Cows are finally having their moment. Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake tried to make the outdoors sexy, but rap’s pivot to agriculture is… different. If you don’t believe it, just listen to Lil Tracy’s “Like a Farmer.” But this week, there was a strange entry in this new trend. The track starts inauspiciously, a chintzy nursery rhyme about cows set to pixel art visuals, but bouncing anime boobs in the background quickly let you know you're in for something different. But Doja Cat's “Mooo!” isn’t your average viral song. It goes hard. I watched the thumbnail for the green screen-assisted video float down my feed for a full day before I succumbed to peer pressure, and when I finally did, I was shocked. “Bitch, I’m too smooooth / I’m not in the mooood / Tryna make moooves,” she says on the hook. To my surprise, it only got better. “Got milk, bitch? Got beef?” she taunts. This wasn’t an accidental sensation. This girl had bars, and judging by the DIY nature of the video, she understood the formula for virality. The genre-bending producer Sango let the newcomers—myself included—in on a little secret tweeting, “Moo by Doja Cat is just a set up for y’all to listen to her other stuff because she’s actually a great singer and songwriter.” Were we bamboozled?
As it turns out, Doja Cat is indeed more than just a viral video. In March, she released Amala—her real first name—a 13-track compilation of what she considers to be “ice cream truck” music. The LP drips, sticky and sweet, and Doja goes down incredibly smooth on every track. Even on upbeat songs, like “Cookie Jar,” she’s confident in her delivery. On “Wine Pon You,” she borrows a dizzying dancehall artist, Konshens, intermingling Jamaican patois throughout the sleepy track. “Casual,” catches Doja confronting the uncertainties of mixed signals. When she’s not serving up laid-back lyrics, she’s rapping just as well as she sings. This is who she is, not a cow, but Amala Dlamini, a musician who bounced between California and New York as a child, fueled by her twin loves of dancing and skateboarding.
Over the phone she’s bubbly and just as funny as you’d think expect from that clip, not the least bit annoyed to recall the Instagram Live video that turned into all-nighter, hammering green bedding to her walls to act as a green screen. She’s incredibly mellow about becoming an overnight sensation. “It feels cool,” she says. “I haven’t even moved from my bedroom.” Instead of trying to capitalize from this moment, Doja knows this is only the beginning, and she’s hoping that if she got your attention once, she’ll soon do it again.
“It’s crazy that this popped off right before tour, completely unexpected,” she says. “It’s like the universe is just with me now.” We chatted with Doja Cat about her newfound bovine fame, and what it means for the music she's been making quietly over the last few years.
Noisey: You got the inspiration from the cow suit, which was very fly, you were wearing for your upcoming tour. What drew you to that outfit in the first place?
Doja Cat: I just thought it was so cute. I like the silhouette a lot but the cow print kind of did it for me, as well. It was like a bonus. I got that for tour and I cheat, I like to wear my costumes out into the world sometimes because I can’t help myself. I wore it on Instagram Live and I just wore the top while I was making a beat. I was making that song and I didn’t know what to write about at the moment, so I just started writing about cows. Just, fuck it.
Why’d you get on Instagram Live?
I do back-to-back live broadcasts. They’ll be times when I’ll get on every day for like a week to produce and write. I’m not super savvy in the production department. I don’t know how to mix vocals, I just know to turn the knobs a little bit. Everything to me still is pretty intimidating. I have like maybe 50-60 people who would come in every day. We all just kind of get together in the Live and they’ll suggest stuff, and we’ll make up inside jokes. It’s kind of like family. I haven’t met any of them, but we just hang out and make jokes and music.
Do you have a name for them?
I don’t want to name my fandom, I want them to name themselves. If I’m cool with it, I’m cool with it. Like, I wouldn’t let them call themselves the Poop Faces or something because I don’t want to represent that.
So you’re on Live, you’re in this cow top, you’re making “Moo.” What’s the reaction from the 60 people who were logged on?
They’re LOLing, they think it’s funny, they think it’s cute. I was just freestyling for 15 minutes, just random cow stuff. It wasn’t a proper organized song. It was just me repeating “Bitch, I’m a cow / Bitch, I’m a cow.” Then I’d be like, “Get out my farm / Bitch, get out my farm.” They were like, “Nah, use that.” And I was like, “Should I make it into an actual song?” And they were like, “Yeah, do it.” So, we did it.
Was there any hesitation about making a song about cows?
Hell no. I’ve made a song before with the intent that people would kind of take to it and be excited about it, it’s called “Nintendhoe.” But I think it was too obnoxious and it gave people headaches. I get why people didn’t fuck with it. The cow song was really just pure fun. For the last month and a half, I was making love songs and moody songs. It was just like, fuck it, why not? It just felt organic, natural, and cool.
Since you were making more serious music for your debut, Amala, do you feel a way that this is how people are getting familiar with you?
I think people are gonna want me to be the "cow girl" for a long time, which is understandable. I feel really lucky that this song has created a platform for my debut because that wasn’t the intention behind the song.
This album actually got no support. There was nobody trying to push it. Now Katy Perry is tweeting me, which is cool. Chance is cool too. I know he’s a goofy guy and he appreciates DIY. It’s just cool to have these people supporting because it’s great exposure. I like them as well, which is a boner—I meant to say bonus.
The video is going to draw people to the other music you have. You debuted Amala a couple months ago, you’re signed to RCA. Who is Doja Cat?
I always believed in making serious music. I’m very sexual. I love R&B and hard-hitting, slappy, intense music with deep chords and moody chords. But I also have a thing for bubbly lullaby music. Kind of like ice-cream truck rap. I love that twinkly, girl rap. I’ve always loved that. Years before that I was making hipster, pot-smoking music for people who sit on the couch all day. Then I quit smoking and I started taking on that trappy-go-lucky type vibe. Everything became cleaner. I’ve had about four songs that were pretty funny. I have a song called “Suck My Dick.” But I mostly make feel good, lo-fi rap and pop.
But what really pushed me into this was dancing. I took ballet when I was like six and I was doing tap, ballet, and jazz and I moved onto breakdancing when I was 10. Not like the really difficult, bone breaking, spins, and flips and shit. I can’t do that. Never will do that. But I did pop lock, I did a lot of illusionary, robot shit. I did that for a long time and was pretty passionate about that in high school.
So about this dance. I see you’ve started the #MooChallenge. How’d you think of the dance?
After I created that I instantly regretted it. I was like, fuck, no one’s gonna do this. This song is cute but it’s no “KeKe.” I felt like people were maybe too cool to do. But there are definitely people who would do it, so I did it. Literally, a second after I was recording I did it, my friends were texting me like, “Dude, you have to do a challenge.” The dance is really inspired by the video. That little dip down, twerk thing that I did… If you want to do the challenge, you don’t even have to do the whole thing. Just do that. Just do the dip down.
You chose the perfect gifs. How did you choose the imagery for the video?
It was surprisingly so hard. On Google, you think you can find anything. You can find a cat as a taco. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. This is going to be easy.” I get on Google like, give me a cute cheeseburger gif. Fucking nothing came up. I couldn’t find anything. Couldn’t find any cows that were cute and pink. So I’m like, fuck it, let's go the classic route. Let’s get some 8-bit cheeseburgers. Trying to get the gifs from Google to Photo Booth was the only annoying part—other than the lighting. I only have Christmas lights as lighting in my room. I just hammered some bedding to the wall and I used my laptop for Photo Booth.
I saw you tweet that you like to disappoint woke hip-hop people. What’s the rhetoric behind that?
I feel like these people who take hip-hop too seriously, don’t make it not fun. It’s like they’re intentionally trying to make it an agonizing thing to be part of. I appreciate people who make hip-hop…the way A Tribe Called Quest and Lauryn Hill and KRS-One did it. That’s actually being woke. I feel like these fans instilled this idea that you have to be serious to be good. Trying to seem like you’re serious about something is the most bullshit way to think and live life. That’s what I say when I want to disappoint woke people. I want them to know I don't give a shit.
You were recording for 5 hours. You got hungry and ordered, which eventually ended up being the iconic props in “Mooo!” What did you get on your burger?
It was a lowkey burger spot I go to all the time. They messed my order up. I wanted extra cheese and extra patty. They gave me two patties and one slice of cheese. I got lettuce, tomato. Their lettuce gets soggy and withered, which is weird and gross but like, good at the same time. Maybe some ketchup, maybe some thousand island. When I put the fries in my nose, I immediately panicked because I thought the salt was gonna make my nose bleed. I didn’t want salt in my nose. I’m like, ‘shit do I have to wash my nose out?’
Have you gotten any backlash from PETA yet?
Not yet. I’m ready. PETA can't say shit and they can suck it because I didn’t actually hurt anybody. I didn’t hurt any cows, dogs, cats, or frogs, or fucking ants. I’m not worth picking on. I’m sure PETA has a sense of humor, too. I think in a way they’d appreciate it, but they’d also kind of hate it as well. They’d find reasons to hate it because they find reasons to hate most things.
Kristin Corry is lactose intolerant but still supports this message. Follow her on Twitter.