Doechii, TDE’s First Female Rapper, Is Ready For Her ‘Pop Era’
Billboard's 2023 Women in Music Rising Star has a five-year plan to reach her "prime and never leave it" — and in the short term, to release her long-awaited first full-length album.
Doechii recently watched Avatar: The Way of Water, and it got her thinking about a key Na’vi tenet: “All energy is borrowed, and someday you have to give it back.” “That’s exactly how I feel,” she says. “From the women before me, I’m borrowing their energy so that one day I can give it back to the girl after me. That’s what I’m here to do.”
In just the past year, the 24-year-old rapper from Tampa, Fla. — who started releasing music in the 2010s before self-funding her debut EP in 2020 — has used that energy to impressive ends. In March, she became the first female rapper to sign with Top Dawg Entertainment, subsequently scoring a record deal with Capitol as well. Late-night TV and awards show performances followed, as did a string of standout singles, most notably “Persuasive,” which has 30 million official U.S. on-demand streams, according to Luminate. She also released her major-label debut EP, the five-track she / her / black b–ch, which peaked at No. 23 on the Heatseekers Albums chart and featured Rico Nasty and labelmate slash “big sister” SZA.
“Everything aligned,” says Doechii. And yet, despite her stellar 2022, this year’s Rising Star is planning an even bigger 2023 — which will include the first male feature on one of her songs, a Coachella performance and the release of her first full-length. “I’m in year three of my five-year plan,” she continues. “I’m constantly rising and I definitely haven’t arrived yet — at all. But I’m coming.”
What kind of pressure have you felt as the first female rapper signed to Top Dawg Entertainment?
A good pressure, because I know with me being the first, the next female rapper on TDE is going to look to me, look at the things I did and didn’t accomplish, and hopefully be better than me. That’s the point. I’m a leader of a new era of TDE, which feels really good. A lot of my fans reach out all the time about the impact that I’m making for them just being an alternative Black girl. Doing it on TDE like this is cool.
You mentioned borrowing energy and passing it on. Who did that for you?
They don’t even know they did it for me. It was artists like Trina, Nicki Minaj, Lauryn Hill, SZA — just powerful women being powerful women. Even watching Beyoncé be Beyoncé, she shows me that I have permission to be a boss. I can be a woman, and I can be a boss. Then Rihanna, she’ll be like, “I can be a savage.” Sometimes I’m sassy, sometimes I’m not. Watching all of them gives me permission to be more of myself.
Is there a favorite recent memory you shared with your labelmate SZA?
She’s like a big sister to me. When we were on tour [in 2021] she gave me a lot of advice on what to expect from the industry and how to carry myself. She has just always been supportive of who I am.
You mentioned your five-year plan — what will year five look like?
By year five I want to be at my peak. I want to be in my Sasha Fierce era, the top of my game with still a long way to go — but I want to reach my prime and never leave it.
You show so many sides of yourself in your music. What haven’t we seen yet?
Y’all are going to get it this year. It’s my pop era. Usually I’m alone [in the studio], but these days I’ve been inviting people in. Usually I like people to send me beats and I’ll just listen through, but recently I’ve been working with producers like J White in person, which is cool. So my vibe is kind of changing; it’s a lot of energy. It feels like a party.
Is this the year you’ll release a full project?
I will. I said that last year, though, and I didn’t. Like, for real for real, I have to this year. It’s not even funny, I have to. It’s time for me to debut this year. My fans will kill me if I don’t.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 25, 2023, issue of Billboard.