2X — real name Leah Goss — has put her best foot forward on her debut record, 2 Sides 2 the Story. The beats, timing, verses and production all point to an artist with a clear and distinct sound in mind — a rarity for someone relatively new to the scene.
From eagerly announcing her arrival to the hip-hop game in the song “Living Over Hate” to bombastically proclaiming her love for piling up cash in the song “Cake” to the boastful “21,” Goss already has a solid grasp on what is expected of a new hip-hop artist, and she's leaning into the persona.
But performance is nothing new for Goss. Nor is the limelight. While growing up in Denver, she attended the Denver School of the Arts as a vocal major, sang with the Colorado Symphony for a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at age thirteen, sang the national anthem at a Denver Nuggets game, and even performed with the children’s professional acting company Kidskits.
She’s also the stepdaughter of Colorado sports hall-of-fame inductee Ralph Simpson and stepsister of Grammy Award-winning neo-soul artist India.Arie, making for an uncommonly talented family tree.
“Leah has been singing ever since I can remember — age five to now,” says Simpson. “Hardly a day went by when she was a child that she wasn’t humming or voicing a Myrna Summers ‘Faith Is the Substance’ or a Whitney Houston ‘I Will Always Love You.’ I remember after watching Titanic, she began singing ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ hitting every note.”
But before she officially began pursuing a music career in adulthood, Goss needed to gain some perspective on the good and the bad of life firsthand. She worked to find her voice, both as a person and as an artist, before figuring out how to put all the pieces together.
“I wanted to make sure that I was able to handle the pressure and dedication it takes to become a true rap artist,” says Goss. “As a rapper, I have a message and role to play. I felt like I needed the life experiences — such as being an inner-city teen, married, in love, having children, being a military wife, and heartbreak."
She adds, “I also learned a lot from watching my sister and her journey.”
Goss’s extensive music and performance background is impressive, but it also prompts the question: Why would she start at the bottom as a Denver rapper when she already had success as a singer? The answer: She doesn’t see making hip-hop music today as a huge departure from her background. She sees hip-hop as an outlet to cleanly merge all of her talents into a single, cohesive artistic vision, and she’s already proven to be a good rapper who can sell her brand via social media.
“I’ve done so many different types of genres of music that I just felt like it was just fun, fresh, and it was a way that I can express myself in a manner that I know can be heard and not drowned out by other things,” says Goss. “It’s really exciting to see all the other avenues I can get into through hip-hop. I just love it.
“For me, I just want listeners to understand that creativity is important, and to be able to express yourself in whatever genre that you play a role in," she says. "You can hear rap in my music, you can hear jazz in my music, you can hear rock. I want people to be able to have that ideology: It’s okay to be a rapper and still have a rock beat behind you.”
Goss describes herself as something close to a perfectionist, but has had to settle for doing her best with the opportunities given.
“Being a newcomer to the music industry, it’s a lot about drive and work and grinding and trying to do everything you can to get people to hear your music and be interested in everything that you do," she says. "It’s just work, work, work.”
But having a hip-hop career in a city she and her family call home is certainly not the worst outcome possible.
“I feel like a lot of Denver people love to go see independent artists,” says Goss. “Whether they be hip-hop, R&B, rock, jazz — they just love to come see the new genres of music and what the artists can bring to the table.”
“Denver is a city most people think you cannot come out of," she says. "People will be like, ‘Oh, no. Don’t do your music in Denver. Why aren’t you in New York with your sister? Why aren’t you in Atlanta? Or California?’
“I’m like, no," she says. "I can do all my recordings here. I can base everything from Denver.”
Valentine Vibes, hosted by Jimmy Abeyta, with DJ Jon Blaze, Damon Lucero, Lee Lee 2X, Luckyboi, GBlink, Loe Loe, Larry Legend and Ro' Mello, 8 p.m. Friday, February 15, The Hangover, 770 Sheridan Boulevard.