For the moment this will only be understood by the true HIP HOPPER! The ones who were not only there, but also studied, critiqued and sometimes authenticated or denounced the artifacts or purported facts of documentarians of the culture. If that describes you, then the 1982 documentary film “Style Wars” is something that you’re quite familiar with. In that piece we got to meet a fledgling graffiti artist/writer, Dezzy Dez. There were two telling segments that stood out for me pertaining to his character then and the future version of himself. One was when Dez was describing the mentor/mentee relationship of himself and a 14-year-old writer, with the alias Trap. “One day I came to the bench, and I seen him sitting there looking at the pieces. A writer could tell another writer. You’d go to the bench and his head would be doing this (swivel motion) as the trains go by and he’s had ink stains on his clothes.” Trap chimed in, “He used to give me outlines to practices.” “I couldn’t let him go for 5 minutes because he’d destroy the piece. He wanted to do his own thing and told him ‘just stay in the outline.’” The motivation for his generosity Dez explained with, “By the time he reaches my age (16 years old) he can be one of the best people out. If he continues to go through the years, he could be another Picasso.” In another scene Dez was the one being schooled. An older more decorated artist at the time, Kase 2, gave Dez the motivation. “They say that graffiti gonna be played out, this and that, but it’s gonna keep going on. I might get old and quit but you coming up, and younger ones are coming after you. So, it’s gonna keep going, but you gonna be a king one day.”
Dez took those life lessons that he gave and received, applied them to another discipline of hip hop and under a different moniker fulfilled his royal hip hop destiny as DJ Kay Slay. As a DJ, Slay was able to satiate all levels of the streets via turntablism or his innate ability to assemble and pair emcees of varying styles to form a cohesive piece of work as witnessed by his multiple mixtapes and proper albums with his “Streetsweepers” Vol 1 and 2, “The Champions: North meets South,” “More Than Just A DJ,” “The Big Brother,” “Hip-Hop Fortune” and “The Soul Controller.” Last year he dropped the title “Rolling 110 Deep” which featured 110 rappers with contributing verses ranging from pioneers (Coke La Rock, Grandmaster Caz); Hollywood (Ice-T, Omar Epps); athletes (Shaquile O’Neal, Roy Jones Jr.); elites (Loaded Lux, Cory Guns) and legends (KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Ice Cube, Ghostface Killah, Black Thought).
We got the harrowing news on Sunday that the vessel Keith Grayson that shelled Dez/Kay Slay personas had met his demise. Rumors have abounded that he was stricken with COVID-19 since January, but the reported severity of his affliction often fluctuated. “Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay,” read a statement from the Grayson family. “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.” His radio home of Hot 97, where he hosted the Drama Hour, commented, “Hot 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay. We cherish the many memories created through the 20-plus years he dedicated to the ‘Drama Hour.’ 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. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and fans worldwide and we will always and forever celebrate the Drama King’s legacy.”
Back to regularly scheduled programming next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife!