It’s a cloudy and gray summer Friday in New York City, but Junglepussy’s vibe is just right.
“It’s my favorite kind of weather,” says the 26-year-old rapper born Shayna McHayle, at home in her Brooklyn apartment. “I see that as even more reason to bring light and sunshine to whatever I’m doing.”
She approaches most things in life that way. Raunchy and emphatically real both in her music and her public image, the Brooklyn-born West Indian Junglepussy styles herself in exuberant tropical colors and patterns and changes her weave to match her mood, all while emanating a spiritual-guru level of self-assurance: It's the power of the Pussy.
Her first two projects, 2014’s Satisfaction Guaranteed and 2015’s Pregnant With Success, established her as a hilariously biting, bodacious beacon for sex positivity and female empowerment. It even earned her a fan in neo-soul goddess Erykah Badu. With her acclaimed third album, JP3, which dropped this past May and is being followed up by an 18-stop headlining North American tour, Junglepussy reaffirms her place as a standout indie-rap poet with a razor-sharp voice.
“The whole thing is real. The whole thing is me,” she declares of JP3. She's particularly proud of shifting from writing about the people who hurt her in the past to celebrating her sexuality and personal growth.
“I need to learn how to continue to do that," she says, admitting she tends to reflect and overthink. "I want to make the kind of music that lifts spirits and just lifts your vibe and reminds you of your awesomeness.”
In the two-and-a-half-year span between her last two records, Junglepussy toured with Le1f and across Europe, wrote music, and accepted an invite to lecture at Yale, where she presented the open-format Q&A “Self Love. Bodacious Rap.” A former student at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, she also walked in shows for DKNY, appeared on the cover of a Barney’s catalogue, and most recently made her feature film debut acting alongside Regina Hall in the comedy Support the Girls, which hit theaters last month.
For a woman who thrives when taking the creative lead, it was a new challenge to relinquish control of visuals for “All of You,” a funkier bit taken from JP3. Rather than work the treatment and do the styling herself, she handed the reins to heavyweight hip-hop video director Va$htie, who created a grainy black-and-white clip that strips Junglepussy down to her bare elements.
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“Va$htie was just like, ‘I want you to just be you — posing, beautiful, in simple clothing — and that's it. We want you to just be,’" she recalls. "And I was like, ‘What? I have looks!' I was going to pull this, this, and that, and that and that. But it was cool to pull back and let me just shine forth.”
Despite her wry, jubilantly empowered bars and “pussy-muscle hustle,” not all of Junglepussy’s female collabs have ended as well. About a year ago, in the thick of developing initial visuals for the then-untitled new project, Junglepussy connected with a videographer who ultimately abandoned her without completing the work.
“I’m still just so stunned that this woman came and just stole my money,” says the artist, who continues to self-fund much of her work. She bounced back (“I really don't know how I did, but thank God I did.”) And even though she’s still on the fence about outing the deadbeat videographer, it's more likely Junglepussy will continue shining her own light and letting karma handle the rest.