Illustration for article titled Doja Cats Dindu Nuffin, Explained
Photo: Arturo Holmes (Getty Images)

Stop it.

What?

You know what you’re doing.

Huh?

Doja Cat? Dindu Nuffin? These are not real things. They’re not even real words. Stop trolling me.

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Trust me, they’re both real! And I know that saying “Trust me, they’re both real!” in any context doesn’t inspire much confidence. But, yeah. Trust me.

OK. I’ll play along. Who is Doja Cat?

Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini (born October 21, 1995) known professionally as Doja Cat, is an American singer, rapper, and songwriter. She first rose to prominence with the release of the music video for her song “Mooo!” which went viral in 2018. She subsequently became known for creating music videos and songs that achieve widespread popularity online, specifically on social media apps like TikTok.”

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Wait. Did you just cut and paste that from Wikipedia?

I did.

We’re doing this explainer for you to...explain. If I wanted a Wiki take, I’d just go there instead.

So that bio was helpful for me, too, because I didn’t know her real name or her age. Still, the best way for me to describe her as an artist would be that she exists, with several others, on a cultural retention divider. I thought her “Mooo!” song was quirky and catchy, and I know she has a hit single with Nicki Minaj. But before the recent controversy, I was fine with that being the extent of my knowledge of her.

This is no diss of her talent; she could be the next Bob Dylan for all I know. I’m just at an age where it takes a lot for me to latch onto new artists. There just ain’t enough room in my pop cultural hard drive for it. Shit, there are things that I know I’d enjoy—Breaking Bad, for instance—that I still haven’t made space to consume yet.

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You’re an old, so that makes sense. Anyway, so what is “Dindu Nuffin”?

“Dindu nuffin” is an alt-right message board-conceived term that’s popular in white supremacist circles. It’s a phonetic compression, mocking the dialect of black victims of police brutality, who “Didn’t do nothing.”

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Wow. That is dark. 

If you think that’s bad, wait till you read why “cuck” is so popular with them, too. But yeah, dindu nuffin is actually past garden-variety alt-right territory, because at least they pretend to be racist-neutral “realists.” This is straight “I hate black people, and I want you to know that.”

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Yikes. So how is this connected to Doja Cat?

In 2015, she recorded a song titled “Dindu Nuffin.”

Wait...what? How? Why would she do that?

That’s the million-dollar question. The song itself is actually quite smooth. I listened to it this morning, and it sounds like something you’d hear during a scene transition on Insecure. If she called it literally anything else—well, literally anything other than that or “Die Black Nigger Monkey Die”—it would’ve been fine.

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I have theories though.

Of course, you do.

When pressed about that song, Doja Cat claimed that it was her way of reclaiming that term after being called it in on TinyChat, a video chat room she frequents.

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Is this the same place that Dindu Nuffin came from?

No. This is a...different place that racist whites also frequent.

Hmm.

Exactly! “Hmm” is the perfect response to that. The most charitable explanation here is that she’s comfortable enough in those spaces to go there to troll the trolls. Also, this happened in 2015, which would’ve made her 19.

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But...?

There’s nothing she’s done publicly since then—and nothing that’s been revealed about what she does privately—that would allow for the benefit of the doubt here. She seems to be an edgelord—which is a (usually white and male) person who says trollish and taboo shit online to appear cool to other trolls. They build community by shitting on other communities, and black people are their most frequent target. Basically, edgelording is Spades for incels.

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Why would a black woman do any of this?

Unfortunately, what’s happening here isn’t that uncommon for black people who grew up in predominately white spaces. Whiteness—particularly the cool and edgy white boys—is fetishized, and to assimilate, some flatten themselves into the black kid who isn’t offended by slurs and can be just as edgy as they are. That Doja Cat is biracial and considered physically attractive matters here too, as it gives her even more distinction and separation from those “regular black” blacks.

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Ultimately, it’s a protection mechanism. Some of us, in those environments, go extra hard with the blackety black black black, where blackness becomes a forcefield. And some of us go—well, some of us go the other way.

The hope is that you grow out of it eventually. Some do. Some don’t.

So, is Doja Cat canceled now?

I hate that term, for reasons Danielle Butler articulated years ago. But I can’t cancel something I never subscribed to. It’s up to her fans to decide if they believe her apologies are sincere. That said, there’s an (admittedly unverified) rumor that “Dindu Nuffin” was created as a troll of Sandra Bland. She denied it, but if I was a fan, I doubt I could get that out of my head.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for GQ.com, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

It’s not that I take her side or anything cause ultimately even with all her clarifications and explanations there are still a lot that’s not adding up.

But I’m not going to lead the charge against her cause, if she were dating a black man. If she had directed her comments and the song had been specifically about black women. Dark skin black women. (Biracial does not equal black it’s biracial. Slavery is over. Let go of the one drop rule.) Then this article would not exist. Y’all would have thrown up your hands. There would be all the equivocation and explanation for her behavior. But y’all finally got a taste of a bitter concoction you like to give to black women all the time.

She used y’all niggas to get on, but she hates you and doesn’t really give a fuck about you and in that I find a sort of justice cause now you know what that feels like and what black women keep talking about.