Since Saucy Santana took social media by storm last year with his inescapable single “Material Girl,” which soundtracked over a million TikTok videos, the exuberant Floridian rapper has proven he’s no one hit wonder.
Leading up to a set of star-studded releases under his new label home, RCA, Santana spoke with Billboard about how he went from celebrity makeup artist to rap star and why he’s paving a path for the LGBTQ+ community within the hip-hop genre.
“I’ve always been lit, even as a kid,” says Saucy Santana, who grew up in Perry, a Florida town just shy of 7,000 residents. “I knew I had star power.” It’s why at 24, he relocated to Tallahassee to become a celebrity makeup artist, soon working for City Girls. Around the same time, he started a Facebook podcast with friends, for which he rapped its theme song and set his career down an unexpected path. His first official upload, a freestyle to Blueface’s “Thotiana” that he posted to YouTube in early 2019, led to club appearances and showcases. “They would be like, ‘Who’s this boy with the cheetah shirt and red lipstick?’ ” he recalls. “And the whole club is going crazy.”
After turning his bathroom into a makeshift studio, Santana recorded breakout track “Walk Em Like a Dog,” which prompted Alamo Records and StreamCut to reach out. (The latter distributed the single for its official 2019 release.) Less than one year later, Santana released his vivacious anthem “Material Girl” — and it took off on social media in 2021, soundtracking over 1.2 million TikTok clips. This April, he signed a record deal with RCA. “I felt like they were family,” he says, “but I still had to work to get that record deal, child.”
“Everyone thought it was a gimmick,” says Santana of how labels were intent on getting behind a one-off release rather than him as an artist. Now he’s preparing to open for Latto on her summer headlining tour and teasing an upcoming collaboration with Lil Nas X titled “Down Souf Hoes” that pays homage to the queer sensations’ beginnings. “I want to leave behind a legacy where if another gay boy comes after me, they get the same acceptance and warm welcome that I had to work hard to get.”