Elected officials at memorial for D.J. Kay Slay

NEW YORK—Hip Hop mourned and celebrated the life of Keith Grayson who went by many monikers, ‘Dez the God,’ ‘Dezzy Dez,’ and ‘The Drama King,’ but professionally he was known to the culture of hip hop as the multi-talented and much-loved legendary D.J. Kay Slay.

The popular hip hop D.J. was known for decades for his mix tapes and for discovering up and coming talent on his radio show “The Drama Hour.” Kay Slay was honored at the world-famous Apollo Theater, April 24by his family, fans, friends and some of the greatest rap artists, D.J.’s and music legends that came out to pay homage to him.

Rapper Papoose speaks at memorial service for D.J. Kay Slay.

Kay Slay passed April 17 from Covid-19 complications he battled for four months. He was 55 years old.

“Kay Slay was a self-contained person. As far as business was concerned, he opened doors for many, and he kept his feet (connections) to the street by helping others come up in the industry as well as in the business. He would show what he had to bring to the table,” said renowned D.J. Red Alert.


“If Slay believed in you, he would work with you to make things happen,” he added.  “He was a servant to the streets, to the business and to the other segments of hip hop.”

Rocky Bucano, founder of The Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, stated, “We lost D.J. Kay Slay who was one of the true artistic pioneers of the culture. I admired his work and all that he achieved.

Most didn’t know that he started out as a graffiti artist, known as Dez, then to becoming one of the great mix tape producers, the real “Drama King.” He helped introduce a lot of new artists to the culture and he was a true ambassador whose legacy will live on forever in the world of hip hop,” added Mr. Bucano.

D.J. Red Alert (left) and Student Minister Arthur Muhammad

Ebro Darden, co-host of “Ebro in the Morning” on Hot 97-FM in New York spoke of the long-standing work and relationship they had with D.J. Kay Slay at the radio station, “We worked together for 20 years.

He was my brother at work and my brother in hip hop. D.J. Kay Slay cared a lot about the culture of hip hop and he cared about the community and giving people their shine (chance),” he explained. 

“He gave shine to the early days of Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Papoose and others. It wasn’t about East or West. It was who was about keeping the culture moving and who had a voice in the streets. He would always give them a platform on Hot 97,” said Mr. Darden.

Actor and hip hop pioneer, LL Cool J called D.J. Kay Slay “a solid guy” who kept his word. “He convinced me to do my first mix tape on ‘Streetsweeper Vol. 1’ and I always respected him for what he’s done to put the culture first. He didn’t do it for the glitz and glamour.

Memorial for Keith “D.J. Kay Slay” Grayson was held April 24 at the Apollo Theater in New York. Photos: Daleel Jabir Muhammad

Even though we all like the glamour and a little luxury, Slay made it more about hip hop as the culture and he stood on his truth. That’s what I respected the most about him,” said LL Cool J.  He added, “He won’t be forgotten; my next album I think I’ll dedicate it to D.J. Kay Slay.”

“Kay Slay I’ve known for a long time, he was a good friend of mine, a colleague, a comrade, someone who I had a lot of love and respect for. I was probably on all of his mix tapes especially the last one he dropped. Hopefully, those who follow in his footsteps, these young up and coming brothers would really care about the culture like he did and follow his path because he was pure, so pure and he loved the art of hip hop,” stated, activist and rapper Mysonne The General.

D.J. Kay Slay was a member of the Nation of God’s and Earth’s and was known as “Dez the God.” He was acknowledged by longtime Harlemite, and friend Orlyn Evans also known as “Queen Earthly Jewels,” who presented the Grayson family a banner representing their Universal flag from the Five Percent Nation.

Mother of D.J. Kay Slay at April 24 memorial service.

Rapper Papoose reminisced about D.J. Kay Slay stating he was one of the hardest workers he ever met in his life. “He was authentic, and he always showed love. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have had a music career. I owe a lot to him, and I’ll continue to carry on his legacy. He always asked me ‘do you know what the five elements of hip hop is?’ Which he taught me is graffiti, rapping, DJing, breakdancing and beat boxing,” shared Papoose.

“I came here to show my respect to his family like Grandmaster Melle Mel, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, Papoose, Busta Rhymes, Mysonne and others who came to show honor and respect to him and his family on behalf of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. I remember whenever you heard Kay Slay’s intro on his show: ‘Warning! Warning! The Drama King is in the building!’ you knew it was going to be hot,” he added.

“He might have started out as the ‘Drama King,’ but later he was responsible for a lot of beefs getting squashed. He became the voice of reason. He brought M.C.’s together like on the mix tape ‘Rolling 110 Deep.’ Kay Slay would counsel me, listen to me, keep me laughing then give the Kay Slay point of view,” he added.

New York State Assembly member Inez Dickens, actor and hip hop legend LL Cool J, New York State Senator Cordell and Queen Earthly Jewels pay tribute to popular hip hop D.J. Kay Slay.

Papoose added a heartfelt plea to the audience at the memorial in remembering Kay Slay, “We must cherish every moment with our loved ones. Don’t take it for granted because life is short,” he said.

Student Assistant Minister Arthur Muhammad of the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 7, an alum of Hot 97-FM with his “True School at Noon Show” called D.J. Kay Slay “a genuine brother and a man.”

“In an industry that is notorious for exploiting young Black talent, Slay was unique. He would put you on and give you a shot. He was known to drop a mixtape and he wouldn’t charge you a thing to be featured on it. He laid a firm foundation for young hip hop artists like those here who spoke fondly of him recalled,” said Student Min. Muhammad. 

Keith Grayson aka D.J. Kay Slay was posthumously honored with a proclamation presented to his mother by New York State Senators Jamaal Bailey, Cordell Cleare and New York State Assemblymember Inez Dickens for the work he had done in Harlem, for the community, for the children, for the culture and for the love of hip hop.

—Daleel Jabir Muhammad