DJ Kay Slay Ain’t Gon Let Up
Kay Slay loves yelling. If you think two decades in New York’s hip-hop scene would have calmed the veteran graf-writer-turned-DJ down, think again. These days the Hot 97 mainstay and mixtape master seems more energized than ever, devoting a lot of attention to developing new talent, like New York’s major MC without a major deal, Papoose, and an up-and-coming female rapper from Virginia named Vein. With a new reality show in development and his third album in the works—this time a collaborative effort with veteran Atlanta DJ Greg Street called The Champions: North Meets South—the Drama King has no plans to relinquish his crown any time soon.
What made you hook up with a DJ from the South for an entire album?
I started working on the album by myself, and once I noticed I had a lot of hot South records, I said, “Damn, you know, the state of the game right now, it looks kinda crazy for me to do this album.” I figured I’d reach out to someone that was real cool with me, then we could finish the album together and there would be a balance. I could have as many South records and North records and not look crazy. So that’s when I reached out to Greg Street. He embraced me from day one. The first time I came to Atlanta in 2002, it was All-Star weekend. When I got down there, Greg Street was the first person I met; and then he acted like he knew me his whole life. He was driving me around to different areas, took me to the studio, introduced me to people. He’s just real with it. A lot of other DJs, they hate when they see another DJ accomplishing something, doing something they always wanted to do. It wasn’t like that with him. He’s confident in what he do, he was already doing his thing. That’s just the type of person I’m gonna choose to work with. I ain’t gonna go for who people portray to be the hottest in the South. I’m going with who kept it real with me.
Speaking of DJs who are hot in the South, I was reading in an interview where you talked about how you were there for T.I.’s career back when DJ Drama maybe wasn’t there for him.
That’s very much true. You can ask T.I. I’m the type of person that you’re gonna give me my credit and my just due when I know I contributed to a situation. And I know damn sure ain’t nobody—nobody—up North had the slightest idea who T.I. was when he was coming to my crib. I’m not saying I made T.I. or I gave him his career. He’s his own man. I’m just saying, when you point to DJs that was there from the start, when he first got his record deal and started branching out and really getting out there, it was me. A lot of people say Drama, but Drama wasn’t even making mixtapes back then. So I just wanted to set the facts straight.
Do you feel people like Drama aren’t giving you that credit?
Dude don’t give me my props. I read and I observe, because I’m not this illiterate cat running around here calling myself the Drama King, poundin’ on niggas. I read interviews of things that he said that he does that make him who he is and some of the mixtapes that he used to cop and pick up when he came to New York. Around the timeframe he was talking about, I was the hottest nigga on the street, and my name ain’t mentioned. It’s ridiculous. How is your name DJ Drama and my name is the Drama King? Part of your name comes from my name and I’m not mentioned? It don’t make no sense. But I ain’t got nothing but love for everybody that’s trying to help this culture go to the next level. Just give props where props is due. He took what I started up here down there, and started getting top-of-the-line artists to host mixtapes. He made his brand and he ran with it. He capitalized. So that’s a beautiful thing. He deserves all the just due five years down the line when another cat might take something from him that he originated.
Last I read, Papoose was still deciding between two different labels. What’s the situation now?
Pretty much just them two labels. We just going back and forth and getting this situation right, because sometimes it’s not about all the money in the world, it’s not about who everybody considers the best machine, it’s about which machine is going to get behind the project and make it a priority when it’s time for it to come out. I’ve been a victim of that myself with a major label and I refuse to let him fall victim to the same thing. So we ain’t got nothing but time on our side. We don’t intend on getting no colder, we only getting hotter. Our work ethic only gets more strengthened as we go on.
There were a lot of rumors about Pap signing with Atlantic. Are they still in the running?
Nah. They was in the running, but you know, they didn’t see eye to eye with certain situations. You know, no love lost; we just kept doing what we doing. But I don’t really want to put [who the other labels are] out there. The people in the running, they don’t care for the next individual to know what their bid is.
Another thing about Papoose is there’s a lot of these New York rappers now that seem to be using the whole “bring New York back” gimmick as almost a marketing plan.
It’s ridiculous. They keep on saying, “Bring New York back.” New York ain’t never went nowhere. 50 Cent sells five million records. You could tally up about four hot artists from any region that you like the most, add the sales up and it won’t tally up to that. It’s stupid when people say, “Bring New York back,” because bottom line: hip-hop started here. I think right now the fans [are] kinda confused with rap and entertainment. There’s a lot of entertainment going on in the industry. They got dances to a lot of songs. That’s entertaining, that’s beautiful, but when it comes time to stand up, put your ass on the stage and give you a mic against a New York artist, what’s going to happen? That’s my point. We rap up here. We are lyricists and this is what we do. And at this state of the game, people ain’t really interested in what’s coming out of people’s mouths. If I threw on a hoodie, some shades and a grill, and just grabbed the mic and made a song, “My dick is big! My dick is big! I fuck your girl! My dick is big!” Man, that shit would be a fuckin’ hit in every club, niggas jumpin’ around, holdin’ their nuts. It would even be played in rotation with the word “dick” edited out—that’s entertainment. That’s not rap.
When it comes time to market Papoose, it seems like a lot of people will expect him to be portrayed as the dude who is bringing New York back.
Nah, we not doing that. A lot of people [say] Papoose can bring New York back and this and that. The reason why they’re saying that is because Papoose is an artist who’s saying something in his lyrics. Everybody goes through life experiences and talks about where they from and killin’ the block every now and then, but you can learn something from 80 percent of Papoose’s lyrics. It’s a message. It’s like we not just out saying anything just to sell records, to get a buzz. He can get on a record with any artist from any region and go with their style and come off. But we will never—listen to me, I repeat—we will never take a South beat with a chopped and screwed hook or any type of hook that’s totally South and do one of those records without a South artist being on there with him. If a South artist is on there with him, it’s okay for you to flow the way they flowin’ and rock with them like that, but just a New York nigga doin’ that…We started rap. We can’t ever follow and do what other people are doing.
You mentioned before that you read everything. I noticed that on our website, you responded to a blog entry that Fresh wrote about you. Do you stay on the Internet a lot?
Nah, but somebody tells me if somebody said something that’s real derogatory. It just depends on how out of line it is for me to put something up there. If I feel like this person is really just putting things in the wrong perspective, I’ll respond. Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe they so ignorant, stuck on the website, that they don’t know what’s going on in the street. Let me just enlighten them. I mean, hey, if that’s what they do, I want them to keep doing what they do, because that’s how they pay their bills, by makin’ up bullshit. But the main reason I don’t stay on the websites and the Internet is those people like, um…what’s her name? Funky? Some shit like that?
Well, I named her Funky. Funky get on the website and say shit and be able to hide behind a name that ain’t her name. Nobody knows who it is. For all I know, really I think Fresh is a dude who act like a girl. You got bitch-ass nigga like that. Who knows and who cares. Fuck them. Let me bring them up to par. You’re the one on the Internet website. I’m the one with a situation with Shaquille O’Neal. I’m the one with a joint venture with Busta Rhymes. I’m the one who’s putting out my third album. I’m the one who works at Hot 97. I’m the one who works at Shade45. I’m the one who’s working on a reality show right now. I’m the one with an artist that’s about to get a $1.5 million deal. Where the fuck do you talk about me not knowing how to fill out a bank receipt? I am fuckin’ far from a zero in my bank account.
You were on the cover of New York Magazine recently.
How did that come about?
The funniest thing about that is, me and Papoose have no publicist. I’m the one that do all the press. I hook up interviews. I’m the person you gotta holler at. So, case in point, I get a call from some girl from L.A. telling me that there’s people in New York trying to contact me about doing a shoot for New York Magazine. I don’t even know what New York Magazine is about, so I’m like, “Huh, yeah, whatever.” I ain’t really pay them no mind. But when she said it was for the most influential people in New York, I said, “Okay, well, it could be a possibility.” So I gave the people my number. I did the photo shoot for the magazine, but when the shit came out, they had me on the cover with fuckin’ Mayor Bloomberg, Anna Wintour and Rupert Murdoch. I’m like, “What the fuck?” It’s crazy when I seen that shit. It felt good that my publicist didn’t politic this to get this done. Nobody knew this was gonna be what it was. But they are going by what they see in their eyes, as opposed to somebody trying to hook something up. It felt good, especially with all the other big DJs in New York and all the other big rappers—there were no rappers on the cover. They all had on suits and I had on my fuckin’ colorful 8 ball jacket with my hat turned backwards.