Music Industry

INSPIRED: Rapper Jayy Starr Talks Family, Hip Hop, Coming Out and More

15 minute read |

Kristien Brada-Thompson

Raw, confident, smart and talented… Jayy Starr is the real deal. The South Central native is unapologetically herself – a force to be reckoned with and a promising young rapper who also happens to be out and proud. With her vocals the backdrop for mega-popular video game “Street Fighter 6,” she is a badass in all the right ways and is only really just getting started.

ALIBI began working Jayy just 3 years ago when she provided the topline for a track called

on our “Electro RnB” album. After getting a first-hand sample of her mad skills, we quickly enlisted her on a for the NBC hit series “The Endgame,” where she replaced the male vocals on an existing rap song. Things have taken off since then, with Jayy very likely to be part of the next installment of ALIBI’s high-demand “Epic Hip Hop” album series (more on that to come, so stay tuned!).

We recently got the opportunity to sit down with Jayy for a very cool dive into her musical journey, during which she opened up about her upbringing, start in music, coming out and the people who inspired her along the way. Read on for a bit of her fascinating story:

ALIBI: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We’ll dig right in. Can you tell us about your upbringing and where you came from?

Jayy: Well, I grew up in South Central. I was literally born on the cusp of the ‘90s. I'm an ‘89 baby, so I grew up in South Central in the ‘90s when it was like hard-hitting West Coast hip hop. Literally, the things that you would see in movies that are kind of positioned to tell the story of South Central in the ‘90s, I witnessed a lot of that stuff growing up as a kid. You could be outside playing on one side of the street and on the other side of the street there was somebody that you just said “hi” to in passing that would get murdered, literally in broad daylight on the other side of the street.

And my grandmother made it a point to keep me out of that sort of trouble, because if you didn't find something constructive to do, it was so easy to get wrapped up into that. She was a gospel singer, so she always wanted me to be in the choir and to follow her steps and sing. But I saw my uncles starting a hip hop label in our neighborhood, and I decided that I wanted to rap at like age 9, so I began rapping and just writing. I had always been a writer. Since kindergarten, I was always writing short stories and poems in competitions and things of that nature. But I didn't know what hip hop was truly until I was 9 years old, and I just fell in love with it from that moment. I just always wanted to sit on my porch and rap and make my own beats. And the older kids that were around my teenage sister's age would walk around and laugh at me as I was on the porch rapping until I started to get good. Then they started to pay me a little respect.

ALIBI: That leads right into our next question, how you actually got into rap and hip hop, and how you began to get your music out there.

Jayy: My grandmother… I say she was my hero, my best friend. Rest in peace. She played such an important part in who I am today as not only an artist, but a person. She just made sure I was always in programs that opened my eyes up to things outside of our neighborhood and gave me the viewpoint of knowing that, you know, there are bigger and better things out there, and the sky is literally the limit. I could do whatever it is that I set my heart out to do.

So, I told her (I'd say around age 14) that I wanted to be a rapper, that this was something I wanted to do with my life. You know, I was really gifted in school – a bit of a nerd, had good grades -- but I was like, school isn't really for me; I'm gonna stay in school because this is what you want me to do, but I wanna do music. I wanna be creative. So, she made sure that I met with her connections that were former executives or lawyers just so they could actually teach me the business before I got to the creative part because she always wanted me to be protected.

ALIBI: She sounds very supportive. Had she been supportive of you for everything else in your life?

Jayy: Absolutely. She was. She was there for studio sessions. When I would go on Craigslist and try to find a manager for music to manage me (and these guys were scammers, but I didn't know any better because I was so young), she was like, “Alright, you know, I'm a little bit leery about this, but I'm gonna go with you and I'm gonna take you to this meeting because you wanna go.”

And, at the end of the day, the guys would ask for money like, “Oh wait, you pay us $2,500 and we'll blow you up, turn you into a star.” We never paid. She just went along with it because she knew it was something that I wanted to do. And my very first show I remember vividly. She was sitting right there in the middle of the audience just cheering me on and smiling, and I take that vision of her and I take it everywhere I go – everywhere I perform.

ALIBI: Wow. She truly sounds like she was a wonderful human.

Jayy: She definitely was.

ALIBI: So, just touching on the fact that you're out and proud, when did you first realize that you were gay?

Jayy: Oh, my goodness. I'd say high school. I wanna say like, as a kid, you look at people and you don't really know what those feelings are. I was super young and I would look at teenage girls, and they were fully developed and I'm like, “Huh! If I was born a boy, I could date her.” I used to think that I had to be born a boy in order to date women, but in high school, I had a lot of guys that were attracted to me, so to say. You know, we like to say we had a roster. So, I had a roster of guys that wanted to date me, talk on the phone and things of that nature, but I just really did not feel attracted to them. Like, I felt nothing at all. And I was like, “These guys are cute and these girls are going crazy over these dudes, but this is not my cup of tea.” It wasn't until I probably met, I'd say my first girlfriend shortly after high school where I was like, “Oh, so THIS is why I didn't like men.”

So, I am very gay.

ALIBI: Is that basically when you came out?

Jayy: That's when I had a soft launch for my sexuality (laughs). I still was not sure how family and other friends would react to it, so I did keep it like kind of on the hush just because I didn't know how people would treat me after that.

My sister is actually a lesbian and she came out when she was a teenager. And I saw how my mother and people at the church kind of reacted to that. Thankfully, my mother ended up being okay with it once she understood it. And when I decided to come out to her in my adulthood, she was actually super supportive, and open and understanding to where, even today, she absolutely loves my wife. Like she LOVES her.

ALIBI: That's awesome. And was your grandmother around at the time as well?

Jayy: My grandmother was not around at the time that I actually came out. She passed away earlier due to colon cancer, and I was taking care of her up until that point. I was her caregiver, and it was so funny that she had asked me, she said, “Are you so angry because you are gay?” And I said, “Grandma, I'm not gay. What are you talking about?” No, but she knew. Oh, grandma knew for sure.

ALIBI: Has the hip hop community been supportive of you in coming out?

Jayy: Absolutely. I'd say early on, starting out on earlier projects, of course I felt like I had to appeal to heterosexuals. I had to be that female rapper that talked about, not so much explicitly being with guys because that definitely isn't my cup of tea. I like to be more lyrical and have purpose in my lyrics. But every project or so, I would put a love song on there and I felt like with my lyrics, in my head I'd be thinking about women, and on the audio, I’d have change “her” to “him” or “girl” to “guy” and kind of appeal to that crowd in order to be accepted in hip hop.

But after a while, I just say (and excuse my French), I just say F it. I don't care what people think. I am who I am and I'm gonna start writing what I can relate to. You either like it or you don't, but this is me. And I'd say that people kind of knew because, I mean, if you know, you know. They knew that I was a lesbian and I would have guys in the studio try to flirt with me and it's like, “Bro, like I'm not budging; get out of my face. I'm here to record. I'm a professional artist. Show me some respect.”

Like, they do that to any woman in hip hop and I hate that, but I just started to speak my truth in my music and just not give a damn -- truly just not give a damn about what people thought. If I was mentioning my wife or another girl or like, I love women. There's nothing more that I have to say about that. I'm not gonna argue with people about it. You know, I don't have any agenda. I’m just not afraid to be myself. I just wanna make good music that hip hop fans love and I so happen to like women.

ALIBI: That's awesome, and it doesn't seem like it's holding you back at all.

Jayy: Definitely not. Just last month, I actually performed at Amoeba in Hollywood. I did a live concert on behalf of “Street Fighter” because I'm a part of one of their theme songs for “Street Fighter 6” video games, and it was just an incredible concert, an incredible turnout. And, you know, so many people, so many fans just came up and showed love. It was a legendary moment. I even got to do my autograph on the door in the green room, so that was super cool.

ALIBI: What was it like working on “Street Fighter”?

Jayy: Definitely a dream come true. Growing up in South Central, I used to go to the local laundromat with my mom because we didn't have a unit inside the house. And at the laundromat, they had “Street Fighter 2” in the arcade cabinet. And as she was doing her laundry, I would ask for a couple spare quarters that she may have had and I would go and just dive into playing that game.

So, when I was actually reached out to by a man named Koyo who worked with Capcom and Street Fighter (he is the GOAT to me, just an incredible human being overall), I didn't know what it was about yet. He just said it was a top-secret song and, “Do you wanna be a part of it?” And I'm like, “Hell, yeah. I don't care what it is. I'm down to be a part of it.” So, once the NDA was signed, they were like, “This is for ‘Street Fighter 6’.” And I said, “You have to be kidding me!” This is a game that I grew up on as a kid. It was like serious competition in my living room with me and the kids in my neighborhood, my sister playing “Street Fighter,” and here I am now on the video game. It's just crazy. It's a full-circle moment for sure.

ALIBI: That is so awesome. How did you begin working with ALIBI?

Jayy: I actually started working with ALIBI through a mutual connection, Phoebe Danskin. Shout out to Phoebe! I worked with her on some cheerleading music. A lot of people don't know that the cheer music scene is really booming, and they make great songs similar to sync music, just for the cheer competitions. So, we started off on that and she kind of branched away from that and said, “Hey, Jayy, I have a project that I want you to work on with me and collaborate. This is for sync.” And I'd only had a few sync placements at that time.

But when Phoebe introduced me to JT and ALIBI, from there it kind of snowballed into something major to where now I have songs that I've done with ALIBI that are on WWE commercials. And, again, wrestling is something I grew up watching, and to have that and just so many cool opportunities with ALIBI has just been just absolutely amazing. I call JT my fairy godmother. Like, seriously, she is goated.

ALIBI: What’s your approach when you work on a new track? Do you have any favorite rituals or ways you like to get into the zone?

Jayy: When it comes to working on a new track, I really like to sort of drown myself in the sounds of the instrumental. I typically put my headphones on when doing this because it allows me to block out any outside noise while also allowing me to hear every single instrument, melody and "opportunity" within the beat. I find myself listening to a beat for hours, sometimes days if the deadline permits, before I dive into writing lyrics.

My questions are: How does the beat make me feel? What's the message I feel would serve this particular song? Who is the listener? I love laying scratch vocals in my voice notes that most times are only mumbled melodies and cadences in an incomprehensible, but familiar language many artists speak (lol), but later turn into the full songs that the fans hear. I feel like I step outside of myself when writing music and can turn one catchy line into a whole song within minutes if I really catch a good vibe with the track.

ALIBI: What would you say have been your favorite tracks for ALIBI that you can think of?

Jayy: Oh man. Off the top of my head, I'm going to say

. It's my favorite song that I've done for ALIBI.

ALIBI: Are you working on any new music for ALIBI right now?

Jayy: I actually did send a couple tracks that myself and GRP, who is one of the producers for “Street Fighter” are working on. We sent over a couple of tracks specifically for ALIBI, so we have some things in the works right now.

ALIBI: Cool. When you think about some of this music being used in the future, especially these two new ones that you talked about, what types of projects do you envision?

Jayy: Definitely some more epic sounding hip hop projects for one of the records, and then another record has like that punchy attitude pop sound. So, yeah, I could definitely see it on some hard-hitting commercials and movie trailers – just the whole nine.

ALIBI: Awesome! What would you say would be your top credits overall in this business?

Jayy: I'd say the highest right now for me would be the “Street Fighter 6” credit, as well as the WWE commercial with ALIBI. I had a Pepsi Black commercial for Pepsi Mexico that I did, and they actually reached out to me directly to do a song, so I have that. Most recently, I was featured in a song on the Netflix documentary,

. It was directed by Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, who's a great guy. We actually got to chat it up a little bit after that came out. And he's just so humble, so cool to be someone so accomplished.

I was also recently featured on the debut album of the dance/techno DJ producer, Innellea. I'm featured on his album, The Belonging. Our song is called

, and he actually played it live in Istanbul in front of a sea of people. There were thousands of people in the audience, and it was incredible to see. He posted it on his . He had reached out to me I wanna say early last year to collaborate, and I thought it was just a regular collaboration, and now here I am featured on his debut album and he's touring the world right now. He's a big deal!

So, yeah, I'd say those are my top credits right now.

ALIBI: And are you doing anything else exciting right now, career or otherwise that you'd like to share with the world?

Absolutely. I am trying my hand at fashion. You know, I've always had a love for my city, South Central, and for cars. I am a huge car girl. I go to the meets, I take my car, which is modified, out to the canyons all the time with the local car clubs. And my clothing line is called

or Driving Club for short, where I pretty much merge my love for the city I grew up in as well as my love for cars with unique designs that are geared towards that.

And there's a lot of people I don't even know personally that are from South Central and have been purchasing the merch since we launched only in mid-2023, around July. People have been supporting it like crazy when they come across it, and it's just been a wild ride with that. I have no fashion experience as far as owning my own line, but I'm just doing t-shirts and hoodies and it's been an incredible project.

ALIBI: Excellent. So, any advice for others that are maybe in your shoes following a similar path?

Jayy: I say the most important thing to do (and I mean, this has gotten me in so many rooms and it's given me so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities) is just being authentic. Most importantly, it’s honing your craft... like you have to practice this. It doesn't matter how good that you think you are. You can always be better, so always learn more and just forever be a student. That's one thing, like having that humility where it's like, “I don't know everything. I still have so much to learn and even if I feel like I've learned more than enough, there's more that I still can learn.”

That and just being good to people. It doesn't matter their status, what their job may be. I've been on some sets where I'm filming a commercial in the past and they have PAs that are waiting on me hand and foot, and I feel uncomfortable. I'm like, “I can go get my own Chinese chicken salad. You don't have to do it for me.”

But just showing respect to everyone that you encounter, even if they don't have what someone would consider a high status or stature. You don't know who people are. Just treat everyone with respect because the same people that you see on the way up, you will see on the way down. And you never know when you'll need them to extend their hand to you.

ALIBI: Very good words to live by. How can people follow your work?

Jayy: I can be found on Spotify under Jayy Starr and my website,

. I’m on Instagram under @JayyStarrMusic, Twitter/X under @JayyStarr, YouTube under @JayyStarr, and rebuilding my Facebook because I was hacked, but that’s under Jayy Starr as well.

Share Article: