junglepussy sounds off on self-love and strong women
The New York-based rapper returns with an explosive second full length, ‘Pregnant with Success.’
Junglepussy is a rapper, but I'd like her to be my life coach. When we meet, the 24-year-old Brooklyn native has just returned from Miami Art Week, but unpacking has taken a little longer than expected. She's been rehearsing for Dev Hynes' benefit at the historic Apollo Theater -- where she performed two sets alongside Solange and Nelly Furtado this weekend -- and prepping for the seminar she delivered at Columbia University just two days prior to the sold out shows. Its topic? Her journey towards healthier decisions. During earlier promo outings for her recently released sophomore album Pregnant with Success, she gifted journalists with fresh squeezed juice -- an elixir blending orange, pineapple, carrot, and ginger. "One sip to success," the custom cups read.
"It's so easy to just lay in bed, put your phone on airplane mode, roll over, and be done with everybody. So anyone who has the strength to get up, go out into the world and do their thing is so inspiring to me," the rapper, born Shayna McHale, enthuses. Pregnant With Success' sharp-witted lyrics see similar celebrations of self love and sex positivity, balancing humorous jabs about wack ass dudes with declarations of true independence like, "I was fuckin' with me when you wasn't." "Loving yourself is a full time job," she explains. I wonder if she's hiring.
How did you get started on this album?
This time last year, it was about six months after my first project had been released and I was feeling so empty. I had all these sounds in my head and emotions I wanted to express, but I just continued to go through life, always keeping them in the back of my mind, processing how I wanted the next project to take shape. Right after last Christmas, I went to LA for about 10 days by myself. While I was there, I was just chilling, writing, and thinking of ideas -- I hit up [producer] Shy-Guy to ask for his hottest shit! After I got back from Cali, I've just been in the studio putting in work ever since.
Let's talk lyrics. In Dear Diary, there's a challenge to how social media has morphed into a gage of self worth.
There's a lot of fantasy-based lyrics in "Dear Diary," like wanting to see a Vine of FeFe Dobson twerking. But in reality, social media has become such a huge part of our lives. Through my musical journey, I've become more aware of the effects of it on people's behavior. It's become something that I like to address in my music because it's relevant, and probably always will be...until we lose wi-fi worldwide.
People would flip the fuck out!
We would all eat each other.
What's your own social media use like?
When we're feeling something, we're inclined to just go straight to Twitter and tell all these people who don't really know or care about us. I've decided to get it out elsewhere first. I'll walk down the street straight venting into my Voice Notes, or write my feelings down in a notebook. It feels sooo much better.
Where did the record's title, Pregnant with Success, come from?
It's an ode to mothers. In one sense, that means not putting shame to women who are having babies. More abstractly: our mothers didn't know they were going to give birth to talented daughters, but they still chose to have us and raise us. So it's about not knowing the future, but still just believing and hoping and being optimistic about it -- making good decisions now that could affect your future. And if I'm not expressing my emotions I feel empty. When I create, I feel so full, so... pregnant!
Yours is metaphoric, but pregnancy is a pretty timely notion considering just how intense debates concerning women's rights have been this year. From where you're sitting, what does it mean to be a woman in 2015?
We're still up against so much, but now there's far more awareness, conversation, and focus. If someone does something offensive to women, they'll be called out -- and that's powerful. Growing up, I guess I was just young and silly, but I didn't really see that conversation happening. Even things like domestic violence would be reduced to a woman's personal issue or a segment on Oprah or Ricki Lake. Now, I feel like that same woman has the means to tell her story in her own words. Through social media and blogs, oppressed parties are becoming more able to voice exactly how we feel without a middleman or filler. It's moving away from victimisation towards ownership and awareness. I choose to do it through my music, but there are so many strong women out there on the front lines defending women's rights.
You appeared in Dev Hynes' Sandra's Smile video. How does creative community factor into your life and your work?
I have friends I've grown up with who want to become lawyers and doctors and are killing it, but it's so important to me to build relationships with fellow artists because we really have to support each other. It's hard out there! Everyone wants to critique art or pit creative people against each other, but when you really look at things, that takes us nowhere. It's important to me to be a real, supportive friend. That's how I'm able to do things with Dev like videos or songs or concerts; it's natural now because we're actually friends. I'm not here for the, 'you're cool and you do this so be around me.' I love to grow with people as friends first and to see where creative collaboration goes from there. Community is so special because it's powerful.
Recently, you spoke at Yale about a wide range of topics, but one lesson I came away with is that "it's a full time job loving yourself."
The decision to want more for yourself, to think greater things and put yourself in better situations, is not an easy one to make. It's very important to see that as a job; to see every moment -- every experience -- as something that's gonna lead you to your full potential. You've gotta take care of yourself! Who else will?
What's most exciting to you about the future?
In 2016, I'm just excited to continue to share my gifts and my words and my experiences. Satisfaction Guaranteed was my first hand at trying music, so I feel like Pregnant with Success is more true to myself in a way. I'm excited to see what else I can create!
Text Emily Manning
Photography Zachary Chick