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She 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. She 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 up the Hot 100 at the start of 2020, the multi-platinum track finally hit number one in May, boosted by a Nicki Minaj remix that became the first chart-topper for both women. ~ Matt Collar