The hip hop community commemorated the legacy of one of its most recognizable figures in recent times with a home-going tribute at Harlem’s Apollo Theater this past Sunday morning. Mixtape legend and Hot 97 on-air personality, DJ Kay Slay, 55, transitioned on April 17 from COVID-19 related complications. Approaching the Apollo Theater, Kay Slay’s voice was heard blaring out of the speakers of several vendors’ sound systems along 125th Street as a line of fans and supporters filed outside awaiting entrance. Inside, many paid homage.
Although several hundred people came out, some figured that a lot more would’ve come out to pay their respects to a local legend who gave back so much to the Harlem and hip hop communities.
Recording artist Busta Rhymes traced their friendship back 28 years, then detailed how they bonded: “I really respect a man that represented what it was to be a strong man. As his younger brother, he was contributing to me being raised properly. All the talking with Slay was one thing, but unless you were able to show and prove, it’s just talk.”
He also elaborated on how they’d get into heated debates, yet never lost respect for each other, before adding: “I’m grateful that I was part of every Slay album, countless mixtapes, and I was able to establish a genuine brotherhood with that man. Hip hop has an obligation to this man.”
Slay’s innovative “Rollin’ 50 Deep,” and “Rolling 110 Deep” mixtapes featured dozens of gifted artists and are a prime example of hip hop’s unifying force which it was initially intended for.
“I owe this man a lot,” Kay Slay’s protégé, Papoose, admitted after detailing some of the casualties he and his family endured while growing up in Brooklyn. “He was known as the ‘Drama King,’ but ironically what a lot of people don’t know, Slay was the reason for a lot of beef getting squashed. He became the voice of reason.”
He revealed some personal moments between them, noting his sense of humor, as well as his social guidance, before sharing a heart-wrenching confession: “On January 4th he said ‘Pap, I might not make it.’”
Also mentioning how he implored his mentor to continue fighting.
“This a brother that would make your problem his own.” He added. “We gotta cherish our every moment with our loved ones. Don’t take them for granted. Life is too short. I will do everything in my power to carry on your legacy.”
Papoose noted how Slay introduced him to his wife, who spoke next.
“He made sure that Remy Ma became known,” the Bronx MC gleamed. “We had this sister/brother, love/hate relationship. He was really my friend. He changed a lot of people’s lives. We never know when it’s gonna be our last days. So when you have somebody that you love and care about and that you feel if they wasn’t here that you would be hurt, tell them that now. Spend time with them. Go see them. Even if it’s out of the way.”
Chuck Chillout, Kid Capri, and Ma$e were among the hip hop luminaries who came out to pay their respects.
Upon the memorial services concluding, Kay Slay’s casket was carried out of the Apollo’s backstage door, then placed on an all-white carriage on 126th Street. Moments later, two white horses drew the carriage west-bound one block, around the corner down to 125th Street, and headed to his native East Harlem ‘hood.