With 3 decades plus in and around Hip-Hop, 43 year-old Keith Grayson or DJ Kay Slay as he’s known throughout the industry takes a seat with Parlé to discuss the state of the game, how its changed, and what a real DJ is, among other things. His new album, More Than Just A DJ dropping on February 9th, features artists like Papoose, Maino, G-Unit, Busta Rhymes, and Cam’Ron, among others.
Parlé: How’d you get the name DJ Kay Slay?
Kay Slay: My real name is Keith Grayson. Back in the days people used to call me KG, that was my DJ name in the early 80’s. Then, when I got locked, KG from Naughty By Nature was using the name. So just to be different, and go my own way, I changed my name to Kay Slay.
Parlé: What was Hip-Hop like in your eyes, while you were coming up, I mean like in the 80’s?
Kay Slay: Hip Hop was out for love. Back then we did it for the love, not for the money and all that. We did it as an escape from the reality; trying to find our way out, take our mind off the bullshit in our lives. Being in the hood, we was surrounded by New York gangs, drugs, all kinds of shit,
Parlé: And when did you really get into Hip-Hop yourself?
Kay Slay: I been around Hip-Hop my whole life, but got a real liking for it at about 12 years old. When was DJ’ing a house party for older cats, this dude Rodney Woodson told me how I should turn the volume up when a hot song came on, and lower it when a wack one came on. But later on, I just asked him, when he was really gonna teach me how to DJ. But yeah, it pretty much started from then.
Parlé: You did a bid in the late 80’s, do you mind briefing us on the terms?
Kay Slay: In 1989 I did 8 months, and afterwards I was mandated to a program. Prior to that I had like 22 arrests on just dumb, stupid shit, man, just stupid shit. Possession, assault, grand larceny. Just dumb shit.
Parlé: Was Hip-Hop real big while you were in there too?
Kay Slay: Hip-Hop was big everywhere at the end of the day. When they home that’s an outlet for them. If you from the hood, nine times out of ten that’s what you came up on.
Parlé: When’d you get out?
Kay Slay: In ‘91 I was really free to do what I wanted to do.
Parlé: I’m guessing the fact that you were in Jail is why you shout the jails and jail divisions out on the Drama Hour?
Kay Slay: Naw, I’m from the hood, and every dude I know, know someone from the hood or who might be in a similar situation. So I just acknowledge a lost world of people. Who gonna big ‘em up?? Who salutes them?? One phone call or shout out could save his life, take him to another day. Giving support helps man.
Parlé: Yeah I can feel that. How did Hip-Hop change when you were released? And how’d you get into DJ’ing?
Kay Slay: At the end of the day, what changed for me when I got out was that I could see I had an option to go either right or left. I had a talent that some people aint have. I had to do the right thing and put it to use. A lot of people aint got these talents.
Parlé: In your opinion, what is a DJ? Is he just someone that speaks, and hosts mixtapes, or is he really someone that gotta be able to handle his own on the 1’s and 2’s?
Kay Slay: A DJ is a Disc Jockey, master of all ceremonies, he can control a crowd, move a crowd, he can also stomp a crowd. He also has an ear for talent. That’s what classifies a DJ.
Parlé: If you was walking by a Bootlegger, who’s mixtape would you cop, like by what DJ?
Kay Slay: (Laughs) First and foremost, I wouldn’t cop no mixtapes from bootleggers. But, if you’re asking me what DJ’s I’d listen to, I’d say Superstar J. I aint really in-tune with mixtapes and shit like that no more. It’s a lot of impostors and it’s fucked up now. When I was in competition with different cats making mixtapes, our claim to fame was that we had shit that sounded different than each other. These niggas grabbing all the records off the net, makin a sequence and putting it out. I used to holla at different artists like Busta, 50, and make diff tapes. Any “DJ” could go on the net.
Parlé: Do you think that contributes to the lack of originality in Hip-Hop today as well?
Kay Slay: Yeah, just in general, that’s not original. I could put a 10-year-old dude on the net and make music. Shit, I could make a DJ now, I would just go to these sites, put him on record, and let him talk shit!
Parlé: And what DJ’s from the South are you feeling?
Kay Slay: DJ Smalls, Greg Street, but I’m an up north nigga. I could listen to only a couple south joints. You gotta understand, it’s a big difference. Up here you could turn on the radio and it’s like you down south. Down there you might listen to one or two songs from up north artists, like Busta, Jay or something like that, but that’s it!
Parlé: Who were some of your favorite artists in the 80’s and 90’s?
Kay Slay: When I was on the street, it was Melle Mel, the Furious Five, Grandmaster Caz, the Force MD’s. I was a fan of the real, lyrical niggas. As far as the 90’s go I mess with Nas, Grand Puba, Rakim, Eric B, Big Daddy Kane, Jaz-O. You had to be more lyrical than anything. If you wasn’t lyrical you wasn’t being accepted. It wasn’t even wack niggas that was coming out! It wasn’t no wack niggas on, rest in peace, Mr. Magic, it wasn’t no wack niggas on the radio.
Parlé: So what do you think about to day, when you see music that some would call “bubblegum”?
Kay Slay: It’s disgusting. But I blame the record industry, I’m not gonna blame them, I can’t shut down how a black man wanna make his money. If they allow a nigga with no talent to come in the game, I can’t blame him. It’s those who accept it in our culture. 9 times out of 10 they aint in our culture, wanna make a dollar off of it with a dance and a hook song. The A&R’s are to blame for that.
Parlé: Tell me how the Drama King name got started?
Kay Slay: That, in my opinion—because people take that and change it up—but in my opinion, that’s just in part of the battles that took place in Hip-Hop. Some people spun it off into what they wanted. But that’s all from Hip-Hop battles. Niggas that battled in the park and clubs, and after that they smoked and drank or whatever. But all that, ‘I’ma kill you and stab you’ shit, I don’t know where it came from. I represent the battles in Hip-Hop, NOT the violence. But I’m not gonna co-sign on the spin they put on the name.
Parlé: What’s the deal with Papoose?
Kay Slay: Pap is good, he’s recording, he got records up. He got “Paid A Grip” bubbling on the air, and “Glock Busta,” People are showing him love.
Parlé: And how about the search for a label to drop his album?
Kay Slay: Nah I don’t go to the labels, they come to me. I put out the heat. I can’t say when the album will drop or anything like that. He like got ten times the amount of the songs for an album. We just need the right record and situation to come up. He not gonna just drop an album to drop an album.
Parlé: Do you still have a beef with Hov?
Kay Slay: We grown men, we just men that disagree on one thing. The thing about me and him is that neither one of us are dick suckers. If I disagree, I’m gonna speak my mind, and it’s the same thing with him. I aint got no beef with him. To me, beef is when a nigga is waiting outside your crib to put one in you. We just had a few words over music.
Parlé: As far as the new rappers you see out today, like Drake, Nipsey Hussle, J. Cole, B.o.B., like in your opinion, who do you think will be the next big thing in rap?
Kay Slay: Its so hard to really say, Drake is so fucking hot, in my opinion, they was supposed to drop his album in December, but it seems like his steam might be falling off. To me, Nicki Minaj got a lot of the heat. But it’s hard to say that with the way the fans are. Just because a person is all over the place don’t mean that the fans are gonna go out and buy your album.
Parlé: Do you think where an artist is from has anything to do with their success?
Kay Slay: That aint got shit to do with. Credibility from the street don’t apply to it, as far as the industry is concerned. You see Drake, Drake aint pretending to be a gangsta. Kanye is another example, he aint pretending to be a gangsta. Drake from Toronto, and Kanye from Chi-Town. It aint got nothing to do with where you from, its where you at mentally.
Parlé: What advice can you give new artists trying to get into Hip-Hop?
Kay Slay: If a new artist aint got originality, and a full game-plan, then they are due for a lot of pain, misery, and suffering. Niggas aint gon respect you. This is a dog eat dog game! If you got a buzz, people love you. If you aint hot, it’s the total opposite. You better have something else going for you, because if you just dive into this game, there aint no water at the bottom of the mothafuckin’ pit!
Parlé: Tell us about the new album…
Kay Slay: More Than A DJ dropping February 9th. A lot of new music that’s orientated to every region. It’s just Hip-Hop. I just want the culture to know what’s the difference between Hip-Hop, and everything else. I don’t know where all that ‘I wanna be a millionaire’ stuff came from. That’s not the culture. The culture is having fun, and being able to express ourselves. It’s like the Mafia, when they say, this is ‘Our Thing,’ that’s what it is, like this is really a thing of ours.