Boogie Knights: A Jay Worthy X DāM-FunK Interview

The California funk maestros discuss their forthcoming joint LP 'Magic Hour.' +reviews of Dun Dealy and Reaper Mook

Boogie Knights: A Jay Worthy X DāM-FunK Interview
Photo credit: Lo Wilkinson

Kia Forum attendees and Amazon Prime viewers of Kendrick Lamar's The Pop Out concert this past Wednesday were treated to more than just five run-throughs of his devastating and danceable Drake diss "Not Like Us." The Juneteenth event's lengthy guest list read like a proverbial who's-who of West Coast hip-hop greatness, from Dom Kennedy and YG to Dr. Dre and E-40, not to mention his Black Hippy brethren Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q.

Also among those who took the stage for this auspicious event was Jay Worthy, joined by homegrown rap group called Meet The Whoops for a brief yet meaningful performance of their recently released posse cut together. Appearing alongside the likes of RJMrLA and JasonMartin, the inclusion of the Canadian-born Compton transplant in these proceedings acknowledged just how integral he's been to the preservation and, more importantly, the perpetuation of Los Angeles' hip-hop traditions. Still, if you ask him, he considers himself a funk artist, first and foremost, rather than emcee.

"I didn't want to compete with other rappers, and I still don't feel like I do because I'm not in it to compete with anybody," Worthy says of the self-designated distinction. "I just happen to kick rhymes over funk."

Given his full-length collaborations with Larry June and DJ Muggs, affiliation with Westside Gunn's Griselda, and features opposite everyone from Isaiah Rashad to Conway The Machine, that latter statement might seem a bit audacious. Yet as evidenced by his projects with Sean House as LNDN DRGS like this year's Affiliated 2, his devotion to funk as a living breathing genre rather than some nostalgia-inducing relic all-but defines his rap career. Pick any five of his songs at random, and you'll be compelled to agree (and perhaps attempt some fancy footwork).

"I said it to George Clinton the other day: I like my funk dirty," Worthy says of his approach. "I like to dance on it, however the beat talks to me. I let the music talk to me and I talk back."

To that end, less than 24 hours after The Pop Out ended, he officially announced Magic Hour, a joint album with no less than producer/instrumentalist DāM-FunK. As hinted at with the late-April release of their DRAM-assisted single "Westside," the album (out on July 12) is predictably jam-packed with West Coast vibes and a robust set of features including such L.A. notables as Channel Tres, DJ Quik, and Ty Dolla $ign. With some help from Worthy's erstwhile Fool's Gold benefactor A-Trak, those three artists join the core duo for "105 West," a single that honors the heralded G-Funk Era while pushing forward as much as possible.

That clear aversion to regressively retro navelgazing characterizes DāM-FunK's catalog as well. Though the artist born Damon Riddick has nothing but love for the '70s and '80s boogie purveyors that precede him, his Stones Throw albums Toeachizown and Invite the Light offered a post-millennium update to the genre format. He showcased this evolution regularly at his Funkmosphere series of parties and, later, through releases on his Glydezone imprint. Whether curating the sonic background of Grand Theft Auto Online or touring with Todd Rundgren, he's upheld his artistic integrity while spreading the sound around.

"The music that I tend to make is music has a West Coast aesthetic," Riddick says, "from our lifestyle, the way we dress and all that stuff, just living the different codes of the West Coast."

Nearly seven years in the making, by his own conservative estimate, Magic Hour presents a fresh new peak in that funk continuity. It is momentous in no small part due to his attitudinal shift from instrumental primacy to welcoming a vocalist so deeply into his mystical sonic world. "Since that particular period when we first started working on the album, it's like I have changed my mindset," Riddick says. "People like Jay Worthy, I have confidence that he has a portal to conversate with his audience that gets where he comes from, the lifestyle he lives."

"Seven years ago, shit, I was living crazy," Worthy adds. "I was still in the streets, so my mentality, you'll hear that on this record."

To be clear, Riddick has done this sort of collaboration quite sparingly throughout his career. He linked with Snoop Dogg (then operating under the fleeting pseudonym Snoopzilla) for 2013's 7 Days Of Funk album, which also featured Daz Dillinger and Kurupt. That relatively high-profile record put him in front of a wider audience than ever before, with a performance on late night's Jimmy Kimmel Live! to boot. The one-off effort also boasted a placement from Steve Arrington, formerly of the seminal funk group Slave and subsequently his own Hall Of Fame band, with whom Riddick released the full-length Higher that same year.

"I just like to maintain an all-styles type of inclusion with my funk experience," he says. "So when it comes to choosing people that I work with, I pick like fruit." With Magic Hour, Worthy officially joins this elite club of DāM-Funk's team-ups–though he could possibly be the last to do so.

"After this project, I'm moving towards going more to the level of Junie Morrison and more my influences from that ilk, as far as making more instrumental projects and making some more ambient stuff," Riddick adds, vowing not to work on anything involving profanity or other such themes going forward. "But as Kendrick Lamar says–I'm not going to mention the line–sometimes you got to jump out and show cats."

Despite the explicit topics that prominently feature in his lyrics on Magic Hour and elsewhere, Worthy, to his credit, seems amenable to going clean for Riddick's more spiritually-minded projects in the future. A lot has happened to him both personally and professionally since they first embarked on this musical journey together, and he states that he's not moving the same way he did as when they began to write. "I'm still with my homies and all that, but my lifestyle is just a little bit different," he says. "It's nice to reflect and see the growth. I'm a lot happier."

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. After all, the origins of Magic Hour go as far back as the days of MySpace, where Riddick initially recalls coming across Worthy. Over time, he recognized they had certain mutuals in common offline as well, like California hip-hop vets Kokane and Mitchy Slick. Worthy's credibility and sense of G-code reciprocity, as well as his overt funk fidelity, naturally resonated with the Pasadena native and Leimert Park denizen.

"He's respected in the streets, respected in the industry," Riddick says. "What better person to have a collaborative project with than somebody I respect like Jay Worthy, who's doing so many incredible things in the game and showing people showing, especially on the West Coast, what you can do with quality produced product. This is an honor."

The feeling is, of course, a shared one, reflected in the very nature of what the duo has made together. Worthy insists that their album is deliberately sample-free, a principled call back to Riddick's days as a session musician playing keys for MC Eiht, Ice Cube, and Westside Connection's Mack 10 and WC. "We're taking it back to the era of Triton beats," Worthy says, referring to the Korg branded synth used by Dr. Dre throughout 1999's The Chronic 2001 as well as on Eminem's The Slim Shady LP that same year. "I feel like we're breathing a breath of fresh air back into the West with what we got going on here–and the roots of the West is the funk."

Those aforementioned roots manifest in more than one way on Magic Hour. Take Ty Dolla $ign's feature on "105 West," for instance. The L.A. native is actual progeny in a funk music legacy, being the son of former Lakeside member and multi-instrumentalist Tyrone Griffin. That track was one of more recently recorded off Magic Hour. "He's going to be involved in a lot of my future music," Worthy teases.

Admittedly, this ongoing commitment to expand upon the bountiful promise of funk comes with its challenges. Despite the best efforts of Riddick and Worthy, respectively and now collectively, some people–the homies included–still perceive the style as some quaint or musty artifact of the past that doesn't have a place in what's happening now. Naturally, these Gentlemen-with-a-capital-G disagree. "Hard work pays off–that's all I'm going to say," Worthy says. "Everybody's musical taste is different. I just stuck it out to what I like to do and I stay true to what I do. And it worked out."

Even still, as the summer weather begins to really hit, and with the added benefit of a song like Lamar's undeniably funky "Not Like Us" proving irresistible to hip-hop DJs and fans both nationally and worldwide, Magic Hour may be exactly what hip-hop needs right now.

"We're all doing something to bring something to the table that highlights both of our styles out here within the California region," Riddick says, "but hopefully the rest of the world can connect to it as well."

Dun Dealy & Chef Bogey, Jimbo's World (buy it / stream it)

As one-fourth of the Boston-area hip-hop crew Feed The Family, Dorcester's own Dun Dealy made a strong impression on the grimy group's eponymous 2022 project. Populated by an array of hustlers and fiends, his solo effort Jimbo's World chronicles his city's drug-addled underbelly with a cinematic scope. Working with locally sourced producer Chef Bogey, he serves up straight dope on tracks like "Hero 2 Fenta" and "Measure A Key," the unapologetically honest lyricism matched by the boisterousness of his delivery. Attuned to the needs of the streets, he calls out fakes and snakes on "Lysol Wipes" and lays out his survivalist motivations on the closing title track. Philly spitter OT The Real offers up some raspy realness over the bombastic boom bap of "Natural Balance," while Primo Profit pulls up to the corner spot for the shimmering narco banger "Pablo Escobar."

Reaper Mook, Max 'Pagne Goes To New York (buy it / stream it)

A memorable presence on Seafood Sam's recent album, Long Beach rapper Reaper Mook headed to the opposite coast for his second solo project of 2024. Throughout Max 'Pagne Goes To New York, his lap-of-luxury bars come steeped in mafia don magnitude via "Bulletproof Monk" and "More Money." In the vividly portrayed world of "Max 'Pagne," extravagances exist as elite frequent flyer rewards for his self-made grind. Naturally, any such trip to hip-hop's birthplace warrants a few guests from the five boroughs. YL scoffs with that native New Yorker confidence on "How To Be A Player," while Remy Banks joins them both with his Queens state of mind for the soul slapped "Famous Trappers." Washington Heights bred Lord Sko proves a fine foil for Mook on highlight "Hands Of God," the former's somewhat strained vocal delivery complementing the latter's audaciously loud whisper.

Three new tracks for you to snack on...

John Glacier, "Cows Come Home"

Bill Shakes, "Don't Be A Menace To Blackburn While Drinking White Lightning On A Council Estate"

Vayda, "skyy"

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