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.