In an age where online controversies seem to be the norm, Doja Cat stands out as a rare artist who appears immune to the chaos. Just two months before dropping her highly anticipated fourth album, ‘Scarlet’, the versatile singer, rapper, and occasional source of beef, challenged her fan base for adopting the moniker “Kittenz,” reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Beyhive or Taylor Swift’s Swifties. She took to Threads, a social media platform she later abandoned, to declare, “My fans don’t name themselves anything. If you call yourself a ‘kitten’ or ‘kittenz,’ it means you need to get off your phone, get a job, and help your parents with the house.”
Despite losing a substantial 500,000 followers in the process, which she humorously compared to “defeating a large beast,” Doja Cat remained unwavering in her stance, as evident in the album’s lead single, ‘Paint The Town Red.’ Over a luxurious sample from Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk On By,’ she raps, “Fans ain’t dumb, but extremists are.” Surprisingly, the controversy didn’t hinder ‘Paint The Town Red’ from securing the top spot on charts in the UK, US, and beyond.
Doja further fueled anticipation for ‘Scarlet’ by dismissing her previous two multi-platinum albums, ‘Hot Pink’ (2019) and ‘Planet Her’ (2021), as “cash grabs” filled with “digestible pop hits.” The album artwork for her earlier releases on streaming services now boasts a striking red hue, aligning with the new era’s aesthetic. Notably, Doja distanced herself from Dr. Luke, the controversial producer behind some of her previous pop hits, stating in 2021 that she doesn’t foresee future collaborations. Consequently, ‘Scarlet’ marks a significant departure, positioning Doja primarily as a rapper and secondarily as a singer.
Perhaps responding to past criticisms of her rap skills, as seen in Remy Ma’s comment last year, “I don’t think of her as a rapper,” Doja is determined to prove her mettle. On ‘Demons,’ a fierce brag track, she asserts, “Lots of people that were sleeping say I rap now,” and boasts, “I’m the fastest-growing bitch on all your apps now.” ‘Wet Vagina’ reinforces her point with self-mythologizing rhymes and plainspoken come-ons, showcasing her versatility.
With production by regular collaborators Rogét Chahayed, Kurtis McKenzie, and Y2K, ‘Scarlet’ kicks off with a bold attitude. ‘Fuck The Girls’ combines a confrontational hook with a ’90s hip-hop beat. ‘Ouches’ features the nonchalant refrain “looks like we don’t give a shit,” while the midtempo jam ‘Gun’ takes a thrillingly explicit turn. The latter includes Doja’s candid advances, exemplified by the line, “Stick it up me in the living room.”
As the album progresses, ‘Scarlet’ transitions into a more sensual and reflective mood. Even during moments of vulnerability, Doja maintains her outspoken nature, as evident in her declaration on ‘Agora Hills’ that she “don’t fuck incels.” Tracks like ‘Shutcho’ and ‘Can’t Wait’ showcase her underutilized soulful vocals and a willingness to delve into more emotional territory. Her phrasing may be imperfect, but her genuine affection shines through.
‘Scarlet’ is an album of two halves: lengthy and occasionally repetitive but ultimately captivating. Late in the album, Doja introspects on ‘Love Life,’ admitting to having had a temper, and adds humor to the dreamy ‘Balut,’ poking fun at her stage antics. By the album’s conclusion, one thing is clear—Doja Cat doesn’t owe anyone anything other than being unapologetically herself.
Released on September 22, 2023, under the record labels Kemosabe and RCA, ‘Scarlet’ solidifies Doja Cat’s place in the music world as an artist who evolves without compromise.