Doja Cat Feels Liberated and More Focused Than Ever: 'I'm So Pumped For My Life Right Now'

Doja Cat
Vijat Mohindra

Doja Cat

Earlier this month (Nov. 6) in New York City, a California rapper threw her release party for her sophomore album at The Museum of Sex Superfunland, and it’s safe to say no woman of the hour could be more fitting: Doja Cat. For the vibrant artist, it’s effortless for her to ensure her new project, Hot Pink, is as fiery as her album release celebration.    

Doja Cat’s skill set knows no bounds. She can croon over an airy beat she produced herself with her own hook, then blast off into rapping an aggressive verse with ease. Doja prides herself on originality, writing a majority of her own video treatments and verses, then finding herself growing an attachment to her beloved intellectual property. Despite her natural talent as a songwriter, she has zero interest in being one for other artists -- so she winds up playing out every role herself and further solidifying herself as a lyrical chameleon. 

“I notice I do this thing where I ‘feature’ on my own songs," she explains wth a laugh. "I’ll write it for a more masculine part in the song, be the background vocalist, and the main vocalist. I do this because I write everything but hear other people on my s--t sometimes, but I think I’m too attached to my songs to give them away. I may just be greedy, too." 

On Hot Pink, Doja presents a myriad of feels, from the Blink 182-sampling “Bottom Bitch,” to her bubbly smash hit “Juicy” featuring Tyga, which re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 last week (dated Nov. 16) by grabbing the No. 67 spot. Recently, Doja Cat spoke with Billboard about Hot Pink, her childhood, being inspired by Nicki Minaj, and more. Check out the full interview below.  

If anyone were to take a deep dive into your past, they’d notice a plethora of different unpredictable phases and skills. Take me through some of your memories growing up, all of which led up to this artist you are today. 

When I was a kid, I used to wake up every single day and skateboard. All I would think about is skating, but it wasn’t like I wanted to be a pro skater. It was more of just that’s what I did. I also roller bladed a lot. You could kinda just do whatever you wanted and venture off.

That was after I lived on an ashram, which was when I was super little and I’d just go to temple all the time and I’d wear this scarf on my head and I wasn’t allowed to eat meat and it was very cult-like. I felt really trapped. When we moved to the suburbs, that’s why it felt like a free-for-all. I was skating every day, staying out, sneaking out, and it was just a crazy time. We moved from the suburbs to LA and I picked up break dancing when I was 10. I joined a dance crew in high school and I was battling. I also took ballet most of my life until high school.  

I f--king hated math so much and used to be stressed out in the back of math class crying because it was like a nightmare. I used to sit there like, “What the f--k is going on?” I want to write something down on the paper but I don’t understand anything so I can’t, so I just sat there and wait for time to pass and draw d--ks and eyeballs. I spent a lot of time in the hallways dancing and I was in the dance clique, but the nerdy one, not the cool one that went and danced for Beyoncé. I dropped out and was like f--k everything and f--k honors. I took up rapping right when I dropped out. I went home and locked my door and never came out.

Since that time period of you dropping out, staying in your room, and writing raps, was this always the plan from then on?  To go and legitimately become a rapper? 

I always knew I wanted to entertain people my whole life, I just didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it until I was 16 and everything blossomed on SoundCloud. That’s where it was all born. Then, I knew exactly how I was going to do it, too. At that point, I had a system already, kind of. I’d make a song, put it on SoundCloud, then I’d go on YouTube, and I’d post two songs a month. I would do pictures and edit them and make album covers. It was super fun for me.

I was on Facebook and met a friend and he told his mutual friend, who was DJ and producer Yeti Beats, that I was talented and I don’t know why [Laughs.] I went to the studio and I never stopped going and I went every single day.  At 17, I signed my deal and we started taking it more seriously and we put out [2014 EP] Purrr! which was cool, and I started getting the hang of it. It was the beginning of me practicing and learning how to carry myself and do what I wanted to do eventually. 

Fast forward and you’re performing in front of these huge crowds today. How did you find that sense of confidence along the way?

I noticed my pessimism drives me the most, and that’s just me being honest. I always say “I’m going to f--k up” or “This is not good enough” most of the time, but I still have this really weird, strong drive. Maybe it’s not being pessimistic but more of how when I get on stage, if I’m not disappointed with how I feel when I’m on stage, it’s the best feeling ever. I always think to myself, “What if I f--k up? What if this is a disaster?” and it usually isn’t. I’ve only had like three bad shows, bad as in I almost puked on stage. That’s honestly my formula before I go on stage.  

A few weeks ago in your interview with The Morning Hustle, the first person you said you still really wanted to work with was Smino, so I was happy for you to see you made it happen for this album.

I didn’t know how he was going to get on it or what was about to happen. All I knew was that I needed him on the album and he’s one of the greatest rappers alive. He’s top five for me and he’s just so special to hip-hop and special to music. I knew he would make my album f--king spectacular and I wanted only the best on my project. It’s hard with features sometimes because I wanted many people on my album, and Smino’s busy, but he was still very responsive to me. He killed it and I think he has the best verse on the album. I wish I could write like that.

The best way I can describe him is he’s like a stuntman, lyrically. There are some lyrics in there that are so crazy that I catch even after listening for the 50th time. We talked about the topic of the song and he literally said “say no more,” disappeared, and came back with this, and it was f--king incredible. 

The only other feature that we didn’t previously know was Gucci Mane. I’m assuming your fans were surprised by this.

People thought the surprise feature was going to be Nicki, because I blurred the name out at first -- and, well, the album is titled Hot Pink. Also, I’m just a huge fan of Nicki. I blurred out the name, but it wasn’t necessarily to create a sense of anticipation specifically around the feature -- we just wanted to get the facts out about how there’s an album on the way and there were things still happening behind the scenes. Gucci is a f--king legend and he is untouchable. If anyone is mad about it or has something bad to say, they can suck my d--k. 

Your recent interview with Nardwuar served as a mini full circle moment, as he whipped out an extremely old photo of when you asked to take a picture with him many years ago. Do you have a favorite full circle moment so far?

I just had one just now in Times Square. I was outside and I was thinking about all the people who ever told me I wouldn’t be successful and I would flop. People would straight up tell me that. Today, I saw my picture on multiple massive screens in Times Square. I recorded that and said, “Look at me flopping.”

That felt so full circle for me because when I make a good song, that’s personal success for me, but seeing other people acknowledge that in such a profound way is bonus success. It’s really f--king cool. I’m super grateful and super excited. It’s funny to me when people aren’t being loving and are just trying to bully and harrass people on the internet and just look pretty f--ckin’ stupid when they’re proven wrong by someone’s success. 

You’ve said before how you weren’t satisfied with your debut album, Amala. What’s different for you this time around with your sophomore album in terms of loving the end product?

A lot of people liked Amala, and that’s great. However, I don’t think it was a finished album. I was smoking hella weed. I was high all the f--king time and it wasn’t even helping me perceive what was going on musically. I was just really out there partying and it was a crazy time for me. Looking back knowing what I know now, I feel like I wasn’t as musically involved as much as I know I can be. At one point, I was just making a song for the sake of having to get it done in time.

For this new album, it wasn’t like that. This album is a compilation of when I stopped smoking weed, and all of the stuff that just poured out of my mind when I was sitting in bed, when I was on Instagram Live, when I’m just chilling and having a true moment to myself to just create and make s--t that I felt good about. I was just lucid and happy and I think it really shows in this album. It’s just a clean f--kin’ album. 

Where were you at in life around this time last year and how does it feel to look back from where you’re standing now?

At this time last year, I was on tour and this was actually around the time right after “Mooo!” blew up, and a few weeks later my tour started. That was just perfect timing for that song to blow up. I remember I was doing songs I didn’t really like on stage. It was such a learning experience and it was f--king humbling. Now, I’m so pumped for my life right now because I’m doing 100 percent what I want. It feels like a vacation to be honest. Looking back, this is like a movie. It’s f--king crazy. I feel like I deserve to have an album out that I love and nobody can tell me s--t.