Three years ago, Saweetie released a freestyle over Florida rapper Khia’s raunchy 2002 hit “My Neck, My Back.” She called it “Icy Girl,” and it quickly became one of that summer’s biggest anthems, with more than 110 million YouTube views to date — the first in a series of fun, catchy, confident singles, including 2019’s “My Type” and 2020’s “Tap In.” “Everything that I say is going to happen, happens,” says the 27-year-old artist, full of smiles over Zoom from her Los Angeles home. “It’s kind of scary. I just spoke [my career] into existence. But I’m so happy that I am here.”
In a time when women are running rap like never before, Saweetie — born Diamonté Harper, with Filipina Chinese and African American roots — sits at the genre’s forefront. Growing up in Santa Clara, California, she learned to love rap music at an early age. Both of her parents were serious hip-hop heads, blasting Tupac through the speakers of their home stereo while cleaning. Her first attempt at rapping was a family favor. “My mom made me sing that Biggie song ‘Hypnotize’ on [my dad’s] voicemail because he wouldn’t pick up: ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, can’t you see,’ ” she recalls with a laugh.
By high school, she was entering talent shows as an MC while other teenage classmates chose to sing. At 18, she spent an hour waiting outside a J. Cole concert for a chance to rap for him. “Everyone was taking pictures and videos, and when it was finally my turn, I was like, ‘Okay,'” she says. “I told him, ‘I am going to be up there onstage like you one day.’ I was so young and naive that I thought he was going to sign me that day.”
Saweetie ended up enrolling at the University of Southern California to study communication, but her rap career took off soon enough. She’s spent much of the past year working on her upcoming debut LP, Pretty B*tch Music; her recent single “Back to the Streets” is a a classic-sounding West Coast feel-good track, co-produced by Timbaland, that debuts Saweetie singing for the first time. She’s also hoping to expand into fashion design and acting. “I grow at an exponential rate,” Saweetie says. “There’s a lot of doors God is going to open as I continue to be successful.”