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Doja Cat – ‘Hot Pink’ review: the viral ‘Mooo!’ star proves she’s a mainstream rap contender

Amalaratna Dlamini samples Blink-182 and ropes in Gucci Mane on her stellar second album, an R&B-infused bonanza of versatility and bawdy punchlines

LA rapper Doja Cat quit smoking weed to make this album, and the official line is that this has resulted in her most focused and professional work to date.

24-year-old Amalaratna Dlamini has cultivated the image of the lackadaisical stoner since the success of her viral hit ‘Mooo!’. But her brusqueness in shooting down difficult interview questions – on tweeting homophobic language in 2015, for which she’s apologised, and her signing to the label formed by producer Dr. Luke, whom Kesha accused of sexual harassment – hinted at the steeliness behind the smoke rings.

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‘Mooo!’, released last year, accompanied by a video that looks like it was made on Microsoft Paint, is a seemingly throwaway ditty inspired by a cow print onesie she happened to be wearing when she wrote it. The instrumental is languid and woozy, Doja Cat drawling through a deceptively simplistic hook (“Bitch, I’m a cow / I’m not a cat / I don’t say meow”) with endearing goofiness.

It’s racked up more than 58 million views on YouTube and her debut album ‘Amala’, released shortly beforehand, also traded on seeming effortlessness, all auto-tuned harmonies and hazy delivery. ‘Hot Pink’, on the other hand, sounds lush and considered. It seems like Dlamini might have actually broken a sweat with this one. Opening track ‘Cybersex’ rolls in with a bouncy, tropical beat before she slips from smooth R&B vocals to imitating Nicki Minaj’s bug-eyed flow when she raps: “We freak on the ‘cam / Love at first sight / Just link on the ‘Gram.”

If the message is that there’s a new queen in town, it’s actually raunch-rap originator Lil’ Kim to whom Doja owes the most debt, weaving similarly sexed-up rhymes, albeit with a grin rather than Kim’s coiled aggression. Here, though, the newcomer mines her South African heritage, improbably combining the lithe guitar from Blink-182’s ‘Adam’s Song’ with an African vocal sample on recent single ‘Bottom Bitch’.

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Trap icon Gucci Mane turns up on the bassy ‘I Like It’, a buoyant dance anthem that offsets Doja’s rap-fire delivery with jubilant cheering in the background before Gucci unashamedly rhymes “Elvis” with “pelvis”. The track is unashamed, too, in its commercial ambitions – much like this album; Doja purrs through voguish ‘90s-inspired R&B on ’Addiction’ and ‘Better Than Me’ mixes emo-rap with a sultry pop diva croon.

Dlamini’s taking no chances here and, now that the smoke’s lifted, it’s clear she’s a pop contender with the nous and drive to go as far as she wants.

Details

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  • Release date: November 7
  • Record label: Ministry of Sound
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