Saucy Santana Comes in Swinging

Saucy Santana Comes in Swinging

Story by C. Taylor Henderson / Photography by Xavier Luggage / Styling by Danasia Sutton and Marlon Mizrahi / Makeup by Nikko Anthony / Clothing and accessories by CoachJun 08, 2022

All eyes are on Saucy Santana and it’s easy to see why.

The 28-year-old rapper commands attention when he walks into a room. Maybe it’s that thick Southern accent from ‘round the way. Or maybe it’s the beat face with a full beard, nails stoned, and the tendency to twerk in a dress and heels while rapping lyrics like, “Pussy got him tongue-tied like he playing a game of Twister.”

The Florida native first rose into the public eye as the makeup artist for rap duo City Girls, their hilarious relationship garnering him attention on social media. He released his debut song, “Walk Em like A Dog,” in 2019 and when it racked up 1 million streams in a week, it was clear Santana had arrived – but that trajectory was promptly hijacked by a certain pandemic. It didn’t slow him down, though; he began to pop up all over the internet.

First, it was “Material Girl,” an anthemic call and response record for the gworls who can appreciate the finer things in life. The track is now TikTok canon; more than 1.2 million videos have used Santana’s song to do everything from showing off deals at Costco to making jokes about what a “they/them army” might look like (fabulous, of course).

Then came “Walk;” after its 2021 release, the entire world seemed to be participating in the challenge. TikTokers dolled themselves up to strut down a metaphysical runway in their bedrooms to the song. Eventually, the celebs found it: “Ellen DeGeneres, Wesley Snipes, Tamar Braxton, Kelly Rowland, Nicki Minaj, everybody did it,” Santana points out to PAPER.

Clothing and accessories: Coach

He slid into this industry eyelashes first with his talent, the sheer virality of his music, and the support of rap listeners around the world — a presence especially impressive in a genre dominated by straight, cis men. Even Lil' Kim is a supporter per a recent Instagram Story where she introduced Santana to her daughter for her birthday. “Material girl!” they all cheesed into the camera.

Clearly, folks are paying attention.

Just last week, Santana nearly broke the internet with a 15-second clip. Dressed in a t-shirt and giant sunglasses, the rapper filmed a video of him twerking to his new, unreleased song, “Booty,” in one take in his bathroom. He didn’t expect the clip to make too much noise, but went viral almost instantly.

“Who else got a ass like this? Who else throws it back like this?” Santana raps over the iconic horns from Beyoncé’s first solo smash hit, “Crazy In Love” – or is it technically the Chi-Lites, the band Beyoncé originally interpolated her 2003 song from?

As the internet debates who is sampling who, the clip has garnered 2.2 million views on Twitter and 3.7 million on TikTok, with nearly 5,500 videos using the sound. The song officially comes out June 10, featuring “Big Energy” rapper Latto, whom Santana just wrapped a national tour with.

He’s clearly got a hit on his hands and the future laid out before Santana is looking as bright as Swarovski crystals. He signed to RCA Records in March, he’s got a song with Grammy Award-winning gamechanger Lil Nas X coming, as well as two more of his “dream collabs,” and is currently immersed in the production of his next album (that we’ll hopefully have some time this year).

He’s even the face of Coach in their latest Pride Month campaign — and PAPER caught up with Saucy to kiki about it all.

You recently dropped a short clip of your new song “Booty.” It already feels like the song of the summer and the internet is so hyped for it, right now. What can you tease?

I can tell you it’s coming out in June. The other hint is it’s definitely going to be the song of the summer. Y’all already know. The funnest part to me about it, and I think it had the same effect on everybody, was when I first got the song and I heard the duhhhh dun dun dun dun dun duhhhh, I was like, “Oh shit that’s ‘Crazy In Love.’” I think that’s the funnest part. I just think the song could be so big and go so many places. I have plastic surgeons reaching out to me about the record, they want to do something. Everybody is so excited, it’s going to be big.

What has the fan reaction been like?

Yesterday was the first time I actually decided to do it. It’s been going so crazy on the internet and since it’s been going so crazy, I’m going to start performing the same clip that’s on TikTok. When I walked out to it and everybody caught on, they started going crazy. I like building up anticipation, letting people have fun with the record and seeing the crowd reaction. I’m still learning the record myself, how I should perform to it, what dance moves I should do

Everyone thinks it's sampling Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love,” but many people don’t know that her song is actually a sample of a Chi-Lite song, “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So).” So who cleared the rights...

That’s a label question, chile. I don’t be digging that deep into it. I just be like, “What, hello, my record good? Thank you.”

Clothing and accessories: Coach

It definitely invokes Beyoncé.

I didn’t even know anything about the Chi-Lites? I wasn’t aware. Beyoncé is what I heard. I don’t know who [the label] went through. I’d have to get back with you.

What if she did clear it?

In my head, I always feel like it was Beyoncé. I get Ivy Park boxes. I’ve had interactions with Beyoncé on her website. All the girls know me. Kelly Rowland did the “Walk” challenge [on TikTok]. Chloe x Halle follow me. One thing about Beyoncé, Beyoncé know what’s going on in the world. We might not be able to reach her and you might not get a DM back on Instagram, but Beyoncé knows what’s going on.

She has that secret Twitter account, she’s watching.

Yes, yes. Beyoncé knows Santana, for sure.

Clothing and accessories: Coach

Since getting signed to RCA, how has your music-making process changed?

[Laughs] They love bossing me around. I’m grateful for them, they just unlocked so many new doors, so many new opportunities, so many new producers. It brings you to a higher level and that’s what I’m excited for. That’s another reason why we’re so excited for “Booty” because, for a while, I couldn’t do these kinds of records. I couldn’t even get these kinds of samples cleared, whether they’re from Chi-Lites or Beyoncé, because I wasn’t at that status yet. Being signed to them is a blessing, you know what I'm saying? I’m able to skyrocket more and dabble in things I know my people want to see.

You and Lil Nas X have also teased something in the studio. Is he as hilarious in person as he is online?

Lil Nas is as hilarious as y’all see him on the internet. He is a troll in person just how he is on the internet. I went to go do my song with Lil Nas, he initially played me another song and I was listening like, “I like the beat of this song,” but I think he did it as a joke... the way he was rapping and singing. In my head I’m like, “This song is horrible. How I’m gon tell him?” I’m already thinking in my head,“Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to tell this boy the beat is cool, but we’re gonna have to redirect this song.”

Everybody had their head turned, looking scared and I’m like, “What is going on?” And Nas just bust out laughing. He was like, “Oh my god, that’s not the song. That’s not the song we’re doing.” And I was like, “I’m so glad because I hate that song.” I’m a beat person, I’m known for my beat choice. With the beat choice, we had potential, but with what was going on with that record, it was a no. I’m so glad it wasn’t the song. Me and Lil Nas’ song is really fun. He named it after me and Florida culture, so it’s called “Down Souf Hoes.” I think it’s gonna be fun. Everybody’s gonna like it. He says it’s our strip club song.

Do you remember any lyrics or anything from the original troll song?

No, I don’t. He was screaming, then he would start singing. It was literally like Nas said, “I’m just going to make a horrible song.” It was so funny afterward, because at first I was like, “Oh my gosh Nas we can’t do this, we can’t put that out.”

Clothing and accessories: Coach

You seem to go viral effortlessly these days. Why do you think the internet has resonated so deeply with you and your music?

Authentic. Genuine. You can see it. People hate when stuff is gimmicky, when they’re like, “That’s corny. Who made you do that?” Or when you look like an attention seeker or when you’re doing stuff for a reaction. People draw more into it when they’re like, “This is just him.” Ever since I’ve been introduced to the world, I’ve been the same person. Once people fall in love with you, they fall in love with everything you’re doing because they know that it’s you. When we see Beyoncé with blonde hair, we fall in love with whichever style it is because we know that it’s Beyoncé.

With “Booty,” I had woke up that morning. My stylist is out, I had to be at the airport by 10 AM because I had to go to New York to finish a Coach campaign. I was like I’ma just throw on something and do a quick video for “Booty,” take another nap, put on my clothes, go to the airport. One take, I never shot no other videos for that one. One take on TikTok. Went to sleep, packed my bags, rushed to the airport as always to make my flight. By the time I get off the plane in New York, everybody’s like, “Woah.” Okay, y’all liked it.

So later on in the day around 5 PM, I was like, “This is a whole thing.” I was trending on Twitter in less than a couple hours. It was all over the Shade Room. Blogs started making articles. Hold on, I just gave y’all a little snippet, a little something something. That was so crazy, my influence and how I do things so effortlessly. I didn’t even expect that much from that little video. I knew I was about to start advertising it, so I was like, “Let me just throw something out there.”

What was it like seeing “Walk” and “Material Girl” go so viral, not only on TikTok but everywhere?

I get the same gushy feeling every time. We put things out to try for y’all to like it and to be successful, but I never put out music with any crazy intentions, especially back then because I wasn’t even a major label artist yet. That’s the fun thing about music: when you put out songs and it’s not so serious or overanalyzed, that’s your best work. Once it starts getting to be 20 people discussing what your songs should be and 20 different label meetings, I’m like, “Chile y’all are just overdoing it and now it’s just giving trying too hard.” With “Walk,” that was the rollout of my album. By the time the album came out, “Walk” had already started its own little trend. People started getting dressed to the record, doing the videos. Everybody did a “Walk” video: Ellen DeGeneres, Wesley Snipes, Tamar Braxton, Kelly Rowland, Nicki Minaj, everybody did it. Same thing with “Material Girl.” Some kid used the sound on Roblox and made a bass boosted version and it took off.

What’s your relationship like with fashion?

I love fashion. I probably love fashion too much if you check my bank account. I’ve always felt that since I was a kid. My mom went to college for fashion and merchandising. My mom used to get so upset when my dad would take me to the mall every day after school. Shopping is an expensive habit and a problem for me. I love new things, I love glam, getting my makeup done, getting exclusive clothes, photo shoots. I love, love, love fashion. Since I was a kid, I would get an attitude. I had this Sean John outfit and we had went out to eat at Red Lobster and I had spilled my smoothie on – remember the Sean John velour sweatsuits? I had spilled a smoothie on me, I was over it, I was ready to leave the restaurant, kicking and screaming. My daddy was like, “Yo for real calm down, it’s just clothes, you can put it in the washing machine.” I always didn’t play about my clothes, my appearance, fashion. In my house, right now, my friends walk in and they like, “You need to get a bigger house.” It’s literally Louis Vuitton and Prada bags on the kitchen counter.

Clothing and accessories: Coach

My aunt converted a whole bedroom in her house into her closet.

I said that! When I had moved, I was like, “You know what? Ima turn my other bedroom into a closet.” Thinking about my friends, I don’t know why because I don’t have much company at my house, but I was like, “I’ll just take my old bed and put it into my other bedroom and make that a guest room then I have two walk-in closets.” Chile, it’s no room in those two walk-in closets and now I want to take that bed out of there and tell my friends, “You can’t stay the night here.”

They can sleep on the sofa.

[Laughs] Y’all can sleep on the sofa.

Let’s talk about Coach’s Pride campaign. What’s your relationship with the brand?

[The campaign] was so fun and so prideful and so colorful. It was with other [actors and personalities]. I love us making an impact together. I’m not a person that feels like I gotta be a star. I was glad that it was other people making an impact together.

It was so cool when Coach even approached me with the idea because growing up, my mom loved Coach. I used to call her Coach lady. She had everything. It was cool for me knowing the brand for so long to actually circle back and now they want me to be the face. Meg Thee Stallion is doing Coach, too.

Clothing and accessories: Coach

Is there something new you’ve learned over the last year that’s shaping this year’s Pride for you?

My new thing is embracing. Embracing being a gay rapper to people. When I first came out, I would get offended when people would be like, “Oh he’s a gay rapper.” Not offended because I’m gay, but offended because like, why do I have to be a gay rapper? Why do I have to be in a box? I’m just as talented as other females, as other male artists. Why do I have to be a gay one? I could just be a rapper, period. Over time I’ve learned to embrace it.

You know what, I am a gay rapper. I’m a gay rapper doing better than some male rappers I know. I’m a gay rapper doing better than some female rappers I know. I’m a Black gay male doing better than some other race rappers I know. Being gay is who I am, being gay is what brought me a lot of opportunities. I just learned to not necessarily be offended about it, but to embrace it. Now when we go to the BET awards, we want a Best LGBT Artist. You got Best Rap Duo, Best Female Artist. Since we gay rappers, we want our own category.

Album, when?

We’re in album mode, right now. Literally why I’m packing because once I go to LA to do WeHo Pride, RCA is not having it, like, “Ho you’re not going back home. You’re going to stay in LA for a couple days and go to the studio.” Literally, since I’ve signed in March, every chance that I get, every off day revolves around the studio. Once I get my singles off and rolling, I can bless y’all with this brand new elevated album.

Any dream collaborations?

My dream collab has always been Gucci Mane, my favorite rapper since I was a kid. Just for me, if I had a Gucci Mane record it would make my whole entire being because that’s someone who I’ve always looked up to and had a lot of influence.

Just recently, I’m not going to tell you a name but y’all can keep your eyes open, I have been able to obtain two of my dream collabs, which should be coming out within the next couple months, I think. Prepare to gag when you see it.

Clothing and accessories: Coach

This article is a sponsored collaboration between Coach and PAPER

Photography: Xavier Luggage
Graphic design: Will Schlesinger
Styling: Danasia Sutton, Marlon Mizrahi
Barber: Fox
Makeup: Nikko Anthony
Nails: Saccia
Video director: Symone Ridgell
DOP: Ricardo Martinez
Music: Basside, SOPHIE
Set design: Eric Vidmar, Skye Whitley Guzman, Marie Sommers
Photo assistant: Garrett Alvarado
Tailoring: Jinnah Park
Styling assistant: Gizzelle Burciaga
Retouching: Matty So
Production: Amanda Kahle