Beloved New York DJ Kay Slay will be given a musical hero’s tribute on Sunday (April 24) in his hometown when friends, family and admirers are invited to a public memorial service and procession. The ceremony will take place at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem from 10 a.m. ET until noon and be preceded by a car procession and horse & carriage march down 125th Street, before heading to East Harlem.
Kay Slay (born Keith Grayson), died on Sunday after a months-long battle with COVID-19. The legendary record spinner, producer and label exec known for his all-star Streetsweeper series of studio albums and more than two dozen mixtapes passed at age 55 after a four-month coronavirus illness, according to a statement from his family and HOT 97; Kay Slay was a long-time part of Hot 97s the Drama Hour show.
“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,” read the family’s tribute. “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 was born on August 14, 1966 in New York and raised in East Harlem, steeped in the early burgeoning of hip-hop. He embodied the culture fully, spending his early years breakdancing and writing graffiti under the tag Dez before pivoting to the turntables to launch a two decade-plus career as a tastemaker producer of mixtapes featuring all-star collections of MCs.
His debut album, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1, was released in May 2003. The jam-packed compilation from the man lovingly referred to as “the Drama King” featured collaborations with Fat Joe, Raekwon and Scarface, the Lox, 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, Black Rob, Craig Mack, The Diplomats, Eminem and 8Ball & MJG among others. The album hit No. 22 on the Billboard 200 album chart in June 2003 and No. 4 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart, with single “Too Much For Me” with Nas, Foxy Brown, Baby and Amerie peaking at No. 53 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart in May of that year.
See an announcement for Sunday’s event below.