'Hip Hop lost a real gem': Pioneering artist DJ Kay Slay dies after battle with COVID-19

Pioneering hip hop artist DJ Kay Slay, who worked with top stars throughout his career, has died following a battle with COVID-19. He was 55.

The HOT 97 host, whose real name is Keith Grayson, died on Easter Sunday, his family confirmed in a statement through the New York radio station, where he hosted “The Drama Hour” for more than two decades.

"Our hearts are broken," the family said in a statement to the outlet. "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."

The statement added: "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."

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DJ Kay Slay's death comes four months after his battle with COVID-19 began, according to People and the New York Post.

His longtime friend and veteran hip hop promoter Van Silk spoke to HipHopDX on Monday about DJ Kay Slay's death.

“Hip Hop lost a real gem. 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," he told the outlet. "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."

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Silk 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.”

DJ Kay Slay's other longtime friend, artist manager Wack 100 posted a tribute to him on Instagram. "2 Decades of friendship. Major contribution to my growth and networking. A big brother , friend , business partner & mentor," he wrote. "I didn’t lose you bro you told me you’d always be with me so Ive gained a spiritual advisor."

https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccfp3_6OEr5″>View this post on Instagram

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Grayson grew up in Harlem, immersed in New York City’s early hip hop scene. He got his start as a teenage graffiti artist and was featured in the 1983 hip hop documentary "Style Wars."

He began selling bootleg mixtapes on street corners in the early ’90s and released his first studio album, "The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1," in May 2003. Grayson released several more albums and worked with the likes of Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes.

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In 2019, DJ Kay Slay told Forbes he didn't really set out to be a DJ. "It was just something to do that was fun and that I enjoyed doing," he said.

Throughout DJ Kay Slay's career, he also became head of artists and repertoire for Shaquille O’Neal’s label DEJA34, the A&R of Ray J’s 2008 album "All I Feel," and the CEO of Straight Stuntin’ Magazine, according to HOT 97. He is also credited for uniting NYC rivals Fat Joe and 50 Cent in his 2014 single "Free Again."

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Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DJ Kay Slay dead: Pioneering hip hop artist dies after COVID-19 battle

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