Let's be clear: Jay Triiiple, aka Alyssa Taylor, is not just Denver's best female MC — she's one of Denver's best, period. With her disarming smile, literary lyrics and unwavering honesty, Triiiple is nothing short of a star. She's been performing in Denver for the past decade, frequently collaborating with other heavy hitters in the city. Although she refrains from labeling herself as a "female rapper" or a "gay rapper," Triiiple is undoubtedly an inspiration to demographics that have been shut out of mainstream hip-hop in the past. Her 2020 track "Rainbow," which details her internal struggle with coming out, is required listening for all hip-hop fanatics, regardless of sexuality. No matter the subject, Triiiple approaches each track with vulnerability, intelligence and a healthy dose of existential questioning. Don't sleep on her latest EP, the suave, sensual I Love You, which was released in February, just in time for Valentine's Day.
Since dropping his first mixtape using his legal name in 2014, Trayce Chapman has appeared on BET and SportsCenter, toured all over the country and racked up millions of listens on Spotify. A narrative-driven rapper with R&B-leaning vocals, Chapman often raps about his childhood growing up in Denver. Especially on his Contraband mixtapes, he delves into his memory to reflect on personal struggles and trauma with unrelenting honesty. Moody, melodic and mindful is where Chapman's at his best, but he can do club tracks and easy listening, too, which he proved on The IZM and Exotic Birds. Keep an eye out for the third installment of his Contraband series, which he plans to release in September.
A Meazy, aka Alex Jiles, recorded his first song in the fourth grade, then started a rap duo called The Offense in middle school with fellow Denver native Taurean. The pair made music together well into adulthood, before A Meazy released three solo albums in rapid succession, starting with his 2015 debut, The Real Ned Flanders, and continuing with 2016's The Real Ned Flanders 2 and Meazy Shuttlesworth in 2017. He was riding a career high in 2018 when he opened for Ice Cube at the Fillmore, but then took time off to focus on his personal life before coming back strong with Deada$$ in March 2020. A vocal advocate for better mental health resources geared toward the Black community, A Meazy made a powerful statement last June with "I Can't Breathe," produced by Mic Coats and featuring Wil Guice, Chy Reco and Ramond (four more names you should know). The powerful protest song, which he dubbed "the anthem of Black Lives Matter," is not to be missed.
Denver's own wacky glamazon, Yvie Oddly, aka Jovan Bridges, discovered her rapping talents while competing on season eleven of RuPaul's Drag Race. (She was crowned the season's winner, in no small part because of her superior bars.) Many drag queens try their hand at music, but few accomplish what Oddly did with her debut mixtape, Drag Trap. It's funny, poignant, thoughtful and powerful, and she delivers some of the most dance-worthy beats of 2020. On Drag Trap, Oddly tackles real issues — like living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome — with humor and wit, but also proves she can get serious, as in the second half of the song "Karen," where she solemnly pays tribute to victims of police brutality. As one of the many artists striving to break boundaries between queerness and hip-hop, this hometown hero does Denver's LGBTQ+ community proud.
Not many Denver artists have achieved the national recognition that Trev Rich has. After touring with acclaimed rapper Joe Budden in 2015, he was signed to Cash Money Records by the label's co-founder himself, Birdman. Rich appeared on the 2018 track "Elevate," from the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, alongside big names like DJ Khalil, Denzel Curry and Cordae. But while he's worked with national and international acts, Rich's personal discography is proof that rappers don't always need features as extra support. Besides the occasional guest verse from a fellow Denver artist (Kayla Rae, Kid Astronaut, TheyCallHimAP), Rich prefers to shine on his own. Seven years after his debut album, he's as bright as ever.
DNA Picasso, aka Devin Arnold, is the king of the collab. Born in New York and raised in L.A. before coming to Colorado in his high school years, DNA Picasso infuses bi-coastal flavors into all his projects. Although he can more than hold his own on solo tracks, he specializes in bringing together the best and brightest artists and producers to create symbiotic musical magic — so much so that he created his own label, Picasso Gvng Records, consisting of eight Denver-based artists and twelve producers from around the world. The whole team united for a namesake collaboration album released in February, which also boasts features from other Denver artists like Rachel Bailey. It's a boisterous, raucous party from beginning to end, with DNA Picasso leading the charge.
The freshest face on this list, 23-year-old ReSrface, aka Jesse Santana, is a powerhouse in the making. Despite his age, ReSrface's music has a refined sound and a mature point of view, perhaps as a result of his having survived T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year. A jack-of-all-trades, he makes most of his own beats, shoots and edits his own videos, does his own arranging, mixing and mastering, and even makes his own album art. After dropping his second album in May, the wildly impressive Virginia Place, he recently released the single "I Believe," with rich, orchestral instrumentals reminiscent of Kanye's early productions. Raised in Montbello and Aurora, ReSrface is a true homegrown gem, and a good omen for the future of Denver's DIY hip-hop scene.
They say the devil works hard, but TheyCallHimAP, aka Anthony Porch, probably works harder. Few artists can match the consistency and sheer volume of his discography, as he's pretty much released at least one album a year since his debut in 2014 (with the exception of 2015). Last fall he dropped Big Homie 2, with a whopping 33 songs, then followed that up with a deluxe version in 2021, which included 22 more unreleased tracks. You might think that producing large quantities of music means sacrificing quality, but AP doesn't miss. His latest drop, "White Tees" featuring Tana 10 Birdz, is a club-ready classic with a hook we dare you not to belt.
Born in Haiti before coming to Denver by way of Orlando, Florida, Schama Noel is the definition of one to watch. Since kicking off his career in Dubai in 2015, Noel has maintained an international following, poetically voicing the universal frustrations of a generation and sticking to his conviction to avoid explicit lyrics. He's a Christian whose conscious, blues-tinged rap transcends religion, rejecting the shock value of crass language in favor of clever, incisive jabs. Despite Noel's having founded the viral Twitter account @RapLike, where he writes verses in the style of other famous rap artists, his literal and artistic voices are both unmistakable and unique.
Old Man Saxon
The joy, panache and swagger that Old Man Saxon, aka Saxon Kincy, brings to the stage is infectious, and his music is no different. In 2019, the Denver native garnered national attention when he appeared as a contestant on the Netflix hip-hop talent search Rhythm + Flow, becoming an instant favorite with both the fans and judges, and even prompting production to consult a legal team to avoid eliminating him (unfortunately, he was beat out by the competition's overall winner, D Smoke). With his trademark dapper suit, jazz and funk influences and playful smirk, Old Man Saxon is a throwback to the cheerful bravado of ’80s MCs. On his latest release, the eleven-track Rothkos, Chicken and Waffles (released June 18), Saxon plays up his old-school persona with brass-laced instrumentals, funky bass lines and an exciting, ever-changing flow.
Who are your favorite Denver rappers? Let us know at [email protected]