Rapper Jay 305‘s unreleased upcoming album Taking All Bets, is in his words, “a motivation” – a drive to go all in. Born and raised in South Central, where he said people would tell him he wasn’t going to make it to the age of 18, he learned from the losses and triumphs of his own and his peers, that what they tell you isn’t always the truth. This is why it isn’t surprising that Jay 305 is doing things his own way. As someone who’s worked behind the scenes with The OpM Company and rubbed elbows with West Coast’s most established names in rap, Jay himself didn’t emerge onto the hip-hop playing field until just about 3 years ago. Yet the amount of respect he’s already been shown from his equals is staggering for someone who, to this day, has only released 2 tracks, apart from appearances on others’ songs. “I’m the type of person where I study the game before I hop in it,” he says. “When I started doing music, I wanted to learn more without doing.”
Now, his much-anticipated album, on which he says he’ll be “speaking for a certain type of people… the people that are going through something,” will be featuring the likes of Dom Kennedy, YG, Joe Moses, Juicy J, DJ Mustard (whose album 10 Summers features a track with him and Teecee titled “Ghetto Tales”), and more. Get to know Jay 305 in our interview below, where we discuss the advantages of the underdog, South Central insight, his love for storytelling, and how Fairfax opened his eyes.
ALINA: You just started rapping for about 3 years now. I read that you never planned on having rap be your career. Do you feel like that gives you an underdog’s point of view?
JAY 305: It definitely gives me an underdog’s point of view, but at the same time it helps me with my confidence. Because from what I’ve done in the music industry world – rap, hip-hop, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t matter to me – what I’ve done is I cut the corners real fast, but I kept it authentic. I didn’t chase anybody’s style or ways or anything, I kept it me, 100% – and that’s what worked.
I feel like it gives you a new angle, an advantage.
It definitely [gives me an advantage]. It gave me a whole different type of outlook – gave me a different way of thinking. Like, I could really do this for real if I take it seriously. And honestly, I think [I’m] prospering and getting better and better. With me, I’m the type of person where I study the game before I hop in it. I study the players, I study everybody, I study the older players. Just like sports, before you go on the field, your coach will have you watch a film of how the other team runs their offense and defense and then they’ll put you out there; real professionals.
Therefore, with the rap shit, I paid attention to everybody, not only in my circle and people I know, but people outside. R&B artists, reggae artists, oldies. Studied all of it. Then when I started doing music, I wanted to learn more without doing. Because me just doing records and trying shit, that’s not what helped me. What helped me and what makes people better is learning [to want] to learn. One thing I learned is you have to use your voice as an instrument, know how to act a bit. That’s just the game. I ain’t trying to give too much out. But regardless, it doesn’t matter, I’ll beat you to the water anyways but only the real horse is going to [drink] the water, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I read that you enjoy taking your time with projects because you’ve seen people that oversaturate things with releasing too much or doing too much. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
The shit is regular science, it’s A-B-C 1-2-3 if you really pay attention. If you pay attention, you don’t have to do that, especially not in this time. We had the people that did the mixtapes, we had the people that did the albums and you’ve seen what fell from the albums and what went wrong. You see how too much mixtapes and too much songs plays out. Eventually it plays out faster. So if you slow it down... If you’re a rarity type of nigga like me, if you’re really like that nigga that you say you are, hold back, see how far you can hold back, and then strike. It’s back to what I’m saying about studying, if you’re not studying and you’re just making, then you already lost.
There’s a million other motherfuckers out here that rap, I’m talking professionally... It’s competition everywhere and they’re willing to take your spot. And there’s [rappers] that aren’t your competition, that’re under you, that will come up and knock you out. For me, one is me studying and knowing who I am; knowing myself. I really know who I am period. I came in the game “Youzza Flip,” that was me. “Stories,” that was me. You can tell nothing sounds like that at the time. So I feel like it’s rare. I’m rare anyways because I’m really known behind the [scenes in] rap shit too. In the industry to the streets to anything, people really know me because I’m always an open arms type of person. I still keep it gangster, but I’m really just what you call a player. My type of player is studying and executing. A player can be around this type of people, these type of people, and still fit in every group.
You’ve really had a great response with the amount that you’ve put out. Can you talk a little bit about LA/South Central and how it’s shaped your outlook and career?
South Central LA. My birth place, of course. It really did show me that sometimes motherfuckers don’t care. People don’t care. It’s a lot of “if you’re stuck in it, then you’re stuck in it.” South Central is so different – there’s so many different places – there’s middle class and then there’s lower class. I came from the lower class, so I know about the ghetto, gutter, slums. So when it comes to my outlook on that shit, it can go either way: “Fuck everything” or “Gain knowledge and try to get up out of this.” At one point in time it was “fuck everything,” that was my attitude.
People would always say, “You’re not going to make it to 18.” That was the statistics already put on us as kids. Imagine that being told to you, and you seeing someone get killed on the corner. It’s a fear, but then once you break out of that fear, it’s like fuck it, I don’t give a fuck anymore if I live or die or whatever. But when I made it to 21, I was realizing other things... Seeing a lot of my homeboys die, a lot of my close peers going to jail, me going in and out of being in trouble – I’m still going through bull shit. It’s a gang of trauma, it’s all trauma. So that made me the person now to where I made it. That was my 21, I was just opening my eyes. At 25, that’s when I realized that it’s all bullshit. That’s not reality, that’s not how people live outside of this shit. I’m not just talking about South Central, I’m talking about ghettos all over the world, or places all over the world.
What do you mean when you say you realized “it’s all bullshit”?
The bullshit is the lies that were told to us [in South Central]. Like we’re going to die at this young age. I mean, it’s a high rate because of the shit being told to us, and then the people around that lack the knowledge that we can be powerful. But since we’re all scattered around, we can’t really get to the force. We can’t go forward. So it’s all bullshit – the shit that we’ve been told. Or the shit that we see, it’s all bullshit. There’s no reason why you’re seven years old looking at a dead body on the ground. That’s not going on everywhere outside of the hood. People getting killed by gang bangers. I’ve lost a lot of homies to gang bangers, I’ve been stabbed over dumb shit. I know I’m drifting off, but it made me into a motherfucker that has knowledge, but still doesn’t give a fuck. That’s where I stand now, that’s my attitude. I don’t give a fuck what I say or how I do it, but I’m going to get your respect and I know what I have to do now to make it better.
Jay 305’s just-dropped music video “Taking All Bets” from his upcoming album.
It sounds like you emerged from that mentality… Or would you say you’re still in it?
I’m on the fence. I’m not rich. I’m still rolling. Even when I’m rich, I’m not going to be the same person because now I’m older, so I understand a whole lot more. I might do some growing, I don’t know exactly. I don’t feel like I’m a bad person at all. I show love to people that show love to me, and I show people love that don’t show love to me. I don’t hate anybody, I don’t care to hate anybody.
You’ve really been able to channel what you’ve learned towards something that’s helping you move forward in a way that’s knowledged.
That’s why my album is called Taking All Bets.
Can you tell us more about Taking All Bets?
Yeah, so Taking All Bets basically means take the gamble, live your life, go for it. If you don’t do it, then you don’t know what you’re going to get. If you do, then at least you tried and went for it. You’re still going to accomplish more for going for it than not doing shit or scared to do it because you’re scared to make the gamble. And that’s what Taking All Bets is about, it’s a lifestyle. That’s what I want people to get out of it. In the midst of my tape, it’s from hoes to women, from niggas to bitches, to you know. And corporate to politics. A lot of shit in the mixes that I’ve been going through. I’ve been having that shit locked in me for a long time. So me releasing it and finding a way to channel it and putting it in rhythm makes it easier. That’s what Taking All Bets basically is. It’s really a motivation, just go for yours.
Who else have you worked with on the album? Anyone that you’re excited to have worked with on the album?
I have Wiz, Juicy J, YG, I have Dom Kennedy, Joe Moses... I can’t remember right now, but it’s not too much, it’s not oversaturated with people, because I want people to get me on my first tape.
Did you know most of these people before?
Yeah, I knew mostly every rapper... Dom was my boy before I was rapping for sure. I think I met YG through my homeboy, one of them. This is when he was younger, I met him back then, we would always stay kinda cool. We weren’t all best friends, we wasn’t running around and kicking it, I knew them in passing. Like Schoolboy Q used to kick it, used to be with my homie Ralphie. And Kendrick I knew from when he used to be in the projects, and Jay Rock, I knew because he was around when we was younger. I knew Nipsey since he was 15, he used to hustle, he’s a real hustler. He used to hustle everything. He was doing his drug shit, but he was out here hustling. He used to hustle his own music, really grind, walking around by himself, or him and the homeboy would be passing out CDs, but at the same time they had their other shit going on. Basically everybody in LA for the most part I knew already. They knew me in passing, we all knew each other.
What would you say is one album that changed your life?
Street Gospel by Suga Free. He’s one of my favorites.
Do you feel like you’re a lot more influenced by old school hip-hop?
A whole lot more. Because they actually had [stories]. Right now, it’s just a lot of people trying to make hits. And there’s nothing wrong with that, you got to make your money. But at the end of the day, what’s your story? Everything’s about money, and I don’t blame it, but I feel like with me, I feel I can make the money and still tell my story because my story is interesting.
I’m glad you mentioned storytelling. I watched a music video of yours [“Think Twice”] and it had a monologue that was sampled from a documentary. It was really powerful.
Oh yeah, it was sampled from a documentary called, Slippin’: 10 Years with the Bloods. Then the actual sample of the song – the beat – was Little Dragon. People don’t expect me to know what Little Dragon is. But I heard that song and that melody, it’s the darkness, the mystery, I just felt it but then I was like, “Let me tell it from my point of view.”
I really like that you incorporated something from outside the rap world.
Everybody can rap, but then everybody don’t get that deep and tell their story because they don’t care. And honestly, a lot of the dudes that went through something still don’t talk about it because they’d rather make the money. And there’s nothing wrong with that, like I said, it’s just for me, this is the Jay 305. I want people to really know what’s going on here because I’m speaking for a certain type of people and that’s the real people. The people that are going through something. I’d rather talk to somebody through a song than get turnt up. Not saying I don’t do that with the music, I have fun, but at the same time I try to switch it up sometimes. I do what I like to do.
Since you were talking about music outside of hip-hop, are you interested in any musical artists right now that aren’t in hip-hop?
Oh, I don’t know if you know who Lykke Li is.
Yeah! Really? That’s awesome.
I’m a little different. Being on Fairfax and being around The Hundreds, Diamond, Supreme, Flight Club – being on the block really gives you another outlook of how different shit is from our side of town in South Central. Fairfax is more of the cooler kid, like, you can get away with this and that. But over here [in South Central], it’s more hard. Everything is just like, “You ready to fight?” Over there [on Fairfax] – I’m not saying nobody’s soft or nothing but – it’s just more easy. I’ve been around The Hundreds before it was even cracking off, so in that world over there, it’s so positive it drove me.
I think that’s so interesting that the slant of Fairfax opened that up for you.
You see – the whole world? It looks like Fairfax now. Once upon a time, Fairfax just looked like Fairfax. I should go back to the city, back to the West Side, and everybody’s looking at me crazy like, “What the fuck are you wearing?” Now look at everybody. Everybody’s wearing the same shit. You can’t tell a nerd from a gangster nowadays. Until they start talking.