Exclusive: Grimes' rap stepbrother talks with ex-convict Rick Ross – plus watch his new night-riding video for ‘Harvey Keitel’
Rapper Jay Worthy lays his snapback in the city of Compton now, but he was born and raised in maple-sizzurped Vancouver, where the street hustle rarely got more treacherous than little stepsister Grimes jacking his old-skool rap tees. Since moving, he’s made friends in high places, from Suge Knight, to Odd Future. However, the most interesting associate on Jay’s speed-dial has to be "Freeway" Rick Ross: the drug trafficker who raked in up to $3 million a day during the 1980s crack ‘epidemic’. Rick has become unlikely American idol in the hoods his product helped destroy, juggling a mind-boggling array of charity, social media, clothing, entertainment and beauty projects. Surreally, Jay hit up Rick to discuss collaboration in the weave biz. Now, they’re tapping the cream of the rap game for the soundtrack to Rick’s Nick Cassavetes-scripted biopic - still untitled - but tantalisingly described as, "Like Blow, but with crack". The odd couple took a break from hustling to talk gangs, weaves and Mariah – plus check out Worthy's new video "Harvey Keitel" (dir. Mac Boucher), a collab with Sean House under the name London Drugs.
Jay Worthy: Around 2009, when you were looking to your release, was there any music coming in that you were into? Who did you want connect and work with when you first got out?
‘Freeway’ Rick Ross: Well, Scarface was one of the ones I thought would make a good partnership.
JW: OG Scarface from the Geto Boys?
FRR: Yeah, I felt he was poppin’. DJ Whoo Kid. I thought I’d maybe reconnect with Sir Jinx and Dj Kool. I did a little work with Young Buck while I was inside. Really, I was in the South, so it was more of a Southern flavor. Those are the guys I was vibing to, but I don’t listen to music just to get high on it. I listen to it because it has some significance to me. But you’ve been out here longer than me. How far you think we can take our movie soundtrack?
JW: Back in the day, before mixtapes, it was all about soundtracks. Before you could go and buy a DJ Whoo Kid mixtape, you had to buy the Sunset Park or the Above the Rim soundtrack. Those CDs had crazy singles on them. Some of them went platinum. That’s what I'm hoping to do.
FRR: All the cats I grew up with are in prison, or dead, so I’m learning who's who. You’re guiding me.
JW: I want to get artists who have never worked together before, over some crazy beats, over some different production and put out big singles. I rang up A$AP Ferg and Twelvy and said, “Uncle Rick’s got the documentary coming out and we’d love to get features from you”. I approached Jim Jones, Cam'ron and Damon [Dash]. They’re down.
FRR: Real street dudes know. If I was on top and another dude got out of jail, I’d always be one of the first ones to rush to him. Pusha T came up on Fairfax the other day and gave me a big hug and said, “Get back on your feet, player.” He knows how to turn up on a street dude.
JW: From a street perspective, what were some differences between Texas and California prisons, in terms of how they were run?
FRR: Well, they all really ran tough. Some people think going to jail is a picnic, but it’s really hard. The Texas system is tougher than anywhere else, because they cut off all communication with your family. And you’ve got to eat the food that you grow. It’s hard for people to be away from their families for 40 years. It makes people tell.
JW: So the snitching's higher in the Southern penitentiaries?
FRR: Most everybody in the Fed is going to tell. The conviction rate is around 98%, because most people plead guilty and that’s because their best friend, partner, brother, uncle, or mother is telling on them.
JW: My understanding was that jail systems are based on race. Is that something that’s just California pens, or is that what you saw happening all over?
FRR: Race definitely plays a big part. There are sections you can sit at and sections you can’t. They have the white supremacist section, the Southsider section. The Blood and the Crip sections are close to each other; they call that the Black Section. Prison is much more racially segregated than society. Or it shows more.
JW: You took full advantage of the prison libraries. You taught yourself to read.
FRR: What prison does to you is take away your values. They want to take away your meaning and your will to be somebody of significance. I decided I wasn’t going to let them take that from me.
JW: A lot of people go to jail and hit the gym, or stay connected with other street cats, but you took that opportunity to completely change your life….
FRR: I figured out that the only way I could be significant behind bars was to be smart. Once you become smart, then you can translate the smarts over the telephone, in letters. You can keep relevant. The way for me to get my value up was to study.
"I really didn’t care about doing music too much, but when Grimes just (blew) the fuck up she really showed me there was a future in music" – Jay Worthy
JW: And was it hard to stay vegan while you were inside?
FRR: At first, it was hard, but we started having a vegetarian cook who cooked for all the vegetarians on the compound. But one thing dudes do when they get to prison is to start thinking how they can live longer.
JW: Man, I'm finding it hard out here to follow my goddamn diet! So how’s the planning for our India trip coming along?
FRR: Well, I have my passport and technically I’m eligible to go. Even though we’re both going to buy hair to sell, I don’t believe in it. Women don’t need hair to be beautiful. But it’s also a natural product that’s sold by the kilo and ounces. It’s also something people really don’t need, but they really think they do!
JW: When I first called you about weaves, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m like, ‘I’m talking to this narcotics man’....
FRR: And I remember saying, “You’re too outgoing to be a Blood!” Well, my legacy is the crack industry. I can’t get around that. It is what it is. But in the next ten years, I'm gonna do good. Not just for myself, but for the country. They just published a story on me in Esquire magazine. They got Obama on the cover; they gave him two pages. I got eight! Maybe I should be President.
JW: [Laughs] Vote Rick Ross! Just the dynamics of me and you together in India is like a short documentary in itself. When we get to India, you’re not going to have to worry. It's all vegan,
FRR: I already know. They don’t eat the cow over there.
JW: Believe it or not, I'm on some healthy shit right now. I cut out carbs, red meat. And even though my new music project is called London Drugs, you know I respect what your rules are. I would never bring any of that other bullshit around you.
FRR: Well, I don’t like to tell an artist what they should be rapping about, because it’s art. You’re living in a world where drugs are. You transcend the hood, but you’re a hood cat. I know where you live! Although, I haven’t been to visit you in Canada…yet.
JW: There are no Bloods and Crips in Vancouver. For somebody who makes gangsta rap, you probably wouldn’t think it, but when I’m out there I’m meeting Grimes and doing earthy shit.
FRR: And when you’re in LA, you’re riding around with me. So what was it like growing up with Grimes?
JW: I was a hustler and into gang shit and I really didn’t care about doing music too much, but I’d been in the studio and was sitting on these songs, when Grimes just blows the fuck up. She really showed me there was a future in music. From what I remember, Grimes was more into the gothic type stuff, whereas my dad had me come up on a lot of hip-hop, jazz, funk, soul. Weed brought us together. She’s really knowledgeable on a lot of different genres: I'd never have thought that Mariah Carey was her favourite artist…
FRR: Ooh, Mariah Carey? Yeaaah, baby.
NAME: Jeffrey James, aka Jay Worthy
WHAT YOU KNOW: The Compton rapper grew up in Vancouver. Check out his ‘Christmas Song’ collabo on stepsister Grimes’s Visions, which they made after a sneaky post-family dinner j-walk.
WHAT YOU DIDN’T: He’s roomies with Game’s brother Big Fase 100, one-time leader of the Cedar Block Piru Bloods. LA chili cheese fries are the closest munchies to poutine.
PREVIOUS: The Lifestyle mixtape feat. DJ Mustard, 2011. "The Time Is Now" single, ft. DA$H, 2013. Jay’s new project, London Drugs, with producer Sean House.
NAME: Ricky Donnell Ross, aka "Freeway" Rick Ross, aka "The Real Rick Ross"
WHAT YOU KNOW: Convicted drug kingpin, turned pillar of the community. He’s spent the last decade fighting 4XXL Floridian rapper Rick Ro$$ (aka ex-correctional officer William Leonard Roberts II) in a $10m identity theft court battle.
WHAT YOU DIDN’T: Rick was a promising young tennis player, discovered by Venus and Serena Williams’ father. He’s name-checked in Jay Z’s "Blue Magic" and Mos Def’s "Mathematics". He taught himself to read and created a social network while inside Texarcana prison.
PREVIOUS: Featured in 2013’s How To Make Money Selling Drugs and Crack in the System: The Freeway Rick Ross Story, as well as VH1’s Planet Rock: History of Crack and Hip Hop doc, starring Wu-Tang, Snoop, Dre and Cypress Hill.