First Impressions: DJ Kay Slay – Living Legend

An Intro To DJ Kay Slay

DJ Kay Slay is a 53 year old DJ from New York City who is not only know for his string of albums stacked with big features, but also for refereeing some of the most notorious beefs of the early 2000’s, most notably Jay-Z vs Nas & 50 Cent vs Ja Rule. Kay Slay actually got his start in the hip hop scene in the late 70’s as a DJ and Graffiti artist with the moniker Dezzy Dez, before turning to drugs and drug dealing with eventually lead to a prison sentence in the late 80’s. He was released from prison in 1990 and steered away from the drug life, instead focusing on working jobs to make enough money to afford a studio so that he could pursue his dreams of becoming a DJ. By the early 2000’s Kay Slay has started to make a name for himself as a DJ in New York, but his big rise in fame came in 2001 when he had the honour of being the DJ to premier ‘Ether’, Jay-Z’s classic Nas diss. From this point on Kay Slay became the ‘go-to’ DJ when rappers wanted to premier a diss track, with him receiving another massive boost to his recognition when he premiered a Ja Rule diss track by Eminem, 50 cent & Busta Rhymes titled ‘Hail Mary’ In 2003.

It was at this point in his career that Kay Slay decided to build on the momentum and start releasing solo albums instead of just DJing and promoting others. He released his debut album ‘Streetsweeper, Vol. 1’ in May of 2003, stacked with features from big name artists such as Eminem, Mobb Deep, The LOX, 50 Cent, Nas, Styles P, Bun B, & about 20 others (literally). One of its singles ‘Too Much For Me’ which features Nas, Foxy Brown, Birdman & Amerie charted at number 53, his most successful song thus far. In March of 2004 Kay Slay dropped the sequel ‘Streetsweeper, Vol. 2’, Another album absolutely stacked with features, most notably Ghostface Killah, G-Unit, Eminem, E-40, Papoose, Lil Jon, Twista & Raekwon. The album peaked at number 10 on the charts, with one of its songs ‘Who Gives A… Where You’re From’ charting at 89 and being featured in the NFL Street video game.

Over the next six years Kay Slay continued the grind with a total of nine mixtapes and a collaborative album with DJ Greg Street, before releasing his next album ‘More Than Just A Dj’ in February of 2010. Yet again the album was absolutely loaded with features from prominent rappers such as Busta Rhymes, Sheek Louch, Rick Ross, Papoose, Cam’ron, Vado & Ray J (and that’s just one song!). Over the next six years Kay Slay releases another 14 mixtapes while constantly teasing an upcoming album titled ‘Rhyme or Die’, an album which never ended up seeing a release. In 2017 he did release an album though titled ‘Big Brother’, bringing together some of the best rappers of the old school (Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, Scarface) with some great modern rappers (Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Troy Ave). His last album, 2019’s ‘Hip Hop Frontline’ followed the same formula, combining artists such as Young Buck & The LOX with rappers such as Moneybagg Yo and Casanova for a great blend of new and old sounds.

And that brings us to now! On 5th Of March 2020 DJ Kay Slay released his ‘Living Legend’ mixtape, stacked with the usual lineup of popular rappers from throughout the last 3 decades. Below I’m going to review the album in two parts, first will be my observations on each track as I listened through, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include some links to stream the album and some discussion questions at the end. Enjoy!

Track By Track Review

1. Intro – Typical old school DJ mixtape intro, lots of pointless words of wisdom. Nothing special

2. Back To The Bars Pt. 2 (ft. Sheek Louch, Styles P, Jon Connor, Vado, Nino Man, RJ Payne & Sauce Money) – Really enjoy the spoken intro and the way it transitions into the banging beat, which is simple but has this crisp old school cypher vibe to it. Sheek Louch has some real solid flows filled with impressive rhymes and funny bars. Styles P has some real impressive rhymes too, flows and delivery are decent too, rides the beat really well. Sauce Money has a pretty average delivery and simple flow but he rides the beat decently and has a bunch of funny bars scattered throughout. Nino Man starts his verse excellently, real enjoyable flow and some hard hitting bars, delivery is solid throughout his whole verse. Vado has some great rhymes but his flows don’t change up much and his verse sounds kinda phoned in, seems badly mixed or something, Still a decent verse. RJ Payne has the least favourite delivery so far, flows and rhymes are okay but the delivery drags it down. Jon Connor brings a great energy to the track, lots of rapid fire flows, doesn’t fit the beat the best but is easily the most impressive verse on the song technically, lots of solid bars and rhymes packed within too. Decent song, on the fence cause it’s a bit long and had not many highs, Nino Man probably had my favourite verse.

3. Living Legend (ft. Bun B, Jadakiss & Queen Latifah) – Another old school sounding beat that’s enjoyable but quite simple. Jadakiss has some hard hitting bars and decent rhymes throughout his verse, but the delivery is a bit boring and the flows aren’t too impressive. Hook is simple and repetitive but is short and catchy so isn’t too bad. Queen Latifah has a super enjoyable verse, lots of solid bars and consistently great flows, real confident delivery too. Bun B has some great bars with consistently solid rhyme schemes, and a surprisingly enjoyable delivery. All 3 verses were decent but I think Jada was the weakest. Good song overall though

4. No Permission (ft. A$AP Ferg, Juicy J & Dave East) – Much more modern production on this, enjoy the sample on the hook, is repetitive again but is catchy overall. Juicy J has a surprisingly good high energy flow throughout his verse, changes it up too and rides the beat exceptionally. Ferg matches Juicy J with a hungry delivery and exciting flows, some impressive rhyme schemes at times too. Dave East has a really impressive flows which varies up quite a bit, some decent bars too, delivery is just a bit boring. Real good song in the end, banger

5. Give Me My Flowers Now (ft. Joell Ortiz, Papoose & Sammy J) – Sammy J’s vocals on the hook are quite nice, some real catchy melodies but I don’t think her voice is too captivating. Love the bass and guitar in the beat. Papoose rides the beat amazingly well, consistently great flows and delivery throughout, and a whole lot of impressive rhymes and bars, one of the best verses on the album so far. Joell has some really impressive rhymes throughout his verse too, rides the beat well and has an enjoyable delivery throughout. Another real good song, loved the verses in particular

6. Growing Up In These Streets (ft. AZ, Raekwon & Ghostface Killah) – Another Real old school vibe, love the electric guitar and the female vocal samples. Raekwon has his usual monotone delivery with some real simple flows, has some intricate rhyme schemes but the verse overall is a little boring. Hook is okay, real good production on it. AZ has a fairly boring verse too, real mediocre flows and a lazy delivery, similarly to Raekwon the rhymes and bars are decent but the verse is average. Ghostface has some real enjoyable flows and the most exciting delivery on the track, the rhymes and lyrics are just as good as the others but the verse overall is a lot better. Decent song but was dragged down by some boring verses

7. Dope Boyz (ft. DJ Paul, French Montana, Gangsta Boo, Project Pat & Uncle Murda) – Hook is repetitive again but has some great production during it, love the bass in particular. Verses have some great synths in them. DJ Paul has a pretty bad verse, super simple flows with an amateurish delivery and no standout bars. Uncle Murda steps it up with some impressive flows and a much more exciting delivery. Loving the beat but definitely don’t like the hook. French Montana kills his verse, is a bit slow but he flows really well and has some memorable bars throughout, great delivery too. Gangsta Boo rides the beat much better than the rest, lots of great flows and some decent rhymes too, really enjoyed her verse. Project Pat has some real lazy flows and a boring delivery, probably the worst verse. Good song overall I think

8. It’s A Brand New Day (ft. Big K.R.I.T., Jon Connor, Reek Da Villain & Tre Williams) – Another fairly old school beat, has a real triumphant cinematic vibe to it, is actually real good. Jon Connor rides the beat much better on this on his other feature, still lots of impressive flows and bars throughout, solid start to the song. The Tre Williams Hook is decent, has a good melody but isn’t overall memorable, on the fence about it. Big K.R.I.T. Has an even better verse than Jon Connor imo, rides the beat perfectly and has a consistently great delivery, solid lyrics too. Reek Da Villain doesn’t ride the beat as well as the others but still flows great, changes things up a bunch and has a real enjoyable delivery, some super impressive rhymes once the verse progresses a bit. His verse started a bit slow but was really good by the end. Real good song overall

Album Review

In the end I was honestly shocked at how much I enjoyed this album, with almost every song being enjoyable and the project as a whole exceeding my expectations. I’ve been liking Kay Slay songs for ten years now but have never enjoyed his projects, so it was a breath of fresh air having a shorter project with a much higher quality. For comparisons sake, his 2019 album had 16 songs and there wasn’t a single one I enjoyed enough to come back to despite a bunch of good verses. There weren’t any amazing songs on ‘Living Legend’, but there were a lot of great feature verses and some fantastic production to compliment them, so most of the songs ended up being at least good.

I enjoyed 6 out of 8 songs on this project, and considering the intro isn’t a proper track I don’t really many criticisms. I could do without the generic DJ Mixtape intro, but it has its place considering this is indeed a mixtape by a DJ. The other song I disliked was ‘Growing Up In These Streets’ which wasn’t particular bad, it was just quite boring all the way through with no exciting vocal performances or moments in the production that stood out. I also thought RJ Payne had a fairly unpleasant delivery on ‘Back To The Bars, Pt. 2’, but in the context of the song it’s easy to ignore. Aside from that, my only criticism is that some of the instrumentals sound a little to basic with their old school New-York sound, but considering a lot of the featured rappers were in the prime 20-30 years ago it works really well, with many of the features sounding at home over the simplistic production.

The production for the most part really impressed me though, more so than any of his past projects. It combined the old school sound I mentioned above with some more modern synths and instrumentation to create an awesome blend of sounds throughout the project, almost always complimenting the featured artists.

Almost every feature impressed me on this project too, with them all meeting and some even exceeding my expectations. ‘Back To The Bars Pt. 2’ was possibly the biggest posse cut of the year with 7 different rappers dropping verses, with most of them being fire but my personal favourites being Jon Connor & Nino Man (who I’m not familiar with). I also loved the cypher like nature of the song, with Kay Slay announcing each rapper before there verse. ‘Living Legend’ brings together three legends to drop some fire verses over this catchy vocal sample. ‘No Permission’ has one of the most modern sounding beats of the album and see’s Juicy J drop on of my personal favourite Juicy J features ever, complimented by a super solid A$AP Ferg verse and a decent Dave East verse. On ‘Give Me My Flowers Now’ we get some seriously impressive verses from both Papoose & Joell Ortiz, pieced together with some catchy vocals from Sammy J on the hook that are reminiscent of a 2000s hit. ‘Dope Boyz’ is another stacked song that has highs and lows, with average verse from DJ Paul & Project Pat but thoroughly enjoyable verses from Gangsta Boo, Uncle Murda & French Montana. And finally, the triumphant sounding outro ‘It’s A Brand New Day’ combines this grandiose production with a hook full of beautiful melodies courtesy of Tre Williams, and then has Jon Connor, Big K.R.I.T & Reek Tha Villain flow with ease over it all, each delivering a thoroughly enjoyable verse. So lots of enjoyable moments on this album!

So in the end I felt like this was a really good project regardless of my low expectations and is easily my favourite Kay Slay project, and probably in my top 5 albums of 2020 in terms of consistency. The mixtape is stacked with features and many of them deliver top quality feature verses, which combined with the crisp production made this an ease to listen through despite many of the songs being quite long. I’d recommend this to you no matter what your interests, but in particular I’d recommend this to anyone who is a fan of 90s/early 2000’s hiphop, as the production is very reminiscent of that era and many of the rappers are from that time period too!

Final Notes

You can listen to the mixtape on Spotify here, or on Apple Music here!

Or you can listen for free on YouTube here!

‘Back To The Bars, Pt. 2’ Music Video

‘Living Legend’ Music Video

‘Give Me My Flowers Now’ Music Video

‘Growing Up In These Streets’ Music Video

My Favourite Songs were all of them except for Intro & Grpwing Up In These Streets.

What were your favourite songs on the project?

Who do you think the standout features were?

Who do you think had the worst feature?

Thanks For Reading!

– Shan –

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