While current tastemaker-deejays such as DJ Drama and DJ Khaled have gained success with their recent albums featuring a “who’s-who” list of the Rap industry, the origin behind these compilation projects can be traced back to none other than DJ Kay Slay. With roughly three decades of experience under his belt, the self-proclaimed “Drama King” has been a prominent figure within the east coast mixtape scene, instrumental in breaking artists such as 50 Cent, Saigon and Papoose. Early last decade, he transitioned into full-length albums via the Streetsweepers series, showing off his limitless artist connections across the nation in the process. With his latest effort, More Than Just A DJ, Slay is adamant about establishing his legacy beyond two turntables.
Though Slay boasts no lyrics or beats of his own, he does handle the immense task of enlisting over 50 artists for the 20-track album, as well as placing them on the right records with the right people. Opening with a convincing introductory verse from Busta Rhymes, the likes of Papoose, Jim Jones and Lloyd Banks take the listener straight to the New York streets on “Men of Respect”. Their lyrics endorse a lifestyle of money, power, and respect, and these values are emphasized behind a blazing collage of horns and drums thanks to Amadeus. This New York-centric vibe continues on tracks such as “God Forgive Me” and “See The Light”. On the former record, proven emcees Saigon, Joell Ortiz and Jae Millz trade bars about life on the grind. This performance is only topped by the trio featured on the latter track, as AZ, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah transform into lyrical assassins.
It’s understandable that a majority of the guests on More Than Just A DJ reside from the Big Apple, as Slay was born and bred in New York City. However, he appropriately saves space for rappers from other regions to showcase their talents. This is evident on the west coast-represented track “Street Credibility,” featuring Bay Area rappers San Quinn, Hoodstars, and Big Rich. Over a dark, hypnotic back drop, Quinn reminds listeners why the left coast is still a place for raw lyrics, and the others follow suit. Then on “Hustle Game,” southern rappers Bun B, Webbie, and Lil Boosie highlight their uncanny ability to push braggadocios rhymes over an innocuously upbeat Alchemist production.
To whatever lengths DJ Kay Slay attempted to avoid collaborative pitfalls, the mishaps stick out as some tracks are clearly unpolished and unfit for a star-studded release. While “Bad Girls” puts the spotlight on a handful of female rappers, the beat behind them sounds too similar to Royce Da 5’9″s “Shake This,” to the point that it feels recycled rather than original. The poor production doesn’t stop there as a chopped sample of Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing (Remix)”, seemingly used to establish Kay Slay’s prominence on “Kay Slayed ‘Em,” is so distracting that the track becomes nearly unlistenable. Then there’s the execution behind his first two street singles “Thug Luv” and “Blockstars,” as both rely on generic hood tales heard just about every time you turn on the radio. Featuring label-mate Ray J on both hooks, who has gained more fame as a “celeb-reality” star than an actual artist, was also a questionable choice from Slay.
With his own entertainment label in Streetsweepers, CEO of Straight Stuntin Magazine, a former top graffiti artist, and a host of various popular mixshows on radio, it’s clear that DJ Kay Slay truly personifies what his album title entails. With said that, Slay’s More Than Just A DJ is a commendable effort that situates itself as a flavor-of-the-month type release rather than a serious contender for album of the year. Still, it goes without saying that the Drama King is in the building, and he definitely isn’t going anytime soon.