Behind the Band Name: How Weed and Felines Inspired Doja Cat

Born on October 21, 1995, in Los Angeles, Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, in Tarzana, to a South African father and Jewish-American mother.

Videos by American Songwriter

By the time she was a teenager, she was already releasing her own music online and crafted a new moniker for herself, one inspired by her favorite pets and weed.


In 2012, Dlamini pulled the first part of her new name from her favorite strain of marijuana she liked to smoke in high school.

“I was heavily addicted to weed and weed culture,” said Doja Cat, “so when I began rapping I thought of the word ‘doja’ and how it sounds like a girl’s name.”

[RELATED: Top 10 Doja Cat Songs]

Though she no longer smokes, Doja Cat credits weed to some of her success since she was pretty high while recording her first full-length album, Amala, released in 2018.

“My image was the pothead hippie girl,” she said, “and I’m not that.”

Cats and Art

The singer, songwriter, and producer pulled in the second half of her name came from her cat—and her love of felines, in general, and their “artistic” quality. “I just put cat cos I like cats,” she added in a 2019 interview.

The rapper, who has pet cats often uploads videos of them, along with photos of herself and her music.


As a teenager, Dlamini started releasing music on SoundCloud, and after her song “So High” went viral, she was signed at the age of 17 and released her first EP, Purr! soon after in 2014.

[RELATED: Doja Cat Launches ‘Planet Her’ Era With SZA-Featuring “Kiss Me More”]

Social Sensation

Knowing just how to use social media to her advantage early on, Doja Cat gained even more traction after posting her DIY video for the Amala track, “Mooo!” which she initially posted as a joke in 2018. The video, which shows Doja Cat dancing in a cow costume singing Bitch I’m a cow, quickly turned her into a meme star.

“It was a joke between me and my fans,” said the rapper in 2018. “We started it on Instagram Live, just me and 60 other people, and we all had fun coming up with puns and metaphors.”

By 2019, Doja Cat hit her first No. 1 with her own No. 1 single, “Say So,” featuring Nicki Minaj after the song gained traction on TikTok. Off Doja Cat’s second album, Hot Pink, “Say So” hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

Her Planet

In 2021, Doja Cat released her third album, Planet Her, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the R&B and Hip-Hop charts and received eight Grammy nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Album of the Year.

The rapper won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Kiss Me More,” featuring SZA. Planet Her also earned Doja Cat an American Music Award for Favorite R&B Album.

Experimenting more with sound on Planet Her, Doja Cat wanted to move around typical genres she employed on her previous albums.

“I wanted to kind of go outside of what I understood [or] what I knew as pop aesthetic or rap aesthetic,” said Doja Cat of Planet Her. “I wanted to quite literally travel outside of the planet. When it comes to the videos and choice of words and melodies and combinations musically, I wanted it to feel different. I wanted it to feel otherworldly. So, I just named it Planet Her.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for CELINE

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind Melissa Etheridge’s Pleading Ballad “Come To My Window”