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Doja Cat was born Amala Zandile Dlamini in 1995 in Tarzana, California, the daughter of South African actor Dumisani Dlamini and painter Deborah Elizabeth Sawyer. After moving to New York for a few years, she returned to California with her mother. As a child, she studied piano and took tap, ballet, and jazz dance lessons. She also discovered surfing and breakdancing. By her teens, she was teaching herself to sing and listening to an eclectic mix of hip-hop, indie rock, R&B, and electronic music. Doja also began recording songs on her computer and in 2014 released her debut EP, Purrr! She quickly found herself with a viral hit with the track "So High." More singles followed, including the languid "Nunchucks" and "No Police," each one grabbing attention online. Another single, "Mooo!," arrived in 2018 and quickly went viral.
On the heels of that success, Doja Cat issued her full-length debut album, Amala, which found her expanding upon her dreamy, meme-friendly sound with more hip-hop-, pop-, and R&B-infused tracks, including "Candy" and "Roll with Us." In 2019, she issued an expanded version of Amala that added the singles "Juicy" and "Tia Tamara," featuring Rico Nasty. Her sophomore album, Hot Pink, was quick to follow; with features from Smino, Gucci Mane, and Tyga, the 2019 LP leaned more into the sexually wry aspects of her ever-shifting persona. A Top Ten hit on the Billboard 200, the album's fifth single, "Say So," pushed her even further up the charts. After making a steady rise in the Hot 100 at the start of 2020, the multi-platinum track finally hit number one in May, boosted by a Nicki Minaj remix.
After picking up a couple of American Music Awards, Doja carried the momentum from her breakout year into 2021. She began appearing alongside established celebrities more frequently, adding a guest feature to Saweetie's single "Best Friend," contributing to an Ariana Grande remix with Megan Thee Stallion, and releasing the SZA-assisted single "Kiss Me More." All of this led up to the June 2021 release of her third full-length studio album, Planet Her. It featured guest spots from Young Thug, the Weeknd, JID, and others, and its cover art was shot by photographer David LaChapelle. The album, which reached number two on the Billboard 200 and topped the R&B albums chart, also garnered Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.
In February 2022, Doja hit number 18 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart with a cover of Hole's "Celebrity Skin," which featured lyrics reworked by her and Courtney Love. That same year, she reached the Top Ten of the Hot 100 with "Vegas," her contribution to the soundtrack to director Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic. In June 2023, she debuted the '90s trip-hop-inspired "Attention," as the first track released off her fourth studio album, Scarlet. Another song, "Paint the Town Red," followed that August as the official first single. Arriving that September, the album found Doja balancing her pop-R&B style with tracks that embraced her rap and hip-hop roots. It featured production by a handful of artists, including Earl on the Beat, D.A. Got That Dope, and Y2K, among others. ~ Matt Collar