Born to a Jamaican mother and Bajan father in the fall of 1984, Jay Cummins aka Jay 305, grew up entrenched in the gangbanging culture of South Central Los Angeles. Surrounded by drug dealers and lawbreakers, Jay learnt the politics, distinctions, and affiliations of each block well before most American kids have finished fifth grade. By age eleven gang members wanted him dead, which caused Jay’s mother to relocate them both from the West Coast to Miami. Moving back to South Central, LA at age fourteen he kept his ties to his friends in Miami’s Ghetto. 6 years after his return to the West Coast, at the age of 20, Jay’s good friend Butta Ball was murdered in Miami. In his friend’s memory Jay wore a “305” hat, so much that Jay’s friends in South Central dubbed him “305”.
Flash forward to 2015 and Cummins is not only alive and well but has DJ Mustard on hand producing songs such as his recently celebrated single “Thuggin.” Jay is a Los Angeles staple who gets shout outs from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and YG, and frequently collaborates with household names including Rita Ora, Ty Dolla $ign, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Chris Brown, T.I. and Tyga. After two decades of hard work, perseverance, and overcoming struggles, Jay 305 is due to release his debut album via Interscope Records and The OpM Company (Other People’s Money) later this year. Back in South Central, age 22, Cummins met rapper Dom Kennedy. Sharing neighborhood ties, the two became close and remained so during the early years of Kennedy’s rap career. It was through his friendship with Kennedy that Cummins gained access to many of the key players in the Los Angeles rap scene, including now-platinum-selling artists YG, DJ Mustard and Kendrick Lamar. Cummins’ focus at this time however, was on supporting Kennedy’s releases and later, his record label, The OpM Company; aside from laying down the occasional freestyle to liven up tales from daily life in LA’s Westside, better known as South Central Crenshaw District, Cummins had no interest in pursuing music. It wasn’t until 2012 that he released his first song “Stories,” under the moniker Jay 305, and realized his innate talent and potential to make money as a rapper.
In April 2012 he released his second single through The OpM Company called “Youzza Flip,” produced by Roosevelt. Akin to Project Pat’s “Chicken Head” and TLC’s “No Scrub,” the song became a regional hit and instant classic, quite an achievement as it was the second song Jay had ever written. Six months on, “Youzza Flip” was stacking up national radio plays and blaring through club speakers and car stereos across the United States. Jay’s momentum was building at a remarkably rapid pace however legal troubles put a halt on these developments when Cummins let his temper get the best of him and got picked up for assault with a deadly weapon and gun charges. He turned himself in and went to prison on December 3rd 2013. At the start of Cummins’ sentence, Ty Dolla $ign released “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” with a freestyle Jay had recorded before his jail stint. Two months later Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa and YG hopped on the official remix of “Youzza Flip,” igniting a second wave of attention and proving the song’s status as an all time classic. Jay 305’s fire had been re-ignited and his name was back in the conversation, picking up nods from the likes of Complex, Vibe and XXL. Cummins was witnessing his first tastes of mainstream success as he remained behind bars. A month later, still mourning the death of his seven-year-old nephew Taalib Picante, murdered the day before Cummins turned himself in, Jay received news that his close friends Tiny M, Nightmare and Bri had passed in a tragic car accident. The simultaneous professional high and personal low affected him in a previously unfound way, and caused Jay to start thinking seriously about his personal situation.
Those feelings boiled over for Cummins in February 2014 as he watched another close friend, Kendrick Lamar, perform at the 56th GRAMMY Awards. He couldn’t hear Lamar’s performance with Imagine Dragons as the TV in his dormitory was on mute. Another inmate was murdered that evening and the entire prison was on lockdown. The experience galvanized Cummins to take action. He began to realize that similar to many of South Central’s most iconic hip-hop artists, music stood as a realistic medium through which Cummins could change course, using the fabric of his life experiences to inform his identity as a rapper. Following an early release from jail, Jay started to hone in on studying the catalogues of his icons including West Coast hip-hop pioneers Too $hort, Suga Free, 2Pac, and Ice Cube, Southern legends Pimp C and Scarface, and the New York dons Nas, Jay Z, Rakim and Cam’ron. His mother’s Jamaican roots made Bob Marley and dancehall artists Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Vybz Kartel key references for his musical schooling. Cummins also broadened his scope outside the hip-hop world, taking inspiration from the Swedish pop songstress Lykke Li and the four-piece Little Dragon, whose single “Twice” he sampled and flipped into his own “Think Twice,” setting a monologue from the documentary Slippin’: 10 Years With the Bloods on top of their original.
Rather than calling in favors from his deep connections in the West Coast rap world, Jay focused on creating new music, which led him to play a rough version of what would come to be “Ghetto Tales” for DJ Mustard. Mustard ended up including the song, a portrait of life in The Jungles, on his debut album 10 Summers, with an assist from TeeCee. The album was released on Pu$haz Ink, Roc Nation, and Republic Records in August of 2014, putting Cummins in the company of names like Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Young Jeezy and Lil Boosie, among others. In the fall of 2014, Interscope’s Archie Davis approached Cummins with an offer. In November of that year, Cummins became the newest member of Interscope’s roster. It was a stark departure from the decidedly independent routes that made Kennedy and South Central LA rapper Nipsey Hussle two of today’s biggest names in West Coast hip-hop. Motivated in part by his age, Cummins’ decision to sign with a major aligned with the themes entrenched in his to be debut release, Taking All Bets, a record that acts as a call to lay everything on the line: lyrically, musically, professionally and personally.
A direct counterpoint to the Internet-bred hip-hop stars of today, Cummins’ album pieces together the real elements of his life in South Central: the violence, parties, friends, enemies, women, and of course, music. With features from DJ Mustard, Dom Kennedy, & Suga Free Taking All Bets melds production style with elements of the laid-back West Coast nonchalance, an attitude that Cummins has mastered. Cummins’ charisma and playfulness puts him in a league of his own. “Thuggin” dropped on February of 2015, shortly followed by the album’s title track. Two days later, Complex named Cummins “The West Coast’s best-kept secret.” These days, you can find Cummins posted up before sunrise in the Dorsey High School or USC parking lots. He gets up to work out at the Gang-affiliated school’s football fields, a routine he picked up during his stint in jail last year. Between push up sets on the field, he gasses the young high school students out running laps, daring them to keep pace with his 10-minute mile.
Jay 305’s debut Taking All Bets will be released later this year through Interscope and The OpM Company.