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Rapper Saucy Santana created the hits “Material Girl” and “Walk Em Like A Dog.” ESPN illustration

Black Music Month: Saucy Santana is spreading joy by being himself

The ‘Material Girl’ rapper on making music that makes the world dance

There’s a video of Saucy Santana, real name Rashad Spain, that I’ve been laughing at for months. In the video, Saucy Santana is wearing a black tunic dress that exposes both of his thighs. He’s carrying a tiny purse and is wearing black boots. The rapper, whose hits “Material Girl” and “Walk Em Like a Dog” have taken over TikTok and Instagram, is walking out of a building, and as he takes off his shades, the video goes into slow motion. Then Saucy Santana performs an epic hair flip before putting his shades back on and walking off. Oh, you should know: Saucy Santana has a bald fade and doesn’t actually have any of the hair needed to perform an actual flip. Yet this video shows off the full Saucy Santana experience: extra flair, extra drama, theatrics, comedy and joy — lots of joy. The comments are all-caps excitement and awe at Saucy Santana’s swagger. In short, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

For the past few years, Saucy Santana’s brand of entertainment just makes you feel good — starting with his hilarious viral Instagram Live videos with City Girls member Yung Miami and culminating in a rap career and new single, “Booty” with fellow rapper Latto, that is primed to take over the charts just as it’s taken over the internet. Saucy Santana’s vibe emanates happiness that feels so precious, especially now as the world closes in on so many of us.

Ahead of “Booty’s” release, I talked to the Bridgeport, Connecticut, native about his unrelenting joy, what makes him happy and how he maintains this positivity in an industry (and world) that doesn’t always love its queer community members like it should.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How important is it for you to be a source of joy when you’re presenting yourself to the public?

It’s a cool thing. It’s easy to wake up and be yourself and just be Santana, who I’ve been since a kid. I take pride in that and I’m happy everyone sees me for me and they love it. 

Your songs are upbeat dance songs, but you do talk a lot about people trying you or messing with you, and sometimes including you in drama. Still, you flip it into a positive sound. How important is the actual sound of the music when it comes to happiness?

I’m just a fun person. I like to have fun. I like to shop and spend money and party. So I just feel like it’s easy to make that kind of music. And that’s what people like about me. But in real life, I’m actually dead-ass serious. But people love internet, entertaining Santana. So since that’s the side that you like and you enjoy, I’m going to give you music that will make you fall in love with one of the characteristics you already love so much.

What do you mean when you say you’re serious in private?

In person, it’s not a lot of loud laughing and all that. I’m a human. I’m not a robot. I wake up and I have bad days. I wake up and I have an attitude. I wake up and I have a full schedule of 20 things to do in a day that only has 24 hours. So every day when you see me, I’m not like, ‘Ah-haha, Material Girl!’ It’s not that every day. I think that for most people, that’s what they love to see. So I just make my music reflect [that].

Speaking of the outward stuff that everybody wants to see — do you feel like you have to perform? And does it ever wear on you?

Uh-huh, they definitely do. But I think it’s very important to just still be myself and not feel forced. I think nothing comes out good when it’s forced. So, when I have to force myself to allow people to make me think that I can’t still be a human being, that’s something that I don’t play about. I’m still a person. I still have feelings and emotions, and you’re going to respect everybody accordingly.

What brings you joy?

The strip club! (Laughs.) I’m a Libra, so making other people happy really makes me happy, too. So, being able to put out a record that people enjoy. Being able to pay off a bill for my mom. Being able to provide for my little sister to try one of the many things that she always wants to do. But just being able to have peace, and be in a good space, and then able to also put a smile on other people’s faces, is enough for me.

You’re active on social media, especially when it comes to talking to people in your mentions. How do you maintain your sanity? Do you get off the phone at some point? 

Sometimes I upload [a video] and be like, ‘I ain’t reading the comments today. I don’t want that kind of energy.’ So, you just have to have self-control. But also, I’m just a person that’s confident in who I am. The internet is so weird and tricky nowadays. Trolling is the new popular thing. People feel like they can get a response and be on The Shade Room.

It took a lot of nerve for me to come out of the house at 17 with a full acrylic set on, and makeup and a beard and girl clothes. So, I don’t really care what people think. But of course, I’m human, so it can still get to you. So, some days I just put the phone down.

One of the things that’s great about you making this music is that it comes at a time when the world just feels so messed up. How do you respond when things like the recent anti-gay legislation in Florida passes and you know that you make so many people happy?

That’s one of the things that makes me happy that I could do something, I could put out a record, or I could do something that makes you feel good. Because there is a lot of trauma in the world, and you just never know what people are going through.

I get so many DMs [direct messages] of people telling me I inspire them, or they wanted to do this for so long when they didn’t have the courage. But watching me, they’re now living in their truth and their own real identities. Or how people write me and say, if they’re having a bad day and they play my music, it’s able to switch the dynamic of their day or their attitude. So I’m just grateful and joyous for that.

You mentioned you want to work with Lizzo and Gucci Mane. I noticed there have been a lot of Black women in the industry who have been supportive of you. But have you found it challenging to get straight Black men to want to make music with you?

I don’t really ask them to know what they really want. But I know I got a lot of straight Black male fans, and when they see me, they go just as crazy as my other fans do. Even other rap dudes — when I’m out running errands, a lot of dudes show me love.

Is that even something you think about? How important is it to have that contingent of folks either wanting to work with you or being fans of your work?

It used to be at the top of my list. Now, I’m not worried about it. Because I just feel like when music and talent is undeniable, you don’t really have to convince people.

I used to feel like I had to convince them, or I wanted to be down [with them]. Because even growing up, being in the streets and stuff, I was always cool with all the boys. So I was looking for that same acceptance in hip-hop. But it’s a whole different ballgame. So with me, I’m just cool with just doing me and letting my talent rock out and be undeniable — more people have no choice but to give you your flowers.

What worries you?

Nine times out of 10 it’s about music. Getting features cleared, having proper rollouts, making sure what [sounds good]. Those are things that I’m really walking on eggshells about all the time.

We’ve been talking about joy for a bit now so I want to know: What does it mean to you?

Joy means to me: happiness, being confident, being proud in who you are and what you got going on.

David Dennis Jr. is a senior writer at Andscape and an American Mosaic Journalism Prize recipient. His book, The Movement Made Us, will be released in 2022. David is a graduate of Davidson College.