“Ain’t a damn thing discreet, the name Junglepussy,” smirks Shayna McHale in the opening verse on this quick-fire new project, and sure enough, her oeuvre to date is stylistically in keeping with such a such a evocative stage name; anybody familiar with her studio albums, ad particularly with 2020’s JP4, will know that she does things entirely on her own terms, nodding sonically to influences-turned-mentors like Erykah Badu and Gangsta Boo but melding them into an endlessly inventive sonic palette that’s all her own.
And yet, at the heart of JP4, as well as predecessors JP3 and Pregnant with Success, was an emotional dexterity equal to the musical complexity – striking moments of vulnerability in among the self-aggrandising and her particularly singular sense of humour. The title of this latest release, JP5000, is a fair reflection of the speed at which it gets from start to finish – it runs at just shy of 12 minutes – but whilst it suggests, after 3 and 4, that 5000 represents a moving through the gears, in truth it may be her most reflective effort yet.
First, there’s a tonal shift here. The freewheeling eccentricity that came to define previous records is largely replaced with a cold command; there’s genuine menace to the delivery on the likes of the icy ‘Movie Screen’ and then, elsewhere, on the yearning ‘Raqueletta’, she’s as emotionally open as we’ve ever heard her, retaining her wit whilst resisting the temptation to undercut moments of unguardedness with her usual knowing irony.
And then, the beats follow suit; JP5000 might be her most cohesive release yet. You get the sense this is not particularly linked to the limited runtime giving her fewer minutes on the clock in which to cram in experimental ideas but, instead, a deliberate move tied to the change in atmosphere; the repeated combination of looped drums with brooding synths provides a foundation on which to add, for instance, violin samples and flickers of keyboards.
This is a project that feels minimalist in many ways; the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it duration, the refinement of the themes, the relative economy of the beats. And yet, in under 12 minutes, McHale has still turned out what will surely be a contender for the year’s most vibrant hip hop release – she sounds like a woman who’ll never run out of ideas.
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This month’s disc is from Detroit punk band Protomartyr