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NYC rapper Junglepussy is here to remind you to love yourself

The multi-dimensional artist talks her raw new single, laughing through pain, and being ‘too woke for her own good’

Junglepussy has been up all night painting. When we speak on the phone in late January, the rapper is preparing to drop her sharp-tongued new single “State of the Union”, a grandiose address to her fans and haters – and if her wry bars weren’t personal enough, she wants to make it even more so by creating her artwork by hand.

Imbuing everything with her own touch is the key to Junglepussy’s success. Her upcoming third album, which is yet to be formally named or announced, is the Brooklyn native’s favourite yet, because she feels like it’s her most genuine. “It’s just really being my truest self,” she enthuses. “These songs are like, songs that I’ve just always heard for myself, vibes that I always knew were just true to who I am. Finally, I’m able to express it.” Following on from her skit-filled 2015 release Pregnant With Success, the new music may have a raw, unfiltered voice, but it’s still full of those rib-poking punchlines. There’s vulnerability in the truth of Junglepussy’s music, and strength in its belly laughs. We spoke about finding confidence, humour, self-love, and the will to make music in a post-Trump era.

Tell us about ‘State of the Union’.

Junglepussy: That song is literally just what's been going on in the house! It really should have been called ‘State of the Pussy’. It’s basically the trailer to the project; it’s me addressing the people. I'm here, I'm ready.

What’s been happening in your life since you released Pregnant with Success in 2015?

Junglepussy: So many amazing things. I'm in this movie called Support the Girls that just got picked up for a SXSW premiere next month. After doing my music videos, I was like, ‘Wow, I can really turn this thing on, I want to be an actor.’ Then magically, the universe just put this director (Andrew Bujalski) in my inbox, and the rest is history. I was able to shoot the cover of Barney’s catalogue. I spoke at Yale and Columbia University and those are Ivy League schools – I just went to fashion city college in New York. Just a lot of amazing opportunities.

I know it’s only been since 2015, but it feels like it’s a decade ago, because I’ve learned so much about myself. I have been led into so many situations that have forced me to want better for myself. All I’ve been doing is just navigating these spaces that try to not give me what I deserve, try to make me settle, and I don’t like it. A lot of my music is just me loving all that I am, and me not complaining about those who hurt me, because that’s not fun to perform all the time. So the new music is just really going in a direction that I wanna go, that’s gonna further my self-growth, and be better than it was last time in the sense of just loving yourself.

What kind of situations were these, where people tried to make you settle?

Junglepussy: For me, it’s like I already know they don’t wanna give me anything big. The institutions, they see my name, Junglepussy, and they think I’m a hooligan, but I’m just who I am. (As) a young black girl, they’re gonna say, ‘Oh, she’s lucky she’s even here, she’s lucky we even wanna hear from her.’ And like, people try to tell me that I should be this one way, or be this way, and I’m just like, ‘That’s because you think you know what I am supposed to be, as a young black woman.’ So my music and my advancement and my growth all of that is just showing them, ‘You thought you knew, but you didn't know.’ I am much more than Junglepussy, I am much more than a black woman. I am so much, so many things.

Most of your songs start out as voice notes that you make to yourself. What kind of things you were making voice notes about over the past year – what’s been on your mind?

Junglepussy: So many things. Family, the state of the world, just being blessed with these gifts. Then knowing there's so much trouble in the world – that is like the hardest thing, you know? I beat up on myself a lot. Like, music is important, but I still know that this world is just so vast, and there’s so many things going on other than Junglepussy, and I never wanna get lost in what I'm doing. I know it could change people, as Tupac said, ‘Spark the brain that's gonna change the world.’ But, I don’t know. I'm sometimes too woke for my own good.

Did you feel that as a pressure to write about political issues?

Junglepussy: Yeah, there definitely is a pressure – and there's also a pressure for me to talk about my pussy all day. Like people want both. That was hard for me, because after Pregnant With Success came out, so many things happened in the black community, and I felt it so deeply. I was so messed up, and just sad for so long – and I didn’t wanna express that, because I didn’t wanna put it on a song and be like, ‘Hey look at me! Listen to me!’ during our time of pain. I didn’t wanna take advantage of black people’s struggles – like, I’m actually living it. I’m feeling it with you, that’s the kind of person I am, I’m not gonna take advantage of your pain and try to get you to like me. I don’t think it is my responsibility to teach people how to treat black people. I will definitely, definitely speak my mind about things when I want to, but I never wanted it to be my responsibility to be that. I just want my existence to be the response.

“Black women are tired. Like, we have to do so much, and you really want me to tell you how to treat me like a decent human being? No!” – Junglepussy

That reminds me of something that Kelela said in a Pitchfork interview last year before her album came out – how for a while she felt like she should be writing more overtly about her politics, but she was writing more about her experience. But then she came to terms with like, that's her way of being radical – being vulnerable and honest. Did you have a similar experience, and find the political in the personal?

Junglepussy: Yeah, because black women are tired. Like, we have to do so much, and you really want me to tell you how to treat me like a decent human being? No! I’m not gonna let my career (be dictated by) that, especially my art. I want it to be a reflection of my excellence. I don’t wanna ignore the pain and the hurt, but this is for me. I grieve when I grieve, and I'm in pain when I'm in pain, but when it comes to my music… Imma do it with it what I want!

You tweeted recently that you're often surprised by how extroverted you are. Where do you draw your confidence and self-belief from?

Junglepussy: Growing up, I was always super introverted. I’m just not one to be out there for no reason. My awesomeness is strictly for my family and friends – and everyone that follows me on the internet and sees what I decide to share. With Junglepussy, people are always like, ‘Is it an alter-ego?’ (Myself and Junglepussy are) very much one and the same. My true self, is just a nice fluffy ball of yarn, and Junglepussy is a beautiful knitted sweater. Because people only see my one side. That’s why with this new music, I’m really excited because you get to see my introvertedness and my extrovertedness. It’s just all coexisting. I’m a really private person. It’s hard in this day and age, where everyone wants to feel like they know you, and everything is so hypervisible. It’s important to me to really keep a large chunk of myself to myself.

Your Twitter makes me laugh out loud. What was the last thing that made you really laugh? 

Junglepussy: Oh my God… are you kidding me? Me! I make myself laugh, not even being funny. Even when I’m in my apartment by myself, I’m just cracking up with myself, and then sometimes I’m like, ‘Alright, let me share this with the world! Let me make a little video for you guys,’ because this is so unfair. I’m like, this should be illegal for me to be able to entertain myself the way I do. But from when I was a little girl, I remember staying in my room at my mom’s house, like, there’s nothing I have to leave my room for. I was really into painting, and just making myself laugh, entertaining myself. When I go on the internet and look at funny videos, I get even more excited, ‘cause the world is just filled with so many funny people. I’m grateful for them, because laughter really is healing. I think music and laughter are all people need to survive… just kidding. But I really do think between music and laughter and your veggies, you’re good to go.

Get tickets for Junglepussy's upcoming European tour here