Tracing Doja Cat's Meteoric Rise From Meme Queen to R&B Superstar

Doja Cat is up for four trophies at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards after experiencing whirlwind success, and it all started with the song "Mooo!" Read on for how she became an R&B star.

By Cydney Contreras May 20, 2021 10:00 AMTags
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It's hard to scroll through TikTok, Twitter or any other social media platform without hearing one of Doja Cat's songs.

The 25-year-old pop star, née Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, emerged on the scene with both chill and upbeat songs that are simply too catchy to forget. The first time her followers experienced the mesmerizing phenomena that is her music was when she released "Mooo!" in 2019.

As the title of the song suggests, she quite literally moos, before singing the nursery rhyme "Old McDonald Had a Farm" and rapping about chilling in hay. As one would expect, the tune caught the attention of meme-obsessed internet users.  

Having experienced success with "Mooo!" the artist re-released her 2018 debut studio album Amala in 2019, this time including her hit song, as well as the single "Juicy" featuring Tyga

Then later that year, she quickly put out her sophomore album Hot Pink, which includes the fan-favorite single "Say So."

Like the age-old question, "What came first: the chicken or the egg?" pop culture fanatics find themselves asking, "Did 'Say So' make TikTok, or did TikTok make 'Say So'?"

Best Dressed Ever at the Billboard Music Awards

"Say So" was one of the first true "TikTok songs," as those who were on the app during its rise in the late months of 2020 can attest. It was simply not possible to open a For You page without coming across teens, and even adults, dancing to Doja singing, "Didn't even notice, no punches left to roll with / You got to keep me focused, you want it, say so."

Not to forget "Like That," which is equally popular, if not more. 

Christopher Polk/NBC

And as TikTok grew in popularity, so did Doja.

The Los Angeles native paid homage to TikToker Haley Sharpe, who came up with the trend, in her performance at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. For her first-ever MTV performance she put her own twist on the TikTok trend, dressing as a cat-like alien from planet Doja as she and her entourage moved across a fake pink planet with surprising prowess.

That night, she won the moonperson for Push Best New Artist, prompting a tearful acceptance from the artist. 

"Being on social media is one thing because I joke and I meme all day, but when I stand here right now and tell you that I'm so thankful to have [you] as supporters, the fact that this happened and you are a huge part of it, means everything to me," Doja said. "And I'm not going to cry. But I love you and thank you. Stay safe and thanks, Mom!"

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It was just one of the many award shows she would attend in the following months, including the Grammys, where she was nominated for Record of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Solo Performance.

Though she went home empty-handed, the pop star told E! News' Giuliana Rancic, "It means everything because I feel like people hear what I'm trying to make and they understand it. And they like it. That's all I really want, I want to make music that people can enjoy."

Now, she's up for four honors at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards: Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Female Artist, Top R&B Album and Top R&B Song.

To see Doja in all her glory at the BBMAs, tune in to the show on NBC this Sunday, May 23 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.