Don’t mistake Doja Cat for a popstar

When Doja Cat turned up to the recent MTV Video Music Awards in a semi-transparent spiderweb dress, it wasn’t just about shock value: it was a wink towards the arachnid-themed Scarlet.

The rapper’s fourth album features an icky spider-like creature on the cover, while much of the material thrums with creeping menace. It’s a record with glinting fangs that crawls beneath the listener’s skin and sets their hairs on edge.

Doja – real name Amala Dlamini – has expressed a desire to return to her hip-hop roots following the pop-hued R&B of 2021’s Planet Her. She is seemingly fed up with her portrayal as a pop star rather than a rhymer of considerable poise and verbal dexterity. Amid criticism of her nomination for the BET Award for Best Female Hip Hop Artist two years ago, she tweeted, “Don’t ever disrespect me as a rapper”.

True to that pledge, Scarlet ditches the glitz for bare-bone hip-hop and creaking horror-show beats (the LP was originally titled Hellmouth).

Doja Cat Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini Image via
Doja Cat’s new record Scarlet is mesmerising (Photo: Dujon)

Musically, the project hacks out a space somewhere between the jazz onslaught of Kendrick Lamar and the stream-of-consciousness flow of Travis Scott. Lyrically, though, the priority is putting her detractors in their place. She does so by bragging about her skills at the mic and the size of her bank balance. “I just bought a limousine/ You live like me in your dreams,” she declares on “Demons”.

If Scarlet was just about Doja Cat reclaiming her riotous rap credentials – she’s named Beastie Boys as an influence – it might wear out its welcome. But chart-topping single “Paint the Town Red” is built on a sample of easy listening masterpiece “Walk On By”. Her claim to have been inspired by 1990s disco mystics Opus III, meanwhile, is borne out by the haunting “Skull and Bones” and “Attention”.

Scarlet arrives amid controversy over Doja Cat’s rejection of “stan” culture. “Don’t even know y’all,” she told devotees in a tweet that burned down the internet. The great irony is that, rather than chasing away fans, the mesmerising Scarlet is likely to fuel her popularity further. It’s weird, wriggling and quite wonderful.

Stream: Demons, Skull and Bones

This post was originally published on this site