Entertainment Music Hip-Hop Pioneer DJ Kay Slay Dead at 55 After COVID Battle: His Legacy 'Will Transcend Generations' DJ Kay Slay, whose real name was Keith Grayson, died on Sunday after battling COVID-19 for months, his family and Hot 97 confirmed in statements By Nicholas Rice Nicholas Rice Instagram Twitter Nicholas Rice is an Associate Editor for PEOPLE Magazine. He began working with the brand as an Editorial Intern in early 2020, before later transitioning to a freelance role, and then staff positions soon after. Nicholas writes and edits anywhere between 7 to 9 stories per day on average for PEOPLE, spanning across each vertical the brand covers. Nicholas has previous work experience with Billboard, POPSUGAR, Bustle and Elite Daily. When not working, Nicholas can be found playing with his 5 dogs, listening to pop music or eating mozzarella sticks. People Editorial Guidelines Published on April 18, 2022 09:41 AM Share Tweet Pin Email DJ Kay Slay, a pioneering hip-hop icon, has died. He was 55. The disc jockey and record executive, whose real name was Keith Grayson, died Sunday evening after a four-month battle with COVID-19. The news of his death was confirmed in statements obtained by PEOPLE from Hot 97 and his family. "Our hearts are broken by the passing of Keith Grayson, professionally known as DJ Kay Slay," his family said. "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." They 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." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. Getty Images Celebrities Who Died in 2022 Born on Aug. 14, 1966, in New York City, DJ Kay Slay released his first project, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1, in 2003. He then went on to share numerous other studio albums during his career, including, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 2, More Than Just a DJ, The Big Brother and Hip Hop Frontline. The star's most recent album, The Soul Controller, was released in 2021. Johnny Nunez/WireImage DJ Kay Slay is also believed to have "released over 500 bootleg mixtapes," Fader reported. The outlet said that he began selling them on street corners in New York's West Village starting in 1993, and they reportedly featured artists among the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent and JAY-Z. Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday. Prince Williams/GC Images DJ Kay Slay — who was also nicknamed The Drama King — also took part in hosting "The Drama Hour" on Hot 97 for over two decades. In a statement, the New York-based radio station remembered his work ethic and legacy. "Hot 97 is shocked and saddened by the loss of our beloved DJ Kay Slay," their statement began. "We cherish the many memories created through the twenty-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," the statement added. "Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and fans worldwide and we will always and forever celebrate The Drama King's legacy."