Before their single “Material Girl” became a bonafide TikTok phenomenon, the rising Florida rapper Saucy Santana spent his time as the makeup artist to the Miami rap duo City Girls. Their professional relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship and creative partnership, and it’s not hard to see why. Like the Miami girls that gave us quotable classics like “Pussy Talk,” Saucy Santana is a natural social media star, often appearing in Instagram Live clips and generating micro-trends, like “Caresha please!” with Yung Miami, without even trying.
Santana’s music has been a staple on TikTok and Instagram — anthems for women, queer POC, and anyone feeling themselves at any moment in time. It started around 2019, with his first single “Walk Em Like a Dog.” The track started off as an Instagram Live freestyle but served as the template for Santana’s brand of infectiously self-confident club bangers. “For all my ladies, if you’re tired of his mess / Losing weight, falling off, feeling stressed,” he snaps. “Slide with a rich nigga, now you blessed.”
Santana was born in Connecticut and moved to Florida, to a town just an hour outside of Tallahassee, at the age of ten. It was where the rapper, now 28, fell in love with hip-hop and pop music. “Once I moved to Florida. I just had more Florida bass. I just started getting more into the culture of Florida music,” Santana tells Rolling Stone.
Growing up listening to artists like Trina, Jackie O, Gucci Mane, and Khia gave Santana an ear for freestyling and for the kinds of club anthems that have been critical to his growing profile among the latest class of hip-hop stars. His tracks have staying power, too. Santana’s releases tend to blow up and stay viral on different platforms for years. Audio of the infectiously danceable “Walk,” released in 2020, has been used in more than 300,000 TikToks after becoming a popular track on the platform last year. The song generated its own #WalkChallenge and has gained Santana nearly 13 million streams to date. With “Material Girl,” also from 2020, Santana fostered one of the biggest trends on TikTok today thanks to various remixes and edits of the track.
Pretty Little Gangsta, one of the three albums Santana released in 2020, offers important context to the story of Santana as a Southern gay artist expanding the limited ideas of what Southern rap looks and sounds like. It features Santana firmly in his Florida bass groove and includes appearances from some of the leading southern women in rap. In fact, all of Santana’s albums include features across the board, from City Girls to Latto, Beat King, and Kali. “I wanna have my feet in every genre,” Santana says.
On their latest album Keep It Playa, released in December,Santana expands his Rolodex of sounds, proving to be more than a viral artist but a rapper who has taken the reigns of work into his own hands. The now Atlanta-based artist has released five albums as an independent artist alongside the production label Streamcut and is decidedly more in control of their output than your typical rising star. “Being an independent artist has its pros and its cons, I definitely feel like it has allowed me a lot of my own creativity in my music,” Santana says.
At the core of Santana’s rise is his work with producer Tre Trax, who is responsible for the majority of Santana’s beats. The 24-year-old came to Atlanta from Long Island during the heart of the New Atlanta wave of hip-hop and was already working with artists like Latto and Lightskin Keisha when he crossed paths with Santana’s team. The pair met the same night that Santana recorded “Material Girl,” which would eventually become his breakout single. ”We just got to work, I was helping him get through and record the song, and that was literally the first night we met,” Trax says. The pair have since built a friendship rooted in mutual respect. “Santana is a brother to me and he’s one of the most solid people I know,” Trax says.
For his part, Saucy Santana has nobody to impress but himself. “I control the type of music I put out and when I’m putting it out. And it has actually helped me become a hard worker because I have more to prove when I drop albums,” he says. It is no small accomplishment for a new artist to arrive with such a large body of successful work in their first two years, and it would appear that Santana isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He says we can expect some new singles dropping in the spring, and with his recent Fashion week debut, tour with Latto, Kali, and Flo Milli, the future looks bright.
“Two years from now it’s giving the face of fashion, it’s giving the face of makeup, it’s giving grammy’s, its giving movies…the shit that I can do in two more years, I can’t even imagine,” Santana says. Gratitude has been resounding in his life as of late and he’s happy to sit with how the past two years have been made possible. “I reflect a lot and I’m just grateful.”