Anyone who has heard even a ten second snippet of a Junglepussy song knows she has a way with words. This may seem like a doltish statement to make about a rapper, a profession which necessitates verbal dexterity to the highest degree. Still, Junglepussy (the onstage moniker of Brooklynite Shayna McHayle) is in a category and scale entirely of her own.
If Junglepussy lyrics feel like an inner monologue, it’s because they are. Only it’s the uncensored train of thought of the funniest, crassest, most insouciant person you know. Hearing McHayle speak about the strange alchemy of Junglepussy, one intuits that it isn’t something that could be replicated by anyone but her.
“My writing process is just my life-living process,” she said in an interview with the Daily Californian ahead of her slated performance at Noise Pop 2023. “It comes when it comes. Sometimes it’s a heavy flow, sometimes it’s a light flow.”
Understanding McHayle’s writing process as a goofy feedback loop might make her Twitter feed seem moot. Fortunately, her bite size witticisms, often expressed in all caps (à la Cher), are in never ending supply. With each passing year, the line that separates Twitter-speak from mundane parlance gets smudged a little more, often to trying ends. But McHayle has an uncanny ability to keep both her Tweets and lyrics fresh, like the produce she buys at Trader Joe’s. For someone who put to good use the journals, notebooks and scraps of paper her mom would give her as a kid, Twitter “was just another way to write.”
Painting also comes second nature to the rapper. Often creating her own album art, McHayle the painter isn’t necessarily an entity separate from Junglepussy the musical act.
“I really am very in love with the point that I’m at in my painting right now. When I have to come to LA to work I’m literally thinking about finishing my paintings and can’t wait to get back to my babies!” she said. “How do I see them in the world? Do I see them with my music? Do I see them as a whole other world?”
She’s crafty, too. Her music video for “Spicy 103 FM” features paper mache props she made herself. This thrifty, D.I.Y. ethos is a product of McHayle’s arts school pedigree (prior to bursting onto the indie rap scene, she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology), but it’s also been an imperative. She stressed that independent artists often have “no choice” but to retain control over every step of the creative process to get their vision across the finish line.
“I literally have had to show people every step of the way, like ‘This is how I want to do it,’” she explained. “‘This is how I see it. This is like, this is what feels most me.’”
Now, with five records and an indie film under her belt, she has to delegate a bit more, but old habits die hard. She’s still got the creative director bug, just not the time or bandwidth.
“In the beginning I just had to do it myself first… But that’s not something that’s sustainable,” she expressed regretfully.
Speaking with McHayle, it’s incredibly evident (despite her laissez-faire attitude towards men, naysayers and the industry) just how seriously she takes herself. That’s why it’s especially gutting that her Feb. 26 Noise Pop performance at The New Parish got cut short due to technical issues.
Following the effervescent performances of openers Stoni and Tia Nomore, McHayle’s set was poised to be the perfect nightcap to a “girls night” (to borrow the verbiage of Nomore). The keystone of the Junglepussy brand is in many ways about being a “girls’ girl” — of which self respect is part and parcel.
McHayle learned this self-respect partially via her own music, but this end has come about rather organically. She hesitates to typify her work as therapeutic, but rejects superficiality too.
“It’s not a super vain expression of ‘Yes, I’m sexy. I’m hot.’ It goes deeper than that. Even though I am sexy and hot!” she laughed, before switching registers and getting serious. “No one can take that from you, under any circumstance, once you know how to cultivate it and strengthen it in your favor.”
McHayle’s last EP, 2022’s JP5000, was a slight divergence from her proto-pussy rap roots. JP5000’s production traverses psychedelia, futurism and globalism — all without sacrificing clever punchiness.
“Post-2020… my production has changed, because life has changed,” she said. “It’s fun making new worlds with new people…all the sounds to bring together…It’s like puzzles.”
She’s into literal puzzles too. In true Junglepussy fashion, she’s upping the ante now from 500 to 1000 pieces.
“When I get home, it will be puzzles and painting,” she said.