It’s hard to imagine a time before Doja Cat was a huge star.
Since achieving her first taste of viral success with the absurdist DIY music video for her single Mooo! (perhaps better known to many as ‘Bitch, I’m A Cow’) back in August 2018, Doja has been on a stratospheric rise to the top. Just as famous for her infectious confidence and vibrant personality as she is for her eclectic pop-rap sound, she’s already well on her way to achieving music icon status – and, as she explains she’s waiting for her ‘Britney moment’, it’s clear that she has no intention of slowing down.
“I just want to have the moment to say ‘It’s Doja, bitch’,” she told her latest collaborator SZA in an interview this month.
In many ways, it feels like a certainty that it’s a moment that she’ll get to experience in the near future. Doja Cat appears very much like the sort of person that couldn’t possibly have been at home anywhere other than within the music world. Some just seem as though they were born to be a star – Doja Cat exudes this energy in a way that few others do.
Perhaps it’s just the way that she was brought up. As a child, a pre-Say So Amala Dlamini was raised into creativity by her parents, specifically her painter mother. Both she and her brother – now a music producer – took an interest in music from an early age. Doja described in her interview with SZA that she has always loved performing arts and emulated her icons in private.
“I feel like when I watch people like Beyoncé or Janet on stage, I genuinely smile and look at it like ‘This is perfect’.”
“I lived in front of the mirror, locked myself away in my room for years and that’s probably why. What I wanted to do is take whatever I did in front of the mirror and put it there for people to enjoy and know that they can do that shit, too.”
Like many others who pursue a career in music, Doja wasn’t exactly a model student during her school years. Having become disillusioned with the idea of a traditional education and career after years of dance and music training, she made the decision to drop out of high school during her junior year – the inciting incident for a chapter of her life that Doja describes as being ‘messy’, as she slept on the floor and produced bedroom pop tracks into the early hours of the morning.
“I just started singing ‘cause I dropped out of school,” she told Billboard.
“I’d be on my mattress, on the floor, with a blanket over my head and I’d record into the internal mic (of her computer), and it was just so messy but people liked what I was doing.”
At the time, Doja was uploading her work to SoundCloud, where she garnered something of a cult following. It would appear that her spontaneous approach to creating the tracks – often made up of Doja tracking vocals over existing beats she had found on YouTube – was an appealing point for many early fans of hers. She wasn’t found racking her brains for something deep or emotional to write into a song or attempting to craft the next heartfelt ballad – she would rap about anything and everything and was focused on having fun.
Her initial breakout hit, Mooo!, was a classic example of Doja’s writing style, explaining that the statement sleeves of the cow-print tie-front crop top she wore in the video were the inspiration behind the whole track.
“This top was like a huge distraction for me, I would go to hit the keys on the keyboard and I’d have shit in my way.”
“I was just like ‘You know what? I’m just gonna make a song about cows.’”
Having written and produced the track, she set about creating a somewhat ironic accompanying video using a bedsheet, the Photobooth app on her laptop and a McDonald’s meal. The resulting visualizer quickly began to rack up millions of views – all just a few weeks before the beginning of her 2018 tour, too.
This led Doja onto a steady rise, beginning to get noticed by more and more across the internet. However, her fortunes really began to change after her song Say So made it onto TikTok in late 2019, with millions of the app’s users learning and dancing to the same choreography – choreography that Doja would later include in the song’s official video as a way to pay tribute to the fans behind the song’s explosion of popularity.
From there, it seemed every one of her releases immediately resonated with users of the app, with tracks such as Cyber Sex, Freak and Streets also providing the soundtrack to various TikTok trends. Her latest hit, Kiss Me More with SZA is experiencing a similar rise to prominence.
It’s surprising that Doja has seen such wild success on TikTok, an app that can be famously strict when it comes to removing videos that features actions or music that break their User Guidelines. Doja Cat’s songs are undoubtedly NSFW.
Since her earliest tracks, she has never shown any interest in shying away from the subject of sexuality. It’s made her a controversial artist amongst some, but an icon amongst others – we are at a point in time when women feel more and more able to embrace their sexuality and femininity. Doja Cat has always done this unapologetically.
It’s unsurprising, then, that both sexuality and femininity are core subjects within her upcoming album Planet Her. Discussing the themes of the record, Doja told SZA that Planet Her was all about the ‘divine feminine’.
“It’s giving full ‘Fuck these n***as, fuck what people feel about me just ‘cause I’m sexy’… just all the shit we have to go through.”
As for Planet Her’s sound, Doja spoke of her love of experimenting with different styles and genres when it came to her music.
“I’m starting to learn what I’m falling into is a lot of the house, disco, vintage-y essences—that’s where my heart kind of lies.”
“But I still am doing shit that I don’t understand. It’s still really fun!”
Planet Her is out this summer.
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