Part rapper, part storyteller and part motivational speaker, Jay Triiiple, aka Alyssa Taylor, is a force in Denver's hip-hop scene.
Growing up in Decatur, Illinois, before moving to Colorado at age fifteen, Taylor got into music because of her passion for writing. "I always liked to write. I've been a writer since I was maybe eight, writing stories and poetry, books, just writing down my feelings," she says.
Her first foray into music was through casual freestyles with her cousin, which quickly gave way to carefully crafted lyrics. Early on, Taylor was drawn to East Coast rap's emphasis on narrative. Now in her late twenties, she counts giants like Biggie, Nas and Jay-Z among her greatest influences.
"To me, that's what's so dope about hip-hop, and I think that's why I fell in love with it — because I see another way to express myself creatively and tell stories, to actually put my voice to what I was writing," she explains.
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When it comes to describing her own musical style, Taylor is hesitant to lock herself into any particular sound: "Honestly, I think I'm still finding it. I hear a lot of people tell me that I make 'conscious music.' I guess I say a lot of positive things in my music. I do talk a lot about the awareness that I do have in a particular moment in my life, and I'm always reflecting on where I am and where I want to go. It's a lot of storytelling, and I like to do a lot of wordplay and have a lot of fun, but I don't really know the word for it yet. I just like to make music that's fun to me — express myself however I can."
Her love of clever wordplay and desire for spiritual awareness led to her rap moniker: "J is my middle initial. That's a part of my name. And Triple is a high school nickname. But where the three I's come from: I always say I aspire to be on my third-eye shit. I feel like I'm always just trying to be my higher self and learn who my higher self is. And it just helps remind me that life is a journey and not a destination. I still have more things to learn about myself, more things to see about myself."
Growth, self-discovery and self-acceptance are the driving forces behind Taylor's latest album, Change Over Dollars. The ten-track project, released last fall, is a rallying cry for a battle that starts within — whereas her previous album, Who's Triiiple?, focused on the rapper's personal struggles with depression and self-doubt. In Change Over Dollars, Taylor introduces us to a new Jay Triiiple, one who is at peace with being a work in progress.
"The music is going to sound different because I'm different," she says of the new album. "I was really going through something, and I felt like I needed to express it with the gifts that God gave me instead of just lashing out or just falling down and choosing to let life get to me. I wrote whatever I wanted, with no restriction."
With tracks like the Keenan Trevon-assisted "Tell the Money," Taylor proves that she is hungrier than ever and ready to take on the world with a positive outlook. "I make music for myself, but for other people, too, who I feel like need the same things that I need. I really have been realizing that anything I want in life, it all starts within," she says. "So far, since the project, I've been going through that journey and having to make changes in my mindset in order to get the 'dollars' — the things that I value in my life. I have to make that change in me."
Taylor's self-actualization has pushed her to take more risks with her art. "It's really inspired me to be more courageous, fearless, to get rid of the doubt in myself if I want to see what I want to have — which is, I want people to enjoy all types of music that I create, all the different sounds that I have and everything I have to offer. But that means getting rid of that fear."
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Her next project is already in the works, and Taylor says it may be surprising. These days she feels free to experiment with her sound rather than bowing to expectations.
Although Taylor is an openly gay female rapper — somewhat of a rarity in the hip-hop world — she resists those bubbles and the assumptions that accompany them.
"I feel like the hip-hop scene has been more accepting to me because I don't put those labels on myself," she says. "I just say I'm here, this is what I do, this is who I am, and I'm here to tell my truth. I've faced B.S. because I'm a female or because I'm gay, but it is what it is. You can't deny what I'm doing — and I say that in the most humble way possible. I just know what's for me is for me. No type of label or discrimination people put against you can stop you if you have a mission."
Jay Triiiple will perform alongside Jakob Campbell, Taurean, Brendan Doyle, D-Trait and Neon Sines at DreamisGrind Production's Kush Groove show at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox at 9 p.m. on Thursday, January 23. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 on the day of the show, or $25 for reserved seating.
Listen to Jay Triiiple and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.