Doja Cat, Scarlet review: She may troll her fans, but the rapper has never sounded more serious

As with hit 2021 album ‘Planet Her’, this record operates in its own strange world

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 22 September 2023 06:35 BST
<p>Doja Cat releases her fourth album ‘Scarlet’ </p>

Doja Cat releases her fourth album ‘Scarlet’

Doja Cat has spent the better part of 2023 either rowing with her fans or downright trolling them. In May, the LA rapper and singer described her previous two albums – Planet Her (2021) and Hot Pink (2019) – as “cash grabs”. “Y’all fell for it,” she tweeted. “Now I can go disappear somewhere and touch grass with my loved ones on an island while y’all weep for mediocre pop.” The LA artist seems to delight in keeping her audience on their toes, both with her online antics and her music – but on fourth album Scarlet, she’s never sounded more serious.

Possibly sick of being told she is too pop to be considered a quote-unquote real rapper, Doja Cat ditches her brighter, manic sound of old – exemplified by past tracks like the 2019 TikTok sensation “Say So” – and returns with something darker, more brooding. “You follow me but you don’t really care about the music,” she spits on “Attention”. With Scarlet, it sounds like she is putting that to the test. “Ouchies” blares with sirens, each blast mingling with eerie, distorted yells and a chilly yelp of a synth beat. On the trap-influenced “Gun”, she whips out cool threats with Nicki Minaj’s wide-eyed insouciance.

As with Planet Her, Scarlet operates in its own strange world. This time, Doja Cat is cruising down blood-soaked streets under looming storm clouds. It may sound scary, but the artist is in her element as she takes the bad with the good. “I love it when my life’s like this,” she raps on the whimsical, introspective “Love Life”, breezing through a list of things she is grateful for. Later, her voice grows deeper, more gravelly, as she admits: “I know I been the root of the cause/ I know I had a temper before/ But still y’all don’t quit/ I understand y’all want me to win.”

At various points across the album, Doja Cat channels her predecessors. There’s a gorgeous D’Angelo croon to “Often” and on the punchy “Demons”, she emulates Kendrick Lamar’s silky, dangerous tones. Notably, though, there are zero features on this record. Scarlet holds up all on its own.

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