In recent years, California's Jay Worthy has been one of the most hard-working artists in hip-hop, releasing album after album of soulful, smooth music that has showcased his versatility and focus as a lyricist. His rich history within the hip-hop industry cannot be understated. His rapidly growing discography and collaborations includes legends like Curren$y, A$AP Yams, and many more. He continues to be a vital part of cultural landmarks, producing Noisey's Bompton documentary and working with Darryl “Joe Cool” Daniel, the visual artist who created Snoop Dogg's famous Doggystyle cover art. Moreover, he is a hustler to the truest degree, whose tireless work ethic and intuition propelled him from humble beginnings in Los Angeles all the way to the highest levels of the music industry.
His latest offering is 2 P'z in a Pod, a hazy, warm LP with fellow California rapper Larry June that pays tribute to classic west coast sounds while simultaneously pushing forward, further carving the unique lanes that he and June respectfully occupy. We sat down with him to discuss his beginnings in LA, how A$AP Yams played an integral role in his early career, his new album with Larry June, and more.
One thing that immediately stands out about Worthy's songs is his strategic incorporation of old-school Soul samples, showcasing an industry knowledge that goes beyond just hip-hop. "Growing up I heard a lot of Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Gap Band, things of that nature", he says of his early introduction to music. The influence of these '70s soul and jazz records would later play a large role in his sound, as he would come to pair it effortlessly with west coast hip-hop elements.
"The influence from West Coast hip-hop has always been in my life also, my earliest rap albums were from Eazy-E, Cube, and Dre". The combination of these eclectic influences, along with the environment of Compton where he came from, shaped Worthy into the artist he is today- an all-around hustler with a strong work ethic and diverse sound. "Along with music, Compton opened my eyes to a lot things and it made me thankful for where I'm at, it all played a major role".
However, despite having a passion for music since a young age, Worthy did not aspire to become an artist at first. "I didn't start taking rap seriously for a long while. I was always around rap, but I saw a lot of people from my area come up before me, like Kendrick Lamar and Problem, they had been doing music professionally first". After being inspired by Lamar and others, he began rising in Los Angeles as a rapper, drawing influence from different pockets of its rich, fertile scene. "LA is very diverse, there's a lot of different movements going on at the same time. I was fortunate enough to really be tapped in with most of them, from the hip-hop side of things to the Fairfax side to Compton rap. I think that comes out in all of my music"
Echoing his initial hesitation about entering the limelight as an artist, he says "I didn't feel the need to be in it or be the star. You know, believe it or not I always kinda wanted to be a low-key, behind the scenes type of dude. A$AP Yams was really the first one to push me to really try to become a rapper on a bigger level".
Worthy had developed a close friendship with A$AP Yams over the years, dating back to an early performance at SXSW where the two first connected. Yams went on to play an instrumental role in his burgeoning hip-hop career- within days of meeting him, Worthy was recording with him in New York. "During those times, everything was new to me. I was from the streets, and that really changed my life and brought me into another world. Networking, blogs, labels, it was all new and it was an exciting time". Since then, he has gone on to build a deep catalogue, releasing a series of vibrant, well-received albums with producer Sean House in the duo LNDN DRGS, and crafting records with legends like Curren$y and The Alchemist.
His latest project is another collaborative effort, this time with fellow west coast mainstay Larry June, hailing from just north of him in the Bay Area. A hypnotic, hazy LP that is dynamic and engaging across its track-list, the album came together truly organically, as Worthy and June are close friends outside of music. "From the beginning it made sense for us to do the album. Basically, Larry's my best friend, and he's one of the few people that can rap over Sean and I's production. He understands the production well, and it's fun for me to do a project with him over these type of beats". Listening to the two rappers effortlessly trade verses atop the layered, psychedelic instrumentals on 2 P'z in a Pod, one can certainly notice a natural chemistry that is likely not replicable elsewhere. "That's why we called it 2 P'z in a Pod, because that's really my brother. For real, we're one and the same".
2 P'z in a Pod feels like a sonic journey from light to dark, beginning with the heavenly, atmospheric "Vanilla Cream" and finishing with "Hotel Bel-Air" and "Late Nights" with Jim Jones, hazier songs that conjure an image of the sunset. Worthy says that this was a deliberate move, "Sean and I sequenced the album to go from day to night. You hear the intro and you're in a dream, then boom, you wake up and the first song "Vanilla Cream" is like when you have your morning coffee. Then you go throughout your day as the tracks go on, and you have it end with "Late Nights". This was the vision Sean and I had for the project”. Throughout the album, sharp attention to detail exists sonically and lyrically with each sound, verse, and guest feature playing a role in the album's overall cohesion.
As for what's next for Worthy, the potential seems limitless considering his consistent, storied run in music insofar. He says he's interested in doing some cross-genre collaborations, hoping to bring things full circle by working with some of the bands he grew up listening to. "I want to do a record with Charlie Wilson from The Gap Band. I'm not the first artist to love older music like that, but I think with the sound I've built it, I've got a whole lane open for it now". He's also working on a plethora of new music, never settling and always pushing forward with his work ethic. "The main thing I'm excited about is putting together my debut solo album, that's really what I'm focusing on right now".
With a blazing run in music in recent years, it is evident that he is just interested in continuing to push forward with more additions to his already wide-ranging catalogue. "For now, I'm still young and I'm out here tearing shit up, during these next 10 years I'm going to be on a crazy music run”. Fresh off the heels of a strong release like 2 P'z in a Pod, there is more than enough reason to be excited for what Worthy has coming next. A versatile artist with a rich history in the game, he has made major contributions to both hip-hop music and culture over the course of his career, and will certainly continue to do so in the coming years.