I’ve never met him in person, but Saucy Santana feels like someone I already know. I caught up with the rapper in the latter days of May over Zoom. Talking to him felt less like interviewing an artist on the cusp of superstardom and more like catching up with your favorite cousin over a FaceTime call. It was 45 minutes of playful banter, laughs, and jokes. Santana has an energy that feels familiar — he’s the hilarious, witty, glamorous guy you befriended at your summer job in college, the kind who makes great company for after-work drinks.
This quality is no doubt part of the reason we’re even talking about the 28-year-old rapper, née Rashad Spain, right now. Before ever setting foot in a booth to record music, he was a makeup artist, cutting up on Instagram with his clients-turned-friends, the City Girls. His quick quips and charisma were an instant hit with viewers, launching him to viral fame and securing his spot as a major influencer in our modern-day vernacular.
Santana is the catchphrase king. When he speaks, it’s like tapping into a goldmine of memeable moments, just asking to be hilariously applied or referenced in other contexts. And once you’ve seen them, it’s hard to forget them. Promise — just watch a 12-second clip of the rapper playing around in a chin-length wig with blunt bangs, and you’ll never say the word “bob” again without tossing your head from side to side.
In 2019, Santana sought to parlay his internet virality into a music career. Tracks like “Walk ‘Em Like A Dog” and “Walk” quickly made their way from our Twitter feeds to the hookah lounges. But it’s “Material Girl,” likely one of his best-known singles, that makes the strongest case for why Santana is so uniquely suited to be a pop-culture icon in this climate today. The song, released in 2020, was everywhere well into late 2021 and early 2022 due to its TikTok appeal — it’s been featured in thousands of videos on the app, and has, fittingly, become something of a meme in itself.
All that was just the beginning; it seems summer 2022 is poised to truly be Santana’s season. June 10, the rapper released a new single, “Booty,” that boasts a feature from buzzy rapper and former tourmate, Latto — as of publication, the song is tagged in over 342,000 Tiktoks and counting. Combine that with his millions of streams on Spotify and a 16-track project, Keep It Playa, on the horizon, it’s clear Santana is the moment — and the future of hip-hop.
Before all that, the Tallahassee, Florida-raised artist was living what some might consider an idyllic American lifestyle. “I think a lot of people expect rappers to always have a story of growing up in poverty,” Santana explains. “I didn’t. I grew up with a silver spoon. My dad was a celebrity bodyguard, my mom was always the general manager of her job. I grew up in a big two-story house on five acres of land. I didn’t have the rap story of having to share clothes with my brothers and sisters or the lights getting turned off.” He was a good student. He wanted for nothing… except maybe, a little excitement.
The glamorization of street life which permeated the music he enjoyed got the suburbanite interested in getting acquainted with it first-hand. “I wanted to experience the streets. I used to get in trouble for [sneaking off] to the projects — my mama was not having it,” Santana recalls. Those excursions connected him with a friend group of bon vivants who were regulars at teen parties in the area, where they could relish in the sounds of Florida artists like Trina, Khia, Trick Daddy, Iceberg, Piccolo, and Animal.
This time was crucial for Santana — it was with this squad that he was able to explore his personal style aesthetic, which combines both traditionally masculine and feminine sensibilities. “Girls were my main [style and beauty] inspiration growing up. My girl cousin, Deirdre, and I grew up like brother and sister.” Santana recalls a group he formed alongside her and three other girls, “Ken and the Dolls.” He, “Ken,” of course, was everyone’s stylist, hairdresser, and makeup artist. Nicki Minaj was the reference he used to create many of the group’s looks. “Deirdre was my personal Nicki. I would make her get the Chinese bang [ed note: those very blunt, straight-across bangs popular in the 2010s] with the black hair that had pink streaks,” he says. “She had to get her nails painted pink and black, too. She would wear six-inch Jeffrey Campbell heels.”
Florida Girl Glam
The impact Nicki and the Florida “Dolls” he spent so much time with had on his style is clear today: Santana’s look, as he describes it, is very much a product of his upbringing. “Florida girls are material girls,” he explains. “We are going to have the longest weave, the freshest lace — we get ratchet-classy. Might have on Chanel, but we’re going to have some little coochie cutters too.” The vibe, simply put, is “a little bit stripper, a little bit classy, a bit hoochie, and a bit bougie.” It’s succinct, it’s simple, it’s very obviously the recipe the rapper sticks to when he’s putting himself together.
Santana loves a cinched silhouette to reflect the “bad bitch” energy he exudes. Matching sweatsuits, platform boots, large sunglasses, and a mini version of the it-purse du jour is part of the rapper’s uniform. Designer brands like Chanel, Fendi, and Balenciaga are in heavy rotation. But, in true Florida girl fashion, the ‘fit is incomplete without makeup. “We don’t play about a beat face,” Santana explains, noting that in general, a soft glam look is preferred. “Most [Florida girls] just go and get a brown smoky eye or just a little [wash of] nude brown with a nude-pink lip and some liner. We don’t really care for the dramatics of blue and green eye shadow.”
That drama is reserved for lashes. Santana’s own come courtesy of his lash tech, who makes sure the rapper’s gaze is framed by a full, fluffy set of mink-style extensions. But, he maintains, it’s easy to get a similar look on a dime — a set of Kiss or NYX Professional Makeup strip lashes should do the trick. The rest of the mug is usually perfected with a foundation that enhances his rich skin tone. “I love to look chocolate,” Santana shares. MAC, Nars, and Fenty are his go-tos for foundation, and his purse is always packed with one of Fenty’s beloved lip glosses.
When he’s performing, he’s sure to apply his setting powder liberally. For the stage, a matte complexion is a must. “The trick is to set everything; when you put on liquid foundation, you have to set it with finishing powder. When you put on concealer, you have to set it with your baking powder,” he explains. “I can literally get on stage, sweat, or whatever. I come offstage, cool off, pat down, and I’m still beat. The powder is definitely key.” MAC’s classic setting powder is the one he reaches for most often.
As for the nails? They’re something else Santana says he “doesn’t play” about. They must be long and they must be painted nude with a French tip. Though at the time we sat down for this interview, he’s rocking a set that is a departure from his usual fare: yellow alligator tips. “That’s only because it’s springtime,” he emphasizes. “I’m not a big color person. I would never do full yellow nails — I always incorporate nude. I don’t want to look tacky.” And don’t expect to see him with a toenail color other than white, though, on his friend J.T., he says he will abide a pink toe. “White toes are always elite, but J.T. loves her pink toenails. They’re either that color or white, but she’ll switch it up to pink more often than I will.”
Saucy Self Care
Santana embraces and relishes the feminine aspects of his style, but, as he puts it, “I didn’t never want to be a girl, but I always wanted to dress feminine.” He’s still a little butch — his beard, which he says is a product of “great genetics” as opposed to a daily regimen, is never not crisply shaped and groomed with a fade that starts just above his ear lobe. The beard is reminiscent of another hip-hop artist Santana counts among his inspirations. “Gucci Mane was my favorite rapper in high school. He influenced a lot of things that I started doing after that time,” he explains.
Santana didn’t divulge much about a skin-care routine but credits his complexion to dutifully sticking to his self-care ritual, which includes plenty of rest and most importantly, alone time. “I know I always look lit and like I’m outside, but that’s what I choose to [show to the world],” he explains. “When I’m not uploading anything, it’s because I’m by myself resting, relaxing — I’m just chilling.”
He starts by curating a playlist that really gets him in the zone, and that requires a lot of moody R&B from the ’90s. “Us Florida girls, we love miserable music,” he says with a laugh. “We love heartbreak music. You could be so happy with your man and everything could be going good in life, but we want to hear some Mary J. Blige, Kelly Price, SWV, and Kut Klose. Brandy, Monica — we love old school R&B. That’s what’s on my playlist.”
Santana knows exactly who he is, and he is very comfortable with that. Even as an artist within a genre that has not been particularly friendly to openly queer people, particularly cis men who may stray from a traditionally masculine aesthetic, Santana has maintained a strong sense of self, one that has been firmly in place long before the world knew his name. “That’s how I got as far as I have in the industry — just being 100 percent genuinely and authentically Santana,” he explains. “This is who I have always been. Anybody who knows me from growing up, being a kid, anybody who met me two, three years ago, four or five years ago, I’ve always been the same person.”
It’s served him well, and it is also the advice he gives to others. “Do what works for you, do what’s best for you because that’s how I got to where I’m at. “When I was signing my record deal, I had to let these labels know, people already fell in love with Santana. So I can’t change — this is who people love, this is who they looking for. You just always got to stand your ground on who you are.”
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