Kay Slay Talks New Album And Old Beefs
“[My album’s title] comes from the fact that I’m more than just that,” Kay Slay told HipHopDX recently regarding his fourth formal compilation effort, More Than Just A DJ (due December 8th). “A lot of times we get stamped with the title of what are main job is, but it be a lot of other things that’s going on behind the scenes people don’t know about… I deejay at parties, I also host big events, I’m a publisher of a magazine [Straight Stuntin], I A&R’d for [Shaquille O’Neal’s Deja34 label on] Ray J’s [click to read] [All I Feel] project, I got two different radio shows [“Streetsweeper Radio” on Sirius’ Shade 45 and “The Drama Hour” on New York’s HOT 97 FM], I do projects in the communities - I bring basketball tournaments in the hood, games for the kids, dances and everything. I do a whole lot more [than just deejay and] sometimes people need to recognize what’s going on with people rather that just labeling them one thing. I’m more than just a deejay. I been here over 31 years, man. I had to progress some. Damn! Give me my props, dog.”
The 40-something former graffiti writer (one of the aerosol artists featured in the 1983 Hip Hop documentary Style Wars) is indeed a Hip Hop multi-tasker. With his days of taggin’ his onetime signature “DEZ” long behind him (although the Harlem native revealed to DX that he does still occasionally find time to legally throw-up at the Graffiti Hall Of Fame on 106th Street and Park Avenue), Slay spends his time in 2009 handling the many tasks associated with constructing his latest retail release.
While clearing samples, as well as personally arranging the appearances of all 62 artists featured on More Than Just A DJ, has proved daunting (and forced the album’s release date to be pushed back a few times now), Slay is firmly committed to doing what’s needed and putting his all into his commercial projects, especially given the current state of the street-based business that brought him to the masses a decade ago with the debut of his Street Sweepers series. While Slay revealed to DX that tapes helmed by him for Jim Jones [click to read] and Tony Yayo [click to read] are forthcoming, he also conceded that street releases are no longer his focus.
“I mean, I ain’t really even fuckin’ into that no more,” said Slay of the mixtape game. “I might drop one every three months just to give away, and people can be abreast that I’m still here, and make some exclusive records and let ‘em out through that. But as far as pioneering that shit anymore, I’m past that. That game nasty, man… I [can] just do what [everybody else does and] throw the shit on the Internet… The game just, it’s messed up now.”
Although Kay Slay cannot more casually arrange artist appearances for his proper albums the way he could for a mixtape, one artist Slay didn’t have to deal with any headaches in getting for his new project was Drake. Unfortunately, the Young Money emcee was unable to record anything new for the album.
“I was trying to get him and Busta [Rhymes] on [a] joint,” Slay revealed. “[But] what happened, [Drake] was so heavy on the road and moving around, and then he hurt his leg. And so it was getting down to crunch time [to complete my album], so his peoples - Gee [Roberson] and them was like, ‘Yo, well look, this record [that] just leaked [‘The Winner’], we don’t know how it leaked, but would you mind taking this [for your album]?’ I’m not gonna be stupid and not take the record knowing that I might not catch [Drake] because of his situation. So I was like, ‘Hell yeah I’ll take that record.’ And people liked it and was spinning it already, so I’m like, ‘Hell yeah.’”
While Drake’s two-step jam has been available to the buying public since this past July, there are plenty of previously unheard selections on More Than Just A DJ including what Slay described to DX as a hard, street joint, “See The Light.” The song featuring AZ, Raekwon and Ghostface was produced by DJ Green Lantern. Slay deliberately reached out to AZ to add a spitter who could hold his own on the track with Rae and Ghost.
“That’s a lot of people [that] claim that got love for the culture, but if they did it would show in their ways, actions and deeds,” he said of his industry peers who have turned their backs on less commercially-viable legends like Sosa. “And I’m just one person that if I know somebody got a talent, if they willing to participate in my projects, then I’ma give ‘em an opportunity.”
One artist who Slay appears to have tried to give an opportunity to is Plies. According to Slay, he provided a platform for the self-proclaimed “goon” rapper to get some shine in the early stages of his career via Slay’s radio broadcast. Recently, Slay further extended his hand to the Florida native and offered Plies a slot on the first single from More Than Just A DJ, “Blockstars.” Plies recorded his verse for the track (which also features Busta Rhymes, Jim Jones and Ray J) but subsequently failed to show for the song’s video shoot, forcing Slay to replace Plies on the record with Yo Gotti.
It’s déjà vu all over again for Slay, who six years ago was stood up for the video shoot for his then first single from his first official album, 2003’s Streetsweeper Vol. 1.
“I mean, I ain’t got no problems with him, but I just choose not to deal with him [for] my own personal reasons,” Slay replied when asked about his current relationship with Nas a half-dozen years after he failed to show for the “Too Much For Me” shoot. “Like, it’s just, he coulda did so much for me by helping me the way I helped him. And he chose not to, so - My main thing is, first time bitten second time shy. You got me the first time, you won’t get me again.”
Although adamant that he won’t be bitten again like he claims to have been by Nas and Plies, Slay still appears to be freely offering a spotlight for artists that he believes are deserved of the shine, including Saigon, Joell Ortiz, Jae Millz and Streetsweepers Entertainment signee Big Lou who all appear on the Street Radio (Jimi Kendrix and J. Math) produced “God Forgive Me.”
In addition to AZ, Rae, Jae, Ghost, Sai and Joell, M.O.P., Maino, Papoose, 50 Cent (for “50/50 Chance” unless the Dr. Dre-produced “Dreamin’” is cleared in enough time to be included on the album) and an assortment of big names from the big apple can be heard on Kay Slay’s latest offering. But More Than Just A DJ is not an all New York City affair. Slay sought out diverse talent from every region of the country. Bay Area notables San Quinn and Mistah F.A.B. can be heard on the same collective along with L.A. natives Glasses Malone and Jay Rock, who share album space with Lil Boosie and OJ Da Juiceman.
“These brothers remind me of a lot of the brothers in New York that’s not getting the burn that they deserve, even in their hometown on the radio,” said Slay. “They get a little burn, they get their props and everything… I’ve always been the cat that fucked with the underdogs. It’s always been my M.O. so me having knowledge on who they are in their hometown I just try to make it my business to help broaden their fan base a little more through my project. That’s what I do, man.”
But it’s not just the underdogs that Slay reaches out to help. Recently, he managed to do the once unthinkable and unite onetime bitter rivals G-Unit and D-Block on wax, with members of each powerhouse crew agreeing to appear on the remix to More Than Just A DJ album cut “You Heard Of Us.” The ally of both camps claims the seemingly difficult-to-arrange union of Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, Styles P and Sheek Louch (alongside Papoose and Bun B) on the same track was just a few phone calls away.
“When I was doing this remix I said, ‘Man, it’d be hot if I could just get them all on a joint,’” recalled Slay. “And so I just picked up the phone, man, and said this is what I’m doing. When [Styles P and Sheek Louch] asked me who was on the record I didn’t lie! I told ‘em, I said, ‘Yo, on some G shit, I’m not even tryin’ to sneak, I got Yayo on there, and I got Banks finishing that.’ And [Sheek Louch] was like, ‘Alright, shit we fuck with them and it’s all good now. Send me the beat.’ And then I remember Styles asking me [about who was going to be on the remix] and me telling him, and that was that. When I told Yayo I’m putting [D-Block on the track] he was like, ‘Alright cool.’ And Yayo bigged ‘em up in his part of the verse. So it was all love, man.”
Slay knows that his next challenge will be to get the heads of G-Unit and D-Block, 50 Cent and Jadakiss, to join forces for a track.
“They’ll work together,” he promised. “They already resolved their differences. But you know it’s just gotta start somewhere. That [remix for “You Heard Of Us”] was like a icebreaker [between their camps].”
The self-crowned “Drama King,” who was once notoriously known for fanning the flames of beef between Jay-Z and Nas during their historic war on wax (Slay was the first to play “Ether” on air), and who just premiered Beanie Sigel’s surprising shot at Hov, now insists that he is beyond basing his career in beef, and that’s why former foes like G-Unit and D-Block trust that appearing together on a Kay Slay track won’t become the launching pad to direct bombs at one another.
“At the end of the day, cats know I’m not trying to do nothing to create any other situation,” said Slay. “If anything, believe it or not, I be the one that be wanting to try to dead the nonsense so we could all have a better day.”
His own well-publicized personal and professional squabbles with the likes of the aforementioned Nas, DJ Clue (the two famously got into an on-air, expletive-laced argument in 2003 regarding who held NYC’s mixtape crown at the time), and Jermaine Dupri (who Slay took issue with over J.D.’s “the deejay is dead” comment last year) have led many to see Slay as nothing more than a reckless firestarter with no justifiable reasoning for his take-no-shit approach to the Rap game.
“Anybody could have [disagreements] with one another,” he reminded. “Me and Clue is cool than a muthafucka. We had our discrepancies. Me and J.D., I guess we ain’t never really seen eye-to-eye with a couple of situations, but I don’t personally hate him. And as everybody know, Nas I mean, shit, the way I was ride or die with him, in the situation when I needed him to just come do the video to a record he did on my album he wouldn’t show up. So, I wasn’t wrong at all. Everybody know I wasn’t wrong in that situation. It’s just me standing up for myself in situations and not taking no shit, letting nobody run over me. That’s all that is. You can’t tell a man not to be a man.”
More Than Just A DJ is due in stores and online December 8th from E1 Entertainment.