After beginning her career cooking up beats and rhymes in her teenage bedroom a decade ago and then blowing up into a global superstar during the pandemic, Doja Cat is rethinking her association with the controversial producer who helped her bump up to the mainstream. In a lengthy Rolling Stone profile, the singer born Amala Dlamini states that she no longer plans to work with hitmaker Dr. Luke, while questioning (and later retracting) how much of a hand he had in crafting her hits.
The piece chronicles the rapper/singer’s breakout 2020/21 success — including her eight Grammy nominations this year — as well as past problematic social media posts and her reaction to those who would question her hip-hop bona fides (“Anyone who says that I’m not a rapper is in denial”).
But amid the by-now-familiar stops at her backstory — growing up without any contact with her dad, moving to a commune led by jazz legend Alice Coltrane in the Santa Monica mountains with her mom as a child and teenage struggles with ADHD — the story dives into one area the star has not opened up about before.
“I haven’t worked with him in a very long time,” she told the magazine of Luke, before suggesting that there’s more than meets the eye on a “lot” of the songs they collaborated on in the past. “There’s s–t that he’s credited for, where I’m like, ‘Hmm, I don’t know, I don’t know if you did anything on that,'” she said, adding, “The point is he’s gotten some credit for s–t. And, you know, it’s whatever. I don’t think I need to work with him again. I don’t think I need to work with him in the future. I know that… I think it was definitely nice of me to work with him.”
The story describes how Doja — through her producer Yeti — got signed to Kemosabe Records after getting some buzz from her early online tracks; the RCA imprint is run by Dr. Luke, who has been the subject of a long-running legal battle with Kesha over her claims that he sexually and mentally abused her during their time working together. Luke has denied those claims and countered with a defamation suit against Kesha; Kesha dropped her lawsuit against Luke in 2016, but his countersuit is still active.
While Doja had not previously commented in public about her working relationship with Luke, the pair have been associated for nearly all of her public career. Kemosabe released her 2014 debut EP, Purrr!, which earned Doja some mainstream attention with the single “So High.” That period was followed by several years of creative limbo caused by what Doja described as a formerly copious, creatively stifling weed habit. The inert time also coincided with Luke’s (born Lukasz Gottwald) legal fight with Kesha, which blew up shortly after Doja signed to Kemosabe; a representative for the producer declined to comment for the RS piece and had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment at press time.
RS noted that while Doja has not previously discussed her association with Luke, she has “tweeted appreciatively” at fans who defended her for working with Luke and liked tweets that claimed she signed with him before the Kesha allegations became public in 2014; the magazine noted that Instagram posts on Yeti’s account appeared to show them taking meetings with RCA in the spring of 2013.
Though the formerly high-flying producer’s career stalled out for several years during his legal fight with Kesha, he was nominated for a Grammy in 2020 for his work on Doja’s his single “Say So” and has three more nominations this year, including two for his production on Doja’s smash Planet Her album. Luke also has writing credits on Saweetie’s female-empowerment single “Best Friend,” which features Doja; Saweetie has reportedly indicated she does not plan to work with Luke again either.
When the RS writer asked if Doja will similarly also drop her association with Luke, she’s described as “reticent” to answer at first, before saying “it doesn’t matter.” A rep for Luke told the magazine that he is “very proud of Amala and the work they have done together” and that he has “written a uniquely large amount of hits and career-defining songs, and continues to do so. As it is his daily work, his practice, as is the industry’s, is to receive publishing when he creates songs.”
And, after initially questioning Luke’s creative contributions, RS reported that Doja sent a follow-up email to the writer through a rep in which she said she “may have said something that someone could interpret as me saying that he had taken credit on things he didn’t deserve to. I just want to be clear that I have no firsthand knowledge of that being the case and I don’t want to participate in the rumor mill. The credits on my music are accurate, and I don’t want to imply anything else.”
The singer attributed the initial comments to her “sensitivities in the past about certain people attributing my general success to the work of others — in particular, men,” adding that as a young woman she thinks it’s always “important to fight for the credit that we are all due, and that was the point I was trying to make there.”