This weekend, rapper Doja Cat attempted to establish boundaries with fans on social media, but her message might have gotten lost in its delivery. On Sunday, the “Attention” rapper uploaded a post to Threads in response to fans who had given a name to their fandom, “kittenz.” While it’s not uncommon for fandoms to have names (see Rihanna’s Navy, Nicki Minaj’s Barbz, and the BTS Army), Doja Cat insisted that her fandom doesn’t have one. “If you call yourself ‘kitten’ or ‘kittenz,’ that means you need to get off your phone and get a job and help your parents.” A fan account called “TheKittenzWeb” asked Doja Cat what they should change their name to instead, to which Doja replied, “Just delete the entire account and rethink everything. It’s never too late.”
The 27-year-old rapper continued with more posts on Threads saying that people using her real name (Amala) in their usernames is “creepy as f-ck.” Another fan account told Doja that they wanted to hear her say that she loves her fans, and Doja replied, “I don’t though because I don’t even know y’all.” A Taylor Swift fan account responded to this comment by acknowledging that they don’t know Doja either, but they have thrown their support behind her, telling the rapper that she’d be “nothing” without her fans. The interaction ended with Doja writing back, “Nobody forced you, [I don’t know] why you’re talking to me like you’re my mother b-tch, you sound like a crazy person.”
Doja Cat publicly shaming her own fandom came as a shock to many, especially given that on Instagram and Twitter, fan accounts that frequently use fandom names essentially serve as cheerleaders for their favorite artists. TIME reached out to TheKittenzWeb account for comment but did not immediately hear back.
More from TIME
Since Doja Cat’s comments on Threads, her account appears to have been deleted. Many fans saw her comments on Threads as a harsh way for the artist to engage with her supporters, and some of her most popular fan accounts began deactivating their accounts. One Twitter user compared her actions to that of the polarizing rapper Azealia Banks in a viral tweet. Others have uploaded posts about their disappointment with Doja’s recent comments online. A now-viral Twitter post from a fan consisted of an open letter to the rapper, telling her that they’ve been to “hell and back” continuing to support the artist through multiple scandals online.
Doja is no stranger to controversy online due to her prior work with the controversial producer Dr. Luke and Kemosabe Records. The biggest controversy played out in 2020 when videos resurfaced of the rapper in a TinyChat video room with men who were reported at the time to be “incels” or “involuntary celibates.” There were reports that she used homophobic slurs and made racist remarks, for which she apologized in a now-deleted statement on her Instagram page. “I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child,” she wrote. “I shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations. I’m sorry to everyone I offended.”
Following her tumultuous time on the internet, Doja Cat’s fans were quick to remind her during this past weekend’s events to that they have stuck by her through them all. A few of the fan accounts dedicated to her seem to be weighing the option to continue posting about Doja or deleting their accounts. One account, @DojaCatStats, tweeted, “Well it was a great time I guess, time to say goodbye.” Others, meanwhile, have come to Doja’s defense, arguing that this new attitude is “a role” that she’s playing. The 27-year-old rapper has been known to toy with the public’s perception of her. For example, when she attended the Met Gala in May in a look that was inspired by Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette, she meowed in response to questions during interviews. She is known to put on a bit and try not to take things seriously, especially when it comes to public appearances. An account with the handle @Hellssmouth, named for one of the many titles Doja said her upcoming album might be called, uploaded a post with text that said Doja Cat is now assuming the role of an alter ego named “Scarlet” and had already apologized for “what would happen later.” The account continued to write that “[Doja] doesn’t hate us, Scarlet does because she’s evil.”
The fandom incident comes at a moment when fans’ parasocial relationships with musical artists have attracted particular scrutiny. Multiple artists have had increasingly peculiar interactions with crowds. Bebe Rexha was hit with a phone; a fan threw a bracelet at Kelsea Ballerini and it hit her in the eye; and a fan threw the ashes of their deceased mother on Pink’s stage. Some have attempted to quell their fans’ ferocity for attention by telling them not to throw things or, in Adele’s case, jokingly threatening them with a t-shirt canon. But it’s hard not to see Doja Cat’s responses to her fans in the context of these conversations about what—if anything—artists owe to the fans who dedicate their time and energy to them.
- Taylor Swift Is TIME's 2023 Person of the Year
- Meet the Nation Builders
- Why Cell Phone Reception Is Getting Worse
- Column: It's Time to Scrap the Abraham Accords
- Israeli Family Celebrates Release of Hostage Grandmother
- In a New Movie, Beyoncé Finds Freedom
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time