DJ Kay Slay: 5 Things To Know About NY Hip-Hop Icon Who Died At 55

The New York rap star died at age 55, after a battle with COVID-19. His family announced his passing in a statement.

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Image Credit: Darla Khazei/AP/Shutterstock

DJ Kay Slay’s death was announced on Monday April 18. The hip hop star, whose real name was Keith Grayson, was 55-years-old. His family shared a statement saying the news of his passing via New York rap station Hot 97. “Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay. 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. 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,” they said. Find out more about DJ Kay Slay here.

DJ Kay Slay has died at age 55. (D. Salters/

1. Slay Was A DJ

As one might guess based on his name, DJ Kay Slay was a disc jockey. Growing up, he was influenced by the likes of Grandmaster Flash and other icons, although, he admitted that he didn’t plan on being one in a 2019 interview with Forbes“I didn’t so much set out to be a DJ,” he said. “It was just something to do that was fun and that I enjoyed doing.”

DJ Kay Slay was active in the hip hop and rap scene since the early 80s. (SplashNews)

2. He was a graffiti artist

While he was primarily known for his musical ventures, Slay was also a well known and highly regarded graffiti artist. “The Drama King,” as he was also nicknamed, was known for tagging things with his signature “DEZ” throughout the city before kickstarting his career as a DJ, per The New York Times. He was featured in documentaries about NYC graffiti like Style Wars and Wild Style.

3. He made a number of mixtapes

Perhaps what earned him the nickname Drama King was the DJ’s tendency to compile massive mixtapes, many of which were filled with diss tracks with rappers taking shots at one another. While the mixtapes weren’t sold through many major outlets, Slay did drop over 500 since beginning his career as a mixtape curator in the early 90s.

4. He collaborated with major rappers.

Mixtapes aside, Slay did release a handful of albums, and many of them boasted some of rap’s biggest names. His 2003 debut The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1 featured the likes of Eminem and Killer Mike. More recent titles have featured stars like Kendrick Lamar on the 2017 track “Cold Summer” or Snoop Dogg on 2021’s “The Jungle.”

Slay released a number of albums and mixtapes throughout his career. (Darla Khazei/AP/Shutterstock)

5. He died from COVID complications

The DJ’s family announced that he’d been hospitalized with COVID-19 in January 2022. At the time, his brother Kwame shared that he would have some time before making his recovery in a statement to Hip Hop DX“The doctors told us and mom that his eyes just opened today. It will be a long time before he’s released from the hospital, but a long time is better than no time,” he said at the time.