It’s a soggy Tuesday afternoon, and St. Anthony Hall has never looked so sexy. Ombré fades, skewered septa and birkenstocks abound. Indistinguishable rap music diffuses for a cool six seconds before a woman emerges from the room’s navel, in a lime green blazer bisected by a hunter green belt. The woman sitting in front of us with one leg crossed over the other, smiling and smizing, reminds me of Oswald, Coco Chanel and Erykah Badu, but she’s entirely her own woman: Junglepussy.
The female rapper (and I use the word “female” because this is central to her vision; she describes her first album, Satisfaction Guaranteed, as “unabashed womanhood”) arrived at Yale shrouded in mystery. The only thing I or anyone knew about this chat-cum-monologue was its title: ‘Self Love. Bodacious Rap.’ But it was very quickly clear that Junglepussy would answer whatever questions we cared to ask.
The first concerns her upbringing, to which she replies: “Do you wanna talk about growing up when I was reborn?” Despite her young age — she’s only 23 — she juggles the topics easily and seamlessly. Junglepussy’s rebirth, she told us, and her movement toward a new musical method, began when her song “Stitches” received critical acclaim. The song was violent (“I done told these bitches/If you fucking with my man, I’ma leave yo ass in stitches”), but no more violent than the average Schoolboy Q single. The song brought her publicity, recognition, acclaim — all the things young musicians dream of.
However, she remarks now of “Stitches” that its discussion of violence and adultery was influenced by a bad relationship that had recently ended. “[The song] wasn’t very ‘Girl Power’ to me. It’s always confused me that girls come up to me after the show, and say ‘Why didn’t you perform Stitches?’ I’m like, it’s so violent!”
For rappers, loving oneself is not too strange a topic to include in your music, and that comes through clearly in Junglepussy’s discussion and its title. But what about loving one’s womanhood, and asserting it in the music world? The audience wants to how she handles the challenges of a rap industry rife with misogynistic dialogue and in which female MCs often have to hypersexualize themselves to be “marketable.” When someone finally mentions the word “feminism,” Junglepussy nods slowly, like a sage mother preparing to indulge us with an old vignette. By this point, her bodacity has won us over completely and we defer to her wisdom without question.
“I didn’t make a conscious effort to promote myself as a feminist, but people started saying ‘oh, she’s a feminist, she’s making feminist music.’ I thought if I had the focus on me being a better human, that would come across into feminism as well.” She pauses, and stares wistfully at the grayness outside. “Would that be feminism — just rooting for Junglepussy? That’s sometimes too much for me because [the name] ‘Junglepussy’ is already such a label.” Charged enough as her stage name is, Junglepussy doesn’t want her music to be equated with a particular ethos or politics.
The tranquility of the moment is interrupted when someone asks her about the music video for her song “Nah,” in which she sits on a white woman a la Allen Jones.
“Garage Magazine put out a piece with a greased up black woman molded into a chair. They had a white woman dressed up in a chair, with jeans and a button down, ready to start her day. The girl who sent me that was white.” Junglepussy asked the friend if she could sit on her for the “Nah” video and the woman acquiesced. Her candor on subjects like this is such that I feel like I could ask her about anything.
As she proceeds to dish out bon mots on the Internet, her return to Brooklyn and quest for Canadian citizenship, I again recall that she’s only one year out of college. In the same vein, Earl Sweatshirt is 21. Wiki, the primary MC of Brooklyn-based rap group Ratking, is 21. We have before us an exhilarating generation of prodigious talent in the rap community, who are done with the formula, whose music is coming out for free.
My ears prick up when I hear her speak about her age: “I’m so young, I’m only 23, and I always wanna keep myself open. It’s a full-time loving yourself, you know that. It’s a full time job respecting yourself. There’s still a lotta stuff I gotta learn, but I just wanna be the best human I can be. Even though I do really want to learn how to knit.”
As I amble out onto the corner of College and Wall, I linger a while in awe of Junglepussy’s holistic calm. I don’t know what I want more — to stroll across Old Campus in a few months listening to the new Junglepussy album, or to explain to a curious inquirer how I came by an authentic Junglepussy knitted sweatshirt, with her insuperable mantra emblazoned across the chest: pussy muscle hustle.