Diversity is abundant in the Mile High City, and anyone who has spent more than a few years living in this big-small town, knows firsthand the metamorphosis that has occurred is undeniable. Known for being a progressive metropolis which constantly urges the middle of the country to step up on the right side of history, our politics and our protections have made a mark on the rest of the country. However, the same can’t be said for our stamp in the music scene, and for a city as large as Denver, it’s really difficult to define our sound.
In the realm of hip hop, it’s even more unclear where we rest, as we are neither West or East Coast rap; we lack the grit of a city like Detroit or Philadelphia, and we don’t have the heat of a Houston to produce those real hooks. For some artists, however, that is exactly what makes living life as a Denver wordsmith so thrilling. No limits, no boundaries, no sound to break out of. Just ask Jay Triiiple, the writer, performer, and hip hop entertainer who is on the ground level in crafting, developing, and perfecting exactly what the Denver sound is to become.
Triiiple, originally from a small town outside of Chicago, has been putting a pen to paper to process her emotions and make sense of the world since she was 8 years old. Moving to Denver at the age of 15, Triiiple discovered that writing and performing music was ultimately the thing she wanted to do. Now, more than 10 years later, this queer hip hop artist has seen the evolution of the industry, put in the hustle to make a career in music happen, and is taking time to look inward as a way to create the best outward expression.
Can you talk about your most recent project, Change Over Dollars?
Yeah, for sure. I’m realizing everything comes from the inside and then the outside. Change Over Dollars is a wordplay on money or currency, but I was realizing that I have to change inside in order for me to get those things that I want on the outside. Money happens to be one of those things that we all need, but I have to put that change over anything outside of myself, or else I’m not going to get it. So, I’m in a period of my life right now where I’m doing all this internal work and realizing that’s where it all begins, and that’s where all the magic happens.
Was there something that initially inspired you to write your thoughts and emotions down on paper and turn those into lyrics?
Yeah, I was always, I guess I still am, more shy and more reserved. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to always express myself vocally, whether it was like a confrontational situation or just me explaining what was going on inside of my head. I just felt like I had so many ideas, goals, and dreams, so I just started writing stories.
Was there an artist who you really latched onto early when you were getting into rap and hip hop?
Oh yeah, people are always surprised when I say this, but Ludacris is a really big influence to me. I don’t think he gets enough credit for being a great rapper, but he’s a great artist overall. He was really different and outgoing, and I just love the way he stood out and how bold he was in telling his story. Early on, I really liked Notorious B.I.G and Jay Z; they really grabbed me when it came to, like, the lyricism of hip hop.
How did their approach to writing change your storytelling and allow you to be more vulnerable in your lyrics?
Even now, the artists I gravitate to are those who are vulnerable. I really feel like it’s a big strength in humans, a lot of people don’t think so, but I feel like those people just haven’t tapped into how powerful it can be. You just never know how many lives you’re actually touching by telling your story or by being courageous. I’ve always gravitated towards those types of artists that were true to themselves, and I find inspiration in it because I want to be that person.
What would you say inspires you most when it comes to writing?
Honestly, I’m really an emotional person, and sometimes when I feel like I’m just about to explode, I’ve been coated in my emotions for so long, I have to sit down and create. Music for me is very therapeutic, so my biggest creative moments where I’m really in a zone come from me going through something in life, and I just gotta get it off my chest. The fun part is the wordplay, all the bars, and the fun stuff I do, that shit’s me coming up with games as I’m walking and cleaning the house and stuff like that, but really sitting down and getting in my zone, that’s life experiences.
Putting yourself out there can be really scary; have there been any time where you as Triiiple felt you weren’t accepted for the kind of storytelling that you do?
Oh yeah, it’s terrifying. Sometimes I don’t think about it because I always write songs just me, by myself, in my room; that’s my safe space. So, when I put things on a record and then perform them, it can be scary, but it really is powerful.
Just the things people say to me all the time, like, ‘Man, you’re changing in my life,’ or ‘I cry listening to your songs,’ or ‘This song helped me get through this situation,’ those make it all worth it.
I’ve just really been realizing throughout the entire journey that what I do is not about me. I’m a firm believer in, like, God, the universe, gives us our gifts to give away. I just have to be brave and do that if it’s helping somebody.
Do you have people come up to you and share what your music means to them?
That vulnerability touches people’s souls, so you don’t have to be anything other than yourself for people to gravitate towards what you are doing. I feel like I have the best fans in Denver, and it’s, like, no knock to other artists or anything like that. The community is crazy, and my favorite thing about it is watching my fans become friends with each other. Those relationships, that’s the dopest shit ever, and that’s what so dope about music.
What would you say is unique about the Denver hip hop scene?
Well, you’re watching it grow. I feel like it’s literally being built right before our eyes, and I think a lot of people don’t really realize what’s going on. I don’t even think those of us that are building it even realize how different it’s going to be in just a couple years.
A lot of people say Denver hip hop doesn’t have a sound, and maybe not one that you could easily define, but I feel like that’s the dope thing about it. Real talk, everybody does have a different sound, and it’s crazy. When I first moved here, the first thing I noticed was the diversity, and I didn’t have that from this small town I’m from. I feel Denver is a very diverse place, and I feel like the hip hop community is taking on the responsibility of making the diversity more apparent in Denver.
As a woman navigating through the space of hip hop, is it an accepting space, or can it feel like your gender limits you?
I wouldn’t say limiting just because I choose not to limit myself. With that being said, realistically, there are certain things put in place where you may not get an opportunity, the love, or the credit you may actually deserve because you’re the minority in that space. I just choose to keep going because my heart, my mind, my vision, my dream, my passion has nothing to do with anybody else.
I’ll also say though that because the community of women in music and hip hop is growing stronger and stronger by the day, all these powerful women are choosing to stand up for themselves and be who they are, no apologies, and support each other, so it’s a lot easier to maneuver these days.
Can you talk about how impactful things like WCW are?
As women, we’re realizing it doesn’t have to just be one of us; we can all make money; we can all have our fans, and we can all prosper. That’s what is so powerful about the WCW movement; it’s bringing other women to light because, like, I feel like men naturally put women against each other. We got tired of that, so we have fun together, and I think it’s important for us to support one another because we don’t have any reason to hate on each other, really.
Can you share what it’s like being a queer woman in hip hop?
First and foremost, I’ll say that I don’t even like labeling myself as a female rapper, I mean, I don’t like labels period. When you start to do that, sometimes that’s all people instead of what you’re trying to give them.
With that being said, what I think that people don’t understand about being part of the queer community is, we’re so loud, and we’re so proud because, just like any sort of minority group, there’s just a lot of pain there; there’s just a lot of, like, wanting to be accepted. My journey is still growing; I’ll say that for myself; a lot of people are okay. A lot of my friends and people I know, they had these terrible coming out stories, but they’re, like, totally fine now, and it’s something I’m still doing.
Stepping out there in front of these crowds sometimes, or stepping out there with my girlfriend, people don’t understand I get scared, too. I get afraid sometimes to be myself because, at least in the community that I’ve grown up in, it is not accepted; it’s not even like talked about. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to have really lovely people to be surrounded by and who truly accept me for who I am. So, I’m more comfortable with talking about my story.
Do you have any music that you’ve written about what that experience was like for you?
I’m still, like, getting more comfortable talking about it. And honestly, I really have to go through this journey with it internally first before I feel comfortable. I did just make a song called “Rainbow” about my experience, my coming out story, and I’ll be releasing that in a couple months.
That’s going to be very new for me, and it took me a little minute to write because it was very emotional, but when I recorded it, I was so happy.
Do you feel like being queer has created barriers or opportunities for you as a musician?
I feel like I do get discriminated against within certain spaces because people don’t understand it, or they may not want it in their space, but you know, you just have to love yourself and remind yourself of what you’re there for.
Ultimately, with music, we connect to the human experiences that make us the same.
Yeah, exactly. That’s important, and I feel like, especially with the way that I choose to handle music, it’s important for me to speak about all those experiences. I’m just that type of person; I try to be a good friend and I try to offer a good perspective. Coming up, I will be talking more about how I came out, how I dealt with that with my parents, and people in the world. I’m just now at a place where I’m really healing with my family and how they reacted to it.
Do you ever feel pressure over talking about these things since you have a platform where people admire you and want to hear what you have to say?
Sometimes, we want to give so much that we act without really thinking about it, but now, I know I have to really dive into myself to be able to offer the world what I’m supposed to be offering. I’m actually finding the true balance of that, but it comes easy when you know yourself.
*Performance shots of Jay Triiiple are from WCW L.E.V.E.L.S on August 28, 2019 at The Gothic Theater in Englewood, CO. Photos by Veronica L. Holyfield