By Lauren Schwartzberg

Jay Worthy is exceptionally honest. Instead of trying to talk up his life like it’s one big music video, he discusses his shitty pay-by-the-minute phone, hunting for dope kicks at the swap meet, and the famous corner he lived on in Compton. He’s happy to say he didn’t even know what Pitchfork was until recently, and he’s fine with that—they wrote about him anyway. This unabashed forthrightness might get him in trouble one day, but for now it’s all good, and it’s all out on the table.

You might remember the Vancouver-born, Compton-bred rapper as Grimes’ older step-brother from our feature on up-and-coming artists with more famous siblings, but after a string of defining releases with producer Sean House under the moniker LNDN DRGS, Jay is no second-best sibling. Rejecting the current LA trend of minimal, club-ready, ass-slapping beats, LNDN DRGS is carving out a space for themselves rapping about life in Compton over silky-smooth Motown and psychedelic soul samples.

“I’m just making music that’s coming from my heart,” Jay says. “If they fuck with it, they fuck with it.” It’s that “sit-back-and-relax” rap that’s an open rejection of the current sound, but with a keen eye on the alternative.

Hey, it’s Lauren. How’s it going?
Who the fuck is Lauren?

From Pigeons and Planes.
Oh yeah! My bad. I’m on the freeway. I’m on my way to Westside Compton. That’s Compton, but we call it Bompton. We bloods. We don’t say Compton we say Bompton.

Got it, like YG.
Yeah, you know YG putting it out there to the world, but we’ve been saying that.

What’re you going to do out there?
That’s my hood. I’m about to go to the swap meet and get me some cool shoes.

Do you live there?
I did. I just moved out of there and I’ve been traveling a lot lately, especially with LNDN DRGS, the project that me and Sean have going. Sean’s studios are in Vancouver and in New York. Right now I got my own little spot in downtown LA where I stay, but I’m in my hood everyday so I’m a part of what we got going on over here.

Do you work on new music when you’re there?
Yeah. Definitely. Where I lived on Brazil and Wilmington I had a studio in my house so everyday I’d wake up and I be in the booth making music.

I really be in the streets and I really be out there. Rapping just kind of fell into my lap when I saw my sister’s career take off and was like, ‘Aw shit, I could really do this shit.’ So I just started doing this shit.

Is the city your inspiration?
The streets are my inspiration. I really be in the streets and I really be out there. Rapping just kind of fell into my lap when I saw my sister’s career take off and was like, “Aw shit, I could really do this shit.” So I just started doing this shit. I was just into getting money, gang-banging and hustling. I’m still like that. I’m still gang-banging, I’m still hustling and I’m still doing whatever to kill this music shit until it cracks off for me, but until then I’m going to still be the same motherfucker that I was. Just staying in the studio all the time—that’s no motivation to make music. You got to go out and live life and really do this shit and give the people the story. I’m a storyteller. I’m always telling you a story, either what I’m going through or what I’ve been through.

Your music is interesting because you talk about street life, so I would think the beats might be on the more aggressive side, but they’re mostly melodic and mellow.
It’s crazy because I don’t listen to rap music at all. I listen to rap just to stay relevant, but if you come into my car, I’m listening to oldies. If I do listen to hip-hop it might be Ice Cube’s Lethal Injection or some shit like that. On the real I be listening to oldies like old funk, old boogie, old soul, old jazz. That’s why with the LNDN DRGS shit I was like, I don’t even really listen to rap and I don’t really even like rap beats so I’m going to just stay true to what I like and rap on the shit that I’ve always wanted to rap on.

Everybody uses samples in the rap game, but they just add hip-hop drums and totally change the feel of the sample. I just want to keep it raw. That’s why I teamed up with Sean—we shared the same vision and we knew this is kind of a cool sound right here. The lyrics are still street because that’s the life I’m living, but I have an interesting musical background from what my pops raised me on. It’s not going to be your average shit that’s coming out of LA or Compton right now.

What’d you grow up on?
As far as I remember my pops would always be playing Stevie Wonder or Sly Stone or Marvin Gaye. When I was 17, I moved to LA and a lot of the big homies would come through and they’d be playing old school shit and I’d be like what is this shit! They’d be playing like Slave or Cameo—that dirtier, more raw ’80s funk. In LA they play a lot of that shit on the radio stations. I’m listening to 92.3 getting into Patrice Rushen and shit. My pops brought me up on classic soul and jazz like Miles Davis, but the big homies got me into that real ’80s dirty, funky shit.

Listening to that shit I be like man, this shit ain’t no different than DJ Mustard, man. If you look what Mustard and what everybody’s doing—they making funk music. All that shit with basslines and all that, that shit’s funk but they add in those hard 808s and those hip-hop drums over it. With me, I’m just taking those raw funk samples. I may not be giving you that extra boom, but I’m just keeping it a little more raw and different.

So you’re working on this LNDN DRGS project right now, but you haven’t released a full album for that yet, right?
No, we haven’t released anything, but I’ve been leaking little singles here and there just to give people a taste about what the project sounds like. There’s a lot of different types of sounds with this album. We recorded so many songs, I’m probably sitting on 100 songs and 30 to 40 features. I don’t even know when to start.

When are you going to release a bigger project?
I think we’re going to release our project by July.

Is this your first real album release?
Yeah, I would say so. I’ve put up a previous mixtape with DJ Mustard called The Lifestyle but I felt like I wasn’t really being true to myself. I was just trying to keep up with what the rest of LA was doing as far as the music coming out at the time. This is something really personal. It might not be for everybody—it’s something totally different. I don’t hear anybody else really rocking shit like this. I’m happy because I know in my heart this is the type of music I want to make and I’m happy with it. I’m proud of the project.

A lot of my young homies want to hear that shit that slaps in the club. Sometimes we’ll be in the studio and they’ll be like, ‘That shit is dope, but if you just had some drums or some bass to beef that shit up.’ That’s not what I’m going for.

Are you nervous about the response?
Yes and no. A lot of my young homies want to hear that shit that slaps in the club. Sometimes we’ll be in the studio and they’ll be like, “That shit is dope, but if you just had some drums or some bass to beef that shit up.” That’s not what I’m going for. But that last record I put out with Chuck Inglish—that was just a record that we had and it wasn’t even going on the album—and I feel like the right people are picking up on it.

Can you tell me a little bit how you got together with Sean?
He’s been doing music for a long time. He’s part of this production team called Blast Off Productions that’s based out of Seattle and New York. I’ve been knowing him since I was a kid, like 13 years old. He’s a lot older than me and he’s been producing for a long time and we just linked up one time and made a record together. At the time when we linked up and made the record he was kind of done with the whole music thing. He was working for a record label doing graphic design and whatnot when we started making these records together, but before you know it we had so many records done that we decided to put out a project together. We came up with the name LNDN DRGS and the rest is history, I guess.

How’d you come up with the name?
To be honest with you, I was doing a lot of drugs when we made these songs. Right now I don’t do any drugs—I don’t even smoke weed. I sip a little lean—I’m not going to lie, I still drink lean. Anyway, we were really really thinking about what the hell are we going to call this group and there’s a pharmacy in Vancouver called London Drugs. In Canada you can’t get promethazine with codeine, but you can get codeine cough syrup over the counter and the only shit that tastes good is London Drugs. We would just be like, Alright, Sean you got a bottle of London Drugs at the house? Aw, you got to go pick up this bottle. We were just tripping on it. We’d get in there, smoke a little bit of weed and pour up the London Drugs.

We just liked the way the logo looked—it just seemed like what was right. We made the whole album tripping on that shit, so it was just cool to me. I like the way it sounds, like, high-end drugs, so we just ran with that name. It’s kind of funny because there’s the whole story behind it.

Why no vowels?
London Drugs, the company, hollered at us and they were like you’ve got to take the vowels out of your name. They actually hollered, so we made it LNDN DRGS. We think it looks cooler like that anyway.

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