Growing up in South Central, Los Angeles, Jayy Starr wasn’t interested in gang life. Instead, she chose to focus her vision on fresh, artistic pursuits.

These days, Jayy Starr is rapidly carving out her own piece of the rap game, but she’s giving her audience more than just fiery bangers. As an artist working with the brand Fresh Empire, which promotes living tobacco-free, Jayy Starr is a self-titled D.E.M.I. Goddess (Devoting Every Moment to Inspire).

While she certainly fuels her hip-hop fire by dropping club anthems with Dizzy Wright and Brick Squad’s Joe Moses, she’s also committing her life and career to shifting societal perspectives and preaching positivity.

We got to know the budding MC, who told us all about her start in the industry, sources of her positivity, and the game-changing legacy she hopes to leave on her own generation.

What aspects of South Central, Los Angeles, shaped who you are today?
Being in that environment. Seeing the heavy gang influence and seeing people controlled by drugs really put me off. I didn’t want to be involved with any of it. When you’re at a young age and you see people you love doing something, you think it’s something that’s OK to do. I was the complete opposite of that. I wanted to get myself and my family out of that environment, and it pushed me to be a leader and an individual.

Why did you start rapping?
My uncle started a record label, and they really wanted to make a change in our neighborhood. They would give scooters and toys to kids who had good report cards and things like that. I saw how much of a positive impact it had on our community, and I said, “I don’t want to do gang stuff. I want to focus on music.”

You said in a freestyle that youre trying to gain control and channel positive changes.What kinds of positive changes do you hope to make with your music?
I want to breed a generation of thinkers. I want people to follow their own hearts. It’s so easy now for our generation to be influenced to do dumb stuff, and we see that through social media every day. I want everybody to know that instead of “marching with the penguins,” like I said on my song “Dragonflies,” you can fly like a dragonfly, be yourself, and do great things. People will see that and take note of it, which will inspire them to do their own great things.

You call yourself the D.E.M.I Goddess. How are you hoping to inspire your audience?
I want to inspire people to chase their dreams. It’s easy for people to tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to accomplish certain things, being where you are now or where you came from. I’m a living testimony that you can accomplish everything that you put your mind to. I want to inspire people to pay it forward, and to serve positivity in your neighborhood and be nice to random people.

Are there any particular sources of that positivity?
My grandmother and my grandfather for sure. They showed me to push forward, to keep family first, and to keep my faith.

How did your relationship with Fresh Empire come to be?
They actually found me via Twitter.

What connection do you have with their message?
My grandfather passed of lung cancer, which hit my family really hard. This campaign is trying to teach kids that there’s another way to go. We’re trying to keep people alive. Don’t cut your life short for a cigarette. That’s ridiculous.

Youve been rapping since you were really young. In your eyes, how have you seen yourself grow as an artist?
Lyrically. When I first started, I was trash. I actually cringe when I listen to my old music. Now, I’m more conscious about what I put out. Now, I’m putting out what’s real and what’s near and dear to me. Whether it’s my story or a story I know from someone else, it’s the truth.

How are you carving out your own voice and differentiating yourself from the rest?
I’m not a one-trick pony. I definitely love music; that’s my passion. But, I want to use the music as a stepping-stone to make some change in the world. As cliché and corny as that may sound, I just really want to change the way society thinks. I want everybody to win.

What have you been working on?
We dropped a video for “Oowee” featuring Joe Moses. The video’s super West Coast. I dropped a new mixtape called South Centralized, which is really my first West Coast-based mixtape.