She saunters onto the stage, Junglepussy in full form. “Bling-bling bitch, do my own thing bitch/Fuck a wedding ring that ding-a-ling was just a fling, bitch,” she raps, her tall Afro and the fringe on her skirt moving with her as she makes her way across the platform. “Wake up, li’l bitches, lemme show you how to live/Hair done, nails done, keep everything did.”
She gesticulates throughout her set, pointing to her hands, her head, her body, acting the lyrics out. Between songs, her DJ plays throwbacks — Crazy Town’s “Butterfly,” 702’s “Where My Girls At,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” — and JP dances freely, a big smile plastered on her face. She’s unabashed, unafraid.
During her set, her DJ continues spinning while she takes a break to eat what look like grape tomatoes. That’s Junglepussy for you: brazen and cheeky; fearless in her realness; unpredictable beyond those attributes. She covers a lot of ground in her music, including sex, health, self-love, style, religion, and female empowerment. “It’s a full time job fuckin’ loving yourself/Niggas try to rob a bitch for her self-worth and her mental health,” she continues rapping in her track “Bling Bling.”
The 23-year-old native East New Yorker — born Shayna McHayle to a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father — is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her debut album, Satisfaction Guaranteed, on June 10, an album that she “made for [herself], to just put something out there that expresses how [she] felt at the moment, as a young black woman growing up in New York.” It was also something for her to prove to herself — creatively and professionally — that she can follow through with a project from start to finish.
Indeed, JP has zero hesitation about being herself, but now she’s attempting to do things a bit differently. Her newest song — “You Don’t Know,” released on June 2 — is part of her upcoming project and a testament to doing shit differently and revealing more than just a glimpse of herself to her listeners. Even though she (and you) might think she’s sharing a lot, she’s not even “letting you guys peel back a layer yet.”
“When you really look and read these things [online], I’m not really sharing that much with you,” she muses. “Like the song I just put out, ‘You Don’t Know.’ People are only going to show you what they wanna show you. And even with somebody, you could think they’re being themselves, but they’re just being who they wish to be.”
She has qualms with how people have perceived her persona and name on the internet. She doesn’t give her fans or haters much, but they certainly run with the little they’re offered. Sure, you could view the name Junglepussy as implicitly sexual — or you could take it on its surface as two words innocently strung together by a young girl who digs the jungle and animal prints. Das it.
“[My sophomore album] is helping me peel those layers back, and with my music, not on fucking Twitter,” she says.
From the early days of her YouTube channel — before rapping — Junglepussy was recording videos of her being herself. She has a video called “Booty Poppin’ Syndrome” about twerking, and another called “Why 2 Inch Nails Are Useful,” where she shows how to eat cantaloupe with long-ass fingernails, for when you’re too lazy to grab a fork.
Rapping was a natural and appropriate transition for her. It felt right, so she continued with it — and a lot of people felt a connection to her music, which became really special for her. She even got an endorsement from the First Lady of Neo-Soul herself, Erykah Badu, who said she likes JP’s music. That’s a monumental achievement for her (or any artist), and motivation to keep going and to keep doing her best.
“The passion is just growing, my flame is just getting hotter….Life happens, that’s where the music comes from. It’s just not me making imaginary stories, so the things I’m going through, the experiences, the feelings, everything is just way more heightened and passionate. I’m just making more beautiful art,” she says.
JP will always attribute her music and persona to her humanity, to her complexities and those layers that will soon be uncovered. Rather than focusing on one aspect of her life, she attempts to lay bare many parts of herself — to give all of herself to you. Yet, while she has attempted in the past to truly reveal herself, she recognizes that it might not have been enough. Most of the things she tweets, says, or raps are only fragments, only a few thoughts here and there that she divulges to us.
And that’s part of her journey: learning how, and what, to share with the world, and understanding that her life is now public. “Hopefully by me just being me, people will just see that it’s just me being me…I’m so open to learning and growing. I’m just here, I’m living life, I’m on this journey,” she says. “The only difference is that people get to learn and say things in their private lives. It just so happens that my life or the things I wanna say and my thoughts — when they’re thought or shared on the internet — it’s just, like, blown up. So my life’s journey is just like I’m growing publicly. Other people have the luxury to grow privately and to make mistakes and to learn and no one knows about it. Whatever, everybody’s going to see my mistakes and I’m gonna grow and continue to evolve and be me.”
Junglepussy is exactly the same in person as she is on her records: Not only does she rap about not giving a fuck, but she exudes it. She finds freedom in her intricacies.
“Even the weather in New York is just like the best example for it,” she says with a laugh. “Living in New York, I feel I’m so in tune with the weather where I’m a meteorologist. When it changes, I feel changes in my body….And I’m like, if the earth can feel this way, I’m unapologetic. I don’t feel bad feeling these feelings that I feel, no matter how contradicting or complex they are. It’s life and I’m not going to ignore it, I’m not going to be ashamed of it. Hopefully people can, you know, handle it.”