Jay Worthy can’t be understood via online biography. He’s a certified O.G. from Compton’s Westside Piru Bloods who spent his formative years in Vancouver. The gangsta rapper of South Asian Indian descent, who’s the stepbrother of Grimes, received his first major industry co-sign from the late A$AP Yams.
Unless it’s revealed that Suga Free is secretly the sibling of one of the Ace of Base girls and spent most summers in Sweden, no accurate comparisons exist. If Worthy’s backstory raises questions, then his real-life persona and music swiftly answer them.
“Certain niggas that would meet me in the industry would be like, ‘Who’s blood? You’re with [Grimes], but from over here?” Worthy says, bearded, white-teed and rocking an L.A. cap. “You gotta do your history, but when you do, you learn that I’m official and not to be played with.”
This explains why he was tabbed to wrangle the all-red ensemble in Noisey’s “Bompton” documentary, which featured Kendrick Lamar (Worthy received a producer’s credit). And how he became roommates with The Game’s brother, Big Fase, a notorious figure from Compton’s Cedar Block set.
In this year alone, Worthy has released albums with the grimiest producer alive, Alchemist, and G Perico, the Broadway Gangsta Crip who would be Eazy-E’s favorite rapper if Eric Wright were still breathing. The latter, a Cardo-produced collaboration called G Worthy, is one of the year’s best gangsta rap records, a funky palm trees–and-pistols swerve down Rosecrans and Crenshaw, throwing up signs and smoke.
Worthy describes his story with a matter-of-fact simplicity that belies its extraordinary nature. Raised in downtown Vancouver listening to Ice Cube, N.W.A and Geto Boys, Worthy quickly gravitated to the city’s bustling drug trade.
“My homies were all selling rocks and heroin by 15. It was hella bad. By 16, I was seeing real money working real dope lines for real people,” Worthy says. “So when I came to Bompton, I was like, shit ain’t nothing new to me.”
By 17, a series of events occurred that made it imperative to leave Canada. “Shit was getting crazy,” he says. “All my homies was out there getting killed or catching cases.” So in 2004, Worthy relocated to a friend’s grandmother’s house that happened to be smack in the Westside of Compton, the infamous hood immortalized by DJ Quik, Lamar and The Game.
Aside from Game, West Coast gangsta rap was largely moribund for the latter half of the 2000s. Worthy attempted to write and record songs but mostly stayed heavy in the streets. The idea of a music career didn’t become serious until 2012 — the year that Grimes blew up and Yams endorsed Worthy’s slinking G-funk project, LNDN DRGS.
“It was a turning point. Everyone in my ’hood told me, you’re either gonna catch a case or get killed,” Worthy says gravely. “All my homies were in wheelchairs, getting life in prison or dead. Not too many homies are around from my circle. We were really out there on some cowboy shit.”
The chaos has partially subsided. Worthy has relocated to the safer environs of West L.A., which is about as different from the Westside of Compton as Westphalia, Germany.
Despite still having one foot on the block and one foot out, his recent emergence as one of the best purveyors of modern G-funk figures to accelerate that escape.
“I had a crazy life, but I’m at a happy place right now,” Worthy exhales with relief.
I ask him why he thinks he’s managed to survive this long. He can only shrug.
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“I don’t know, man, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way I move or maybe it’s something up above. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m still here.”
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