Add DJ Kay Slay to the list of turntable kings, like DJ Clue and Funkmaster Flex, who are putting out star-studded compilations on major labels.
With the ink barely dry on his Violator Records contract, Slay said he's ready to begin work on his debut, The Street Sweeper Vol. 1, next month.
"It's some long-awaited sh--," the Harlem native said. "[Head of Violator A&R] Eric Nicks had stepped to me a year and change ago and said they think I'm gonna be the next cat to rise in the music game DJ-wise. When they got situated [with their new partnership with Sony Music], they was gonna come back to me. They kept their word."
Although the album's plans are in the early stages, Slay says he's going to have a track featuring several up-and-coming artists called "New Jack City." He's also invited members of the Violator camp like Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes and Noreaga as well as the Lox, Black Rob, Cam'ron, Beanie Sigel, Too $hort and Ludacris to rhyme on the LP. The DJ will provide the beats for some of the songs and has reached out to his friends DJ Premier, Ty Fyfe and Rockwilder to lay tracks as well.
And while pairing the hottest rappers and producers on a compilation is far from an original formula, Slay insists that his album will stand out from his peers' offerings.
"Unlike the Clue album, I'm not gonna talk over it," Slay said, referring to Clue's habit of giving shout outs while playing records. "I want the people to enjoy just the song. Its going to be something like how Flex's album was, but I'm trying to make the songs hotter. I got some ideas, some different concepts I don't see that none of these [other DJs] have really grasped yet. My album is going to be totally different."
Change is something Slay embraces. He says the segue from the freewheeling world of street mix tapes and CDs to the more structured domain of record company releases is going to be more of a help than a hindrance.
"Being that I'm an open-minded brother, I don't think it's gonna be a problem. When I make a mix tape, I might make a mistake that nobody else picks up. On an album, any mistakes I might be making, somebody's gonna be there to correct it."
Slay's roots go back to 1978, when the self-proclaimed drama king was a 12-year-old drama prince learning the ropes of scratching and cutting.
"It was all so simple then it was all about the music" Slay said. "Now it's about the business and staying hot. At the same time you're trying to stay hot, you gotta be looking at what you gonna do next to stay ahead of the game."
Kay jumped out the game in the mid-'80s to go "the other direction" with his life because he felt there was more cash to be made elsewhere. After seeing the large contracts that record companies were shelling out to the elite mix masters in the '90s, Slay decided to step back into music a few years ago, building his reputation and using the streets as a conduit to getting his own deal.
He encountered his fair share of haters upon his return. "A lot of cats had the conception that I was a new DJ and they was going to bully Kay Slay" he said, laughing.
Slay puts out between one and three mix CDs or tapes a month, most of them double LPs, and they've become some of the most popular of their genre over the past couple of years. Slay often blasts back at fellow DJs on his releases, sometimes including real phone arguments between him and his foes.
"I had to lay my street game down. That was my plan, anyway if them cats don't let me in, I'm'a have to throw some streetness in this music."
Slay said his record deal will have an impact on his street product, but probably not until after the album drops.
"It can't go down the way it used to," said Slay, who insists his street CDs and tapes are solely for promotional purposes, not profit. "They should be looking forward to getting an exclusive Kay Slay joint here and there, but not as frequently."