“I Had My Eyes On the Prize and I Stuck to It”: An Interview with Jay Worthy

Will Hagle speaks with Jay Worthy about his LNDN DRGS project, the questions he's always asked during interviews, and Kendrick Lamar's fandom.
By    May 7, 2018

Just to get this out of the way: Jay Worthy grew up in Vancouver and moved to Compton when he was 17. He’s Grimes’s stepbrother and a Blood.

It has to be frustrating when the only thing people want to talk about is your life in the past. With a backstory like his though, it’s hard not to bring up. Luckily, his music is as intriguing and dichotomous as the story that led him to create it.

Jay Worthy likes to rap about life on the streets of Compton over looped samples of old funk and soul records. It’s not the typical backdrop fans might expect from an artist entrenched in LA’s ongoing gangsta rap renaissance. Jay Worthy is friends with and/or has collaborated with most everyone involved in that scene, from DJ Mustard to G Perico. But he doesn’t sound like any of them.

He even claims his debut tape, hosted by Mustard at the peak of the producer’s buzz, came out before he’d truly found his own sound. He may cover similar topics as his peers in his music, but his keen ear for beat selection results in music that meshes with him personally rather than whatever’s popular with people at any given time.

Jay Worthy’s catalogue largely consists of short EPs or mixtapes done in collaboration with other artists and a sole producer. He and Sean House, a Vancouver-based producer who happens to excel at chopping and looping old funk and soul samples, also comprise a duo known as LNDN DRGS. He’s done tapes with The Alchemist, King Most, Cardo, and more, proving himself of possessing the rare trait of being able to rap over a diverse array of beat styles without comprising his own flow.

He prefers the looped samples of oldies above all else, though, and has a clear appreciation of music history. When Alchemist tells someone, “You really know your shit,” you can be certain that that person does. Jay Worthy claims the albums he puts out as LNDN DRGS—the ones with his favorite kind of production—are his more traditional, focused, full-length LPs. The rest of his prolific output stems from just needing to get in the booth and say whatever it is he needs to say.

He has a lot to say. As long as you’re not asking about growing up in Vancouver, he’ll probably be excited to talk about it. As he mentions at the end of the interview, when his frustrated response to the interview’s slow start is resolved, the main thing is the music. There’s a lot of it coming this year, and with each release his specific style and sound is being honed into a more wholly unique vision. Everything in Jay Worthy’s past led him to this point, but the important part is where he’ll go next. Now let’s get the Vancouver stuff out of the way again. —Will Hagle

What was it like growing up in Vancouver?

Jay Worthy: Shit, it was different than Compton but really not that much different. I’ll put it to you like that.

Do you think of Compton as your hometown then?

Jay Worthy: Yep.

When’d you move out there?

Jay Worthy: Shit, I got family all over California so we’ve been all over that motherfucker for years. But when I moved out on my own I was probably like 17, 18.

Were you involved in the music scene back in Vancouver?

Jay Worthy: There is no music scene in Vancouver. I don’t even be talking about that shit, bro. That shit’s so long ago. Like niggas don’t ask Kurupt about Philadelphia, you feel me? Like I don’t know that shit. That shit don’t really got too much to do with my background and my upbringing, period. I mean shit was brackin’ out here, so I had to go.

Alright. I know you like rapping over looped samples with no added drums on them. When you first started rapping, would you play songs and rap over them? Or would you find beats or have people make beats? How did it start out?

Jay Worthy: Low key, I would love rapping over oldies. Where I really started recording music was in San Diego. My family lived beside this dude and he was like The Grouch’s brother from Living Legends. So we would go over there and record out this dude’s house. And I would just jump on his beats because that’s just what it was.

I would tell certain people, ‘Hey, loop this sample for me,’ but they wasn’t really hearing it, or didn’t want to do it. Everybody wanted me to rap on their beats, so I didn’t really have a choice because I wasn’t paying for studio time and shit like that. So that’s kind of how that went. But me personally, as a kid, we’d just be smoking, listening to oldies and I’d be rapping over them and shit.

With LNDN DRGS, I’ve seen you say that you find some of the samples and Sean [House, the producer] finds some. Do you just bring him songs that you know?

Jay Worthy: Sometimes it’ll be me being like, ‘Yo, bro, this is the one.’ Or, ‘I’ve been fucking with this song forever, I didn’t think to loop it, but I was just listening to this the other day, this sounds hard, we should loop this up.’ Or we’ll go lock in the studio and then, boom. We’ll go in there and he’ll have some shit lined up. So we just kind of bounce off each other.

Do you guys ever add anything on top of the samples, or do you leave them as is?

Jay Worthy: Sometimes Sean will add bass to it and shit like that. He’ll give it some depth, make it slap more in the car. But overall, no. Because my whole thing was like, that’s not what I wanted to do. When we started making LNDN DRGS I told him, ‘Just leave these motherfuckers raw. Just leave them how they are.’ That’s how I wanted it. I didn’t want to change it. I just wanted to leave them how they were.

Does that make it harder for sample clearances or to profit off the songs?

Jay Worthy: Sometimes, yeah. But that’s when you’re dealing with majors and shit like that. I’m independent and we’ve got our own label.

So you just put it online and you’ve never had it pulled down?

Jay Worthy: Not yet. So we’re alright right now. But as time goes on I’m not sure what will happen with that. I’ve had meetings at labels and they say, ‘Can you get someone to replay it?’ But that just takes away what we’re doing. That just kills the record, period. You can’t really remake what they were making back then. You can try, but it’s not going to sound the same.

Isn’t that kind of what Dr. Dre or those G-funk guys were doing back in the day, just straight up imitations of samples?

Jay Worthy: Hell yeah. That’s how as a kid I would find out about oldies. I would hear the oldies and be like, ‘That’s that Dre song’ or, ‘That’s that Snoop song.’ Or back in the day when you’d buy CDs you would go look in the notes and see this song contains a sample of…and that’s how you’d find the sample.

Was your first ever project with DJ Mustard?

Jay Worthy: Yeah, it was. That’s crazy. I didn’t press up too many of those, but all my homies supported me. I feel like I got way better at rapping. I feel like everything I did helped me evolve into the artist I am now. So back then I wasn’t really ready. That project was compiled of songs from all different studios I had recorded at over the years. And I just compiled them and put them together to put something out and Mustard was my boy and he just hosted the tape for me.

What was the reaction from people when you started rapping over the different kind of production—the looped samples and all that?

Jay Worthy: I came back to Vancouver one summer and I linked with Sean. I was like, ‘Yo, loop this shit up for me.’ And he did. And without even saying this is what I want to do, he just knew. And we would just take samples and leave them raw like that. And before we knew it we had a few songs.

I came back to LA and was playing it to my homeboy Da$h. He was like, ‘Yo, this shit fire.’ He gave me motivation to be like, ‘Yo, you’re dope, you should really do this shit.’ And then I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m taking a shot at it.’ And then we did a song, and then Yams heard it. That’s when Yams kind of hollered at me and me and him started working together and he kind of oversaw a lot of the shit we were doing at the time.

So Yams just found you through a song online?

Jay Worthy: Yeah, I did this song with Da$h and we did a video in my hood and shit. I guess he fucked with Da$h super tough and he was like, ‘Yo, this dude’s tight.’ He was talking about me. And then he just straight hit me on Twitter and then we just started talking. Next thing you know I was on a flight to New York to go fuck with him, and then we became boys ever since.

Was that a business situation similar to how he ran A$AP Mob, or would he more just promote your music?

Jay Worthy: I think it was we were just homies. But Yams is just an ill dude. He saw something in us. He kinda knew like, ‘Okay these dudes got something different. I fuck with it. I support it.’ And I think he genuinely just wanted to help. And it wasn’t just me, he helped my little homie Earl Swavey.

And then I introduced him to G Perico’s music while Perico was locked up. I was playing Yams his earlier shit, like a song called “Bustin’.” So that’s kind of how all that shit happened. And we all just kind of became boys. I think Yams saw something in us that he didn’t see in everybody else. I think he just genuinely fucked with us. Saw what we were doing, saw what we were about. And he got behind it.

Was there any hesitation for Yams to work with West Coast artists?

Jay Worthy: If you remember Yamborghini Records he had two West Coast artists. He had Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews. He was already coming out this way and planting his seeds and shit. So we were kind of like the last dudes he really fucked with, to be honest with you. Me, Earl, and Perico, as far as LA go.

How did the Alchemist collaboration come about?

Jay Worthy: When we put out that Aktive project…We spent like three years putting that album together. I feel like that’s my favorite project I’ve ever made. That’s the project that got the attention of Al and Cardo and Dam Funk and Jake One and all these other producers who wanted to work with me.

Would you consider that your full-length album?

Jay Worthy: Yep. Yep. And what we’re doing right now is we’re getting ready for the anniversary of it. We’re putting together a deluxe edition because it’s never been up for streaming services. At that time, we really didn’t know. Going back to the sample thing, we were kinda just like, ‘Well, I guess we gotta just put it up for free because it’s got all these samples.’ But once I got a little more hip to the music game and how this shit works, they’re really not gonna come after you unless you’re like Pharrell or Kanye or you made a super hit record and in that case, it’s a good thing.

So we put it out for free and now we’re putting it out through our distribution with Empire. We got a gang of new songs on it. A bunch of remixes. We got Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Payroll Giovanni, Jay 305, Cousin Stizz, Krazy Bone, Larry June. It’s a crazy project. We’re about to get that going. We’re probably gonna drop that in June, and, you know, tell the story. Just like I’m telling you how it came about. Just me finding my own sound and linking with Sean.

To be honest, in Vancouver, we came up on a lot of different music when we were kids. I remember hanging out with cats from Project Blowed and The Good Life and getting influences from that. And then jazz and soul and all different type of shit out here. So it all came kinda full circle, like I feel like all that shit, all my musical background came out in that project Aktive. So that’s my full-length and that’s the one that got Alchemist interested I think. He approached me at a show and then was like, ‘Yo, we gotta work.’ And then we ran into each other at, I think it was Dom Kennedy’s release listening party. And he was like, ‘Yo come back to the pad let’s make some music.’ And then that just turned into making an EP with him.

I was curious about working with him based on your usual style. He seems like such a particular producer with his own style. How’d that back and forth go, or was it pretty natural?

Jay Worthy: It was pretty natural. We just wanted to do something different. He was playing a bunch of funk and boogie records for me. And I had really already done most of them. So he was like, ‘Okay, you really know your shit.’ So the respect was there of him being like, ‘You know your shit,’ but he was like, ‘Alright, let’s do something different.’ His record collection is crazy. So we just started digging through records. And certain shit I would hear I would tell him to loop it up. He’s got a certain way he does his shit obviously.

Are there any type of beats you won’t touch?

Jay Worthy: Hell nah. I like to do projects with different producers. Like what I did with Cardo doesn’t sound like Alchemist. What I do with Sean in LNDN DRGS doesn’t sound like what I did with DJ Fresh. I got a whole project with my boy Hussein from 808 Mafia that’s like nobody would expect me to sound like. I don’t like to be pigeonholed. Whatever I’m feeling at the time, I’m gonna get on and do. But there’s definitely something about the oldies that I really do fuck with.

Who are some of your favorite oldie artists?

Jay Worthy: That’s hard. That’s a tough question, bro. Because there’s so many. But really our influence comes a lot from S.O.S. Band, Loose Ends, shit like that. But when it comes to oldies listening, Stevie Wonder is probably my favorite artist. Lonnie Liston Smith is someone I’d probably listen to a lot. It varies. Earth, Wind, and Fire, shit like that.

Is there any oldie artist you think is super underrated that people gotta check out?

Jay Worthy: [Long whistle sound]. Uhhhhh…Off top…Damn, what was I just listening to? Oh yeah, this cat named General Lee. Hell yeah. That shit is hard as fuck.

Is it a conscious choice to make so many collaborative albums and short EPs in particular?

Jay Worthy: You know what? I wanted to say this too, so it comes out in the article. This year I’m putting out an EP with Leftbrain from Odd Future. I’m putting one out with Larry June. I’m putting out one with Curren$y. I’m working on one with Dam Funk. I got another one with Cardo. I got another one with Jake One. My whole thing with that, is that I want this to be my year where it’s like, ‘Oh shit, that work ethic is crazy. Every month he’s dropping a new project.’ It’s a collaborative one, it’s a short one. And then I can get back to doing what I do.

Because these LNDN DRGS albums take like three years to make. We put a lot of care into them. So, as I’m picking the best records for that…and sometimes we might pull a record from the Larry June one or one from the Curren$y or the Leftbrain and we might save that for the album. So I’m just compiling my solo album as I’m doing all these little EPs as well. But I’m a workhorse. So I’m always working, I’m always in the studio. I feel like I got a lot of shit to talk about and I got a lot of different lanes to explore.

Every time I collaborate with a different artist or a different producer I come with a different sound. As long as I’m giving something new and fresh to the people to listen to, I’m confident and happy about it. But I definitely want to show people this year. I want my catalogue, I want you when you look at my shit—when you go look me up—go shit, he got shit with Alchemist, Curren$y…

It’s already like that, but that’s why I was asking if the LNDN DRGS albums are what you consider to be a full-length album. Because when you look stuff up on Spotify, Apple Music, it can be confusing because it won’t always just say your name. It will say G-Worthy, for instance…

Jay Worthy: It is hella confusing. It is confusing. Because LNDN DRGS is kinda like a solo, it’s just Sean produces it. Some people who listen to LNDN DRGS might not even know I’m Jay Worthy. They might think my name is LND DRGS because they don’t see Sean. I was talking about that with Alchemist. He was like, ‘You gotta just run with one or the other.’ But I kinda gotta run with both. Because what I do as Jay Worthy is what I do as Jay Worthy but what I do with Sean is what I do as LNDN DRGS. So I think it’s just gonna have to be like that. People are gonna have to associate both of them.

Did you get any impact from the Kendrick Lamar retweet of “Westside Party?”

Jay Worthy: Hell yeah. That was dope. You know that’s my boy. I definitely appreciated that. He fucked with the song and the record. It definitely got more eyes looking at it.

With Kendrick, G Perico, and other guys who were already established in the music scene when you moved to Compton, did you meet them just from moving there or doing music?

Jay Worthy: Kendrick’s from my hood. So we all grew up together. Perico, I met on the streets, not on no rap shit. He wasn’t even rapping when I met him. My background ain’t on no music shit. I was in the streets with this shit. It was just a series of events. I always fucked around with music but I wasn’t doing it seriously like that. When that Mustard tape came out, it just came about because I had been recording at different places. But I didn’t have no plan or nothing like that.

It wasn’t until I got out of jail and I went on tour with my sister. Then I started meeting more people. And the whole Yams thing. Like him being like, ‘Yo, you got something here.’ Then me just getting older and less wild and just maturing. I just tightened my shit. Shit just happened for me. It doesn’t happen for everyone like that. I guess I had my eyes on the prize and I stuck to it. I knew if I didn’t do this, I don’t know where my life was gonna end up. So this was a better route for sure.

Are you on tour right now or just out of town?

Jay Worthy: I’m out of town on some other shit. But, so I can keep you up to speed: I’m kind of doing a lot of shit for Pro Club. I don’t know what you would say my position is there; you could say in charge of business relations or creative directing, or whatever you want to call it. But I’ve been working on that like crazy for the past couple of months.

Pro Club is like the OG white tee from the swap meet. It’s like a hood staple in Southern California. That’s what everybody’s been wearing their whole lives. It started off with a sponsorship. Then it moved into like, I really wanted to see the company expand and do things and start doing collaborations. I can’t talk about those collabs right now, but expect some cool shit to happen with me and Pro Club.

Anything else to promote?

Jay Worthy: Yeah. The Aktive deluxe LP will be out on streaming services.

I didn’t mean to act annoyed by that Vancouver shit, I think I just go through it every time.

I get it. People probably ask you the same questions every time.

Jay Worthy: Right, right. And I’m like, man, let’s just talk about the music or whatever. Everybody know I’m a Blood. Everybody know I’m from Compton, everybody know I’m from Vancouver. It’s been documented so many times. To talk about the music, what I’m doing with the projects, that’s more exciting to me. Because it’s only so many times I can tell you I came up like this, I did this, I did that. To me, it’s more exciting when I get to talk about Yams and that relationship and the process and how we make the records. I enjoy that.

Clearly you have an interesting story, though, and that’s why I had to ask about it.

Jay Worthy: Hell yeah. And it is interesting. It’s crazy. It’s a lot of connections. Vancouver was like a different place when I was living there. And I do go back. Sean lives there. So I fly back and lock in with him. Out here, I don’t have any distractions. I don’t got the homies. I don’t got the hood. I’m locked away in the booth and I can really zone in and do my shit. So that’s a beautiful thing about that. But yeah, a lot of new music coming. That’s the main thing.

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