, his family confirmed.
The news of the 55-year-old’s passing was reported on the official website of famed New York radio station, Hot 97, on Monday. Grayson served as a host for the station’s show, “The Drama Hour,” for over 20 years. The beloved MC had reportedly been battling COVID for the last four months prior to his death.
“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,” a statement from his family read. “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.”
Born in 1966 and raised in Harlem, Grayson initially gained public attention as a major graffiti artist in New York City. According to Hot 97, he was featured in the 1983 documentary Style Wars during this period in his career. As the years went on, he also found success as a disc jockey and record executive.
“In the early-to-mid 2000s, the Harlem native became one of the most prominent DJs on the mixtape scene, being [known] for featuring exclusive, and unreleased music in his mixtapes,” Hot 97’s statement on Grayson’s passing reads. “He also released his first two albums, Streetsweeper Vol. 1 & 2 in 2003 and 2004, [respectively], through his first deal with Violator Records.”
Over the course of his decades-long career, he would release a total of six albums and work with numerous rap luminaries, including Nas, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown, according to Hot 97. Last year, he released a 40-minute track titled “Rolling 110 Deep,” featuring verses from himself and 110 other performers, including Ice-T, Shaquille O’Neal, Redman, Omar Epps, KRS-One, and Ghostface Killah.
“HOT 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay,” the station’s statement said. “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.”
Throughout his career, Grayson was known as “The Drama King,” and was also once dubbed “Hip Hop’s One-Man Ministry of Insults” in a New York Times profile.
Newsweek reached out to Hot 97 for comment.