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.
‘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’.
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.
- Release date: November 7
- Record label: Ministry of Sound