Kelela and Junglepussy: In Conversation

Kelela and Junglepussy: In Conversation

As Told To Michael Love Michael

For our new digital cover series Takeover, we chose five of our favorite women who're making a significant impact on the music industry right now. Kelela, the experimental R&B musician, is influencing queer culture and beyond with a futuristic aesthetic and collaborative spirit as heard on her new remix album, Take Me A_Part. Today, she'll be taking over PAPER with guest edited pieces and appearing on our Instagram.

Related | Kelela Is Risen

Below, Kelela interviews Junglepussy, the fiery New York-bred rapper who contributed a verse to the remix of "LMK (What's Really Good)" off Take Me A_Part.

Kelela: Thank you for your contribution to Take Me A_Part, The Remixes. How did you receive and interpret "LMK"? What kind of energy did you hope to bring to this track?

Junglepussy: "LMK" is the kind of song anyone can relate to because people are always fronting. In situations like those I prefer to do the total opposite — let's keep it real. I made sure my verse reminds you of the silly things people value versus acting like I'm not everything and more.

Who are you loving who is up-and-coming from NYC right now? Can you tell us about your experience growing up in New York as a young artist?

I suck at these kind of questions; I know there's amazing talent out here because that's how we do, but I'm always so in my world. Growing up in NY was sensory overload, surrounded by culture and awesomeness in excess, and I sucked it all up like a young sponge should. I was born and raised in one of the most important and sought after cities in the world, there are no true disadvantages to living here.

You've taken your skills as a performer into acting, starring in Support the Girls alongside Regina Hall. What did you learn or gain from that experience? have you always had the ambition to act or is it a more recent development?

I noticed gifts inside me that went unopened. I learned how limitless I am, and began to respect my power. I always knew there was more of me to share than writing and music — sometimes other people realize that too, give me an opportunity, and help manifest what I thought all along. I'm looking forward to a long acting career; I collect the 2018 "Actor of the Year" award this weekend at Indie Film Festival.

"While some get away with racial ambiguity, I find success by putting my blackness in your face just the way it is."

I'm really affected by your presence on the Internet. Your boldness gives me life. Can you tell me where you think that comes from? What are the things you feel comfortable speaking out on and what are the things that you find harder to share?

I think it comes from my overall purpose, to simply share myself authentically and inspire others to keep their individuality alive. That's not easy for me because I've always been poppin' but the way things are set up now you kind of have to show people who you are or constantly remind them. It's weird, but I see through it. I'm teaching people parts about me that my friends and family already know and love.

What has your experience been like navigating the music business and now the film world as a brown-skinned black woman? What do you do to make sure you are seen and heard?

My experience needs an interview of its own, actually, an entire film — not only am I not light skin, but my name screams "black woman" without saying it. While some get away with racial ambiguity, I find success by putting my blackness in your face just the way it is.

You once spoke about how Brandy's iconic Moesha character inspired you to understand that "as Black women we contain multitudes; we can love how we look as much as we love our minds." Who else do you look to for reminders of that power? Who do you consider your mentors?

Moesha for life! I'm constantly filling my mind with visuals, interviews, and stories of black artists of many mediums. They relax me; I need to know that I'm not alone and the paths of those who came before light the way. I'd like real life mentorship, but I'll take the mystery of gathering these clues and figuring it out my own way.

Listen to Kelela's Take Me A_Part, The Remixes, below.

Photography: James Emmerman for PAPER