Cows are currently having a moment in popular culture, and they owe it all to Amala Dlamini a.k.a. Doja Cat. The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and rapper recently released a bop about cows called “Mooo!” where she nonchalantly drops bars like “Got milk, bitch? Got beef?” The accompanying visual is essentially a gamer’s wet dream brought to life so it immediately gained interest online. Both the song and video only took her 12.5 hours to make and proceeded to instantly go viral for a variety of reasons that we already covered here.
Believe it or not, the music video was not part of a grand scheme—despite how it appears from the outside, Doja Cat didn’t expect “Mooo!” to spiral into an overnight success. While this is certainly a big break for an artist on the rise, fans that have been following Doja Cat are fully aware that she has a catalogue of hits that date back as far as 2014 with her Evil Needle-produced single “So High.” Back in March, the 22-year-old released her debut full-length album Amala on RCA. We’re not entirely sure if “Mooo!” will make the cut for her sophomore album, but Doja Cat is currently embracing all the positive attention around it.
Highsnobiety recently hopped on the phone with Doja Cat over breakfast to find out the origins of “Mooo!” and learn more about her life in general. Get to know Doja Cat better in the interview below.
Could you tell me the story behind “Mooo!”? Where did the inspiration for the song come from?
OK, so I love cosplay—not really cosplay in the nerdy way, I just like to dress up. That’s a huge part of what inspires me to make music, pretty much. I usually get on Instagram Live and I had bought a ton of costumes. The one costume that I wore that day was the cow one. It was such an obnoxious shirt, the sleeves were so ridiculous. I loved it and I just didn’t know what to write about in that moment. And I thought, “You know what, fuck it. I’m tired.” I stayed up really late that night before. I was just like, “Alright, fuck it. I’m just going to make a song about cows. Why not? That might be interesting.” I wanted it to sound good, I wasn’t trying to go into it in a joking way. It’s supposed to be a joke, right, but it’s supposed to sound good too. It’s not just a piece of comedy, really. That’s how that came about, just from that outfit.
How did the concept for the video come together?
I was alone in my room, lying in bed and I thought “Why don’t I just use the green screen effect on Photobooth because nobody uses it?” I’m shocked that I haven’t used it yet. So I just opened that up and I started looking for GIFs of farms and cows. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a cheeseburger GIF and a cow GIF. It took two and a half hours to find something sort of cute. That’s how that came about, just GIFs off of Google and dragging those in and recording them. It’s a pretty daunting process. It seemed easy. I mean, the video isn’t incredible. It’s definitely not like a regular music video. It’s definitely the DIY approach.
Oh, another part of that is I had these sheets that were bright, bright green that I haven’t used. I was like a kid for a moment. I made my mom get me green bedding and I never used it. I just let it collect dust in a closet. I thought, “You know what? I’m going to just nail this to the wall and see what happens.” The lighting in my room was terrible. The sun was setting, so I had to do everything pretty fast. So I just used some sheets for the green screen and sunlight and the Christmas lights. I don’t have a lot of good lighting in my room, it’s pretty bad.
It’s definitely become a very iconic visual. Did you expect it to go viral?
Totally not, which sounds weird. A song about cows. I honestly thought it was going to dissolve. I didn’t know what it was going to be. I made one song with the intent that I wanted people to make a dance to it. I thought maybe that would be cute. It’s actually like video games and it’s called “NINTENDHOE.” Not Nintendo, but “Nintend-HOE.” I put that on SoundCloud and my fans liked it, but it didn’t pop off, probably because the hook is so obnoxious. I can’t even explain it, but it’s a ridiculous song. I love it, but that didn’t take off. This did and I really didn’t think this would take off at all.
In the YouTube description, I saw that you wrote, “My hide is not your prom dress” and I was wondering what that means… Could you elaborate on that?
Have you seen that meme? It got pretty popular—it’s not really a meme, it’s like a meme to me and maybe to some other people. There’s this girl that wore a Chinese traditional dress to prom. She was white, clearly not Asian. I don’t know how it went viral, this girl is just a regular girl. I don’t know where, but she wore it to prom and she got a bunch of hate on Twitter from Asian people and they said, “My culture is not your prom dress.” I think this happened last year, but it caught on and I just thought it was super funny to make that the description because I have one fan that has a cow as their icon. Their name is Squishy Cow Feet and they go into my Instagram Live and say, “How dare you disrespect my culture.” We’re super cool, but they do this. It’s a running gag. They joke about it all the time. They really try to act like a cow. I didn’t plan this, but this Squishy Cow Feet person would come into my Live before I made the cow song. They probably inspired the song. That’s pretty much where that came from. Yeah, that one girl.
Why did you decide to use the Kelis and Wu-Tang songs?
I don’t know if there are any more songs that hint to dairy products in the hip-hop genre. I think that was perfect-“C.R.E.A.M.” and “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” What was the other one? Ludacris, “moo-ve it,” because he kind of sounds like a cow, “moo-ve.” I thought “That was perfect, let’s do that.”
How have you been feeling about the reactions to the song and to the video since you dropped it?
It’s funny, the first day that this popped off, I thought “Oh, it’s so annoying. I have so much of this stuff out.” Then I was wallowing, I was sad. Then I thought, “You know what? Let me just embrace this. This is great.” It’s good to see people have a sense of humor and how much people appreciate that. It’s just great, it’s really great.
Moving away from the cows, I would love to hear about your childhood because I know you grew up in a creative household. I was wondering if that impacted you to become a music artist.
Yeah, my mom is a painter. She’s more of a visual artist. She likes to sing. She actually told me she wanted to be a rock star. That was really cool. But she never really took up singing. She was mostly a painter. And they my grandma also paints like crazy. She opens at galleries and stuff. She likes to paint fat people on the beach. I don’t know where that comes from, but she likes to do that. My dad is a dancer. He’s from Durban, South Africa. My mom and grandma are both from New York. My dad danced a lot. He was in Broadway shows like Lion King on Broadway.
My brother was a producer long before I was. He rapped a little bit and listened to a lot of Tupac. He took music way more seriously than I did. I was more dancing when I was a kid. Loved to dance. I took ballet, tap, jazz, all of that. I didn’t pay attention in school a lot because I mostly was focusing on dance. I had a dance crew and that’s where my love for music came from. I wanted to start making the songs that I danced to. I thought that would be interesting so I tried that out. I’ve just been doing that for the last five years.
How would you describe your music for people that aren’t familiar with your work and are unfortunately discovering you because of cows?
I always liked to be liberated by music from anyone. I love the feeling of the self-esteem boost that you get from music or the emotional thing. I don’t like to make sad music. Sometimes sad and emotional music makes you happy and sad at the same time. I love that whole effect and I do want to achieve that, but for the most part I really just like to make people feel good. I just want to make feel-good music. That’s all that I care about. It’s just making people want to dance, you know or show the song to their friend. That’s all I care about.
A few months ago you dropped your debut album, Amala. Could you talk about some of the themes on it or the journey that you’re telling through the songs?
That album definitely was kind of a collection, songs that I’ve made over the last few years. We didn’t really go into it wanting a concept or anything. We looked for powerful songs that I had and tried to compile those, but we weren’t thinking too hard about the story that it had. I’d say it’s love songs, songs about self-love, sex, drugs, drinking and things that happen in the world. I definitely try to stray from political songs. It’s really just feel-good music like dance music, party music. I like high energy stuff. If it’s low energy, I like R&B and I try to add a rap mood in there.
I meant to ask this earlier, but where did the name Doja Cat come from?
When I was 16, I thought smoking weed is what made me cool. I thought weed was great because everybody else thought weed was great. Then I realized after years of smoking it that I didn’t need it, but I thought the word “doja” was super cute. It sounded more like a girl’s name to me, like JoJo or Brianna or Jessica or Wanda… So I thought “Doja is perfect.” And then I guess I have an obsession with cats. Well, not really, to be honest. I like the concept of a cat. I love cats, they’re so great. So I just threw a cat in there to fuck it. So that’s where it comes from, Doja Cat.
It’s funny because a lot of people were saying that you swapped out the cat for the cow for this moment.
Yeah, people want to do that more than I do to be honest. They just want me to be a cow!
Yeah, now you’re going to have to-I hate to make a pun, but milk the cow. You’re going to have to roll with it for a bit… How have you grown as an artist since you dropped the Purr! EP?
It’s really crazy because the fan base that I created through the Purr EP is stoners, hippies, and woke people. I don’t even know what that word means anymore, but pretty much my fans were dopey young hippie hipsters, you know, smoking types. I feel like that wasn’t me after a while. I’m not that person. I tried it out, that lifestyle, but I feel like I really found who I was in the last couple of years. I’m really just for everyone and some people say, “Oh, what happened to your serious stuff?” It’s really cool to watch it blow up like this because my video for “So High” got 17 million views or something like that, around that number It happened pretty quickly. It was really cool to watch that, but it never really went viral. It just kept collecting views, but people weren’t saying, “Oh, shit. This girl’s talking about smoking weed, wow.”
That’s not really surprising. I don’t think that gets people out of their seats anymore, to be honest. It’s just cool. This is cool, right? I think I want to definitely keep doing what I do and having fun and being funny and being humorous and stuff. I think that will be a big part of my career and the longevity of it.
What is next for you? You have the one album out and this video is still taking off. What else do you have going on?
I have a tour coming up in September. This is what is the most interesting thing about this—this song about cows that I thought was going to dissolve into the atmosphere blows up right before I go on tour. I’m about to be on tour in two weeks from now, maybe less. I don’t even know, but very soon I’m announcing it. I’m supposed to announce it tomorrow, but I guess we’re just a day early. We’re doing a tour in September on the west coast and it’s to promote the album. That should be really fun. That’s when I really want to perform the songs.
I’m sure people will be chanting “moo.” That’s what I would expect.
I’m planning on it, for sure.
For more features like this, peep our profile on Compton rapper Buddy right here.