Ben Cost


New York City hip-hop influencer and graffiti artist DJ Kay Slay died on Easter Sunday at 55 after a harrowing four-month battle with COVID-19.

The trailblazing MC battle referee’s tragic passing was confirmed to The Post in a statement from his family.

“Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay,” the bereaved Grayson family wrote in a touching tribute. “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.”

They continued, “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.”

Grayson had reportedly succumbed to complications of COVID-19 after being hospitalized with the disease in December and put on a ventilator, the Sun reported.

New York hip-hop radio station Hot 97 also honored 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 through the twenty-plus years he dedicated to the ‘Drama Hour.’“


A week prior to his death, Wack 100 had 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 couple weeks now,” they wrote. “Let’s continue our prayers as our brother continues to fight.”

Born Aug. 14, 1966, in New York City, Grayson began his career as a graffiti artist, and performed hip-hop in his spare time. During that 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 intend to become a DJ.

“It was just something to do that was fun and that I enjoyed doing,” Grayson told Forbes in a 2019 interview.


That changed when Grayson, who went by the nickname Dez, released his flagship album “The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1” in 2003. The prolific rap artist would go on to 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 final Instagram post in January, Grayson promoted the single “In My Soul,” which he collaborated on with artists Tre Williams, Papoose, and AZ.

Grayson is perhaps best known for his fierce 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, which earned him the moniker “Hip-Hop’s One-Man Ministry of Insults” by the New York Times.

The hip-hop community mourned the late lyricist.

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

He added, “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.”

“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 added. “Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and fans worldwide and we will always and forever celebrate The Drama King’s legacy.”

“Rest Easy King Dez aka Spade TDS aka DJ Kay Slay a legend in two games: graffiti and DJaying,” wrote rapper Dante Ross on Twitter. “F Covid. Rest In Power.”


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