(Photo by Luxx Photography)
There's something special about 22-year-old New York City rapper Junglepussy. For starters, she stands nearly six-feet-tall and sports a head of bleached dreadlocks and then there's also her polarizing stage name. But it's her presence -- refreshingly genuine and completely enchanting -- that explains why she's an artist on the rise. When we meet at a small Brooklyn coffee shop, a woman stops our interview to congratulate Junglepussy on her just-released debut album, Satisfaction Guaranteed. "I'm a big fan," she tells the artist, smiling. Shocked and wide-eyed, the rapper shyly squeals with her hands hiding her face, like a little girl being told she's pretty for the first time on the playground. But despite this display, the artist has no trouble showing off lyrical bravado on her new album and it's this combination of fiery confidence while staying grounded that's bound to get listeners hooked. We talked to the self-proclaimed "life artist" about living in a tent in her backyard while working on her debut album, her West Indian roots, and that time Erykah Badu made her cry.
How did you come up with the name Junglepussy?
The name came about very innocently. I was never thinking, "How can I scare everyone away from me and my music?" I feel like it's my universe-given name and it fit me at the time because I was in love with animal print on cups, curtains and clothes.
When did you first start making music?
In high school, I was in a rap group with some other friends and we would cut class and fucking freestyle off instrumentals in the science lab and get in trouble. One day, someone told us to do the talent show and my friends [performed], but I was being wack in the audience. Now, I'm the only one who does music.
Tell us about growing up in Brooklyn. How big of an influence is your parents' West Indian background?
My dad is from Jamaica and my mom is from Trinidad. Growing up, everything was West Indian. My grandparents lived right by my family, so I was always over there eating the food and I became so accustomed to the [West Indian] music and culture. Even though we had American amenities, our lifestyle felt very tropical. I didn't have a regular American breakfast until high school prom night when I had my first pancakes.
What was the recording process like for Satisfaction Guaranteed?
I started the project with a very close friend of mine named Mell Masters. I used to love and steal his music during MySpace days and I was looking for somebody to let me be free lyrically. So I would go to Harlem and record with him and that's when we started "Bling Bling" and "Want Sum Mo," which was just a funny freestyle track. But then Mell Masters had to go away to the other side of America, so I took [the project] to the producer Shy Guy and we just whipped it up and polished it. It's really a fusion between Mell Masters' and Shy Guy's sounds. It was magic seeing it all happen and now I'm in shock that it's done.
Which song off Satisfaction Guaranteed are you most proud of?
The bonus track, "Me." It was the last song I recorded, which you can tell because I say, "Rest in peace Maya Angelou." I felt like I really needed to give the people a piece of me -- something I could listen to when I'm happy or sad. I don't listen to that much hip-hop surprisingly -- just a lot of jazz and ambient sounds, so I wanted this song to come from the soul. I pitched a tent in my backyard and was out there for a week straight -- sleeping and eating -- and the songwriting process was long and had a lot of paper scraps. When it came to me I was just like, "If this is not my heart and soul, I don't know what is." It's me, right now.
What is your songwriting process like?
When I'm on the train, it's one of the most serene moments -- sometimes, if it's not fucking rush hour. But I get in that moment and just look at the buildings and the clouds passing by. My mind is free and the words just come to me. My feelings are racing and everything comes out like a fountain.
Who are you most influenced by?
Brandy definitely made me feel less alone. Growing up, I would see Brandy on Moesha and see her keeping in her cornrows and her braids, but still flourish in her art and music, looking fly. I loved Moesha as a child, but now I take away something more special from it. Just because you're a black girl, it doesn't mean you need to only care about hair and makeup. Brandy cared about books, culture and where she was going -- you can do both. Also, Erykah Badu is an angel to this earth. When she posted my first music video for "Cream Team" onto her Facebook and Twitter, I cried that day. I didn't expect her to know I existed, let alone respect what I'm doing enough to post it. But if anybody knew the truth they would know that I copy everything from my mother -- she's the best woman I know.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Resort back to your childhood state, not in the sense of being immature, but in the sense of remembering all the things that originally made you happy or sad. When you wanted something as a child, you'd cut it out, beg your parents and save your money. Children have such passion and the intentions are so pure. Sometimes when I stare at people, I imagine them as a child and see them shine so much brighter. I remember my childhood and feeling amazing, but then it gets dark. I guess that happened so I could see the light again, but I feel like that happens to everyone.