Back in 2017, Saweetie—then 24, and a recent graduate of the University of Southern California—often pulled over while driving around Los Angeles to pause and film herself freestyling from the front seat of her car.
In one video she posted on Instagram, she riffed over the beat of Khia’s 2002 raunchy smash, “My Neck, My Back.” Her long lashes, lip gloss, and shoulder-grazing silver hoops were on point, as was her swagger as she flashed her gleaming watch—“It’s very unlikely my wrist ain’t looking icy”—and hyped up her ambition: “Looking in the mirror, I thank God for what I’m about to be.” The post went viral and turned industry heads, prompting her to record a studio version of the freestyle. The resulting single, “Icy Girl,” came out that October. Within weeks, the music video for the track racked up 2 million views on YouTube, and months later young fans would quote her in their yearbooks.
Saweetie’s Instagram follower count now tops 8.5 million. Her lip gloss still sparkles, as do her hoops, though they’re bigger and encrusted with diamonds. She no longer poses in the driver’s seat of her car but by pools in the Hollywood Hills. The 27-year-old’s feed brims with Kardashian Halloween party pics, close-ups of her growing collection of Birkin bags, and adorable snapshots with her boyfriend of two years, Migos rapper Quavo, who slipped into her DMs with an “icy” snowflake emoji in 2018. (The pair are now Page Six regulars.) After a parade of hits and high-profile collaborations, Saweetie is releasing Pretty Bitch Music in early 2021. It’s her first full-length album and one of this year’s most anticipated rap releases. Much has changed, but the voracious drive that launched her from that off-the-cuff clip to headliner status has not.
“Saweetie is a demogorgon. Every time I do something, I get better; but it’s at an exponential rate of growth,” she says, referring to a monster on Netflix’s Stranger Things that doubles in size with every kill. “Before people can realize it, I’m going to be a full standing demogorgon who’s unstoppable.”
Born in Santa Clara to her Filipino-Chinese mother and African American father, Saweetie, aka Diamonté Harper, grew up in the Bay Area writing poetry and worshipping fierce female MCs like Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Nicki Minaj. She’s close with her mom—who appeared in music videos by LL Cool J, Nelly, and DMX in the ’90s and ’00s—and her grandmother, who always called her “Sweetie” and inspired her stage name. She eventually landed in L.A., where she studied business and communications at USC and started posting her freestyles following graduation in 2016.
After “Icy Girl” took off, she inked a deal with Warner Bros., and her sales and presence on the charts kept climbing as that track and her 2019 single, “My Type,” both went platinum. The first Pretty Bitch Music single, “Tap In,” dropped in June and reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, her highest single on the chart to date. Along with Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, and a growing group of female rappers holding their own in a male-
dominated genre, Saweetie is eager to show the world she’s more than just a sample queen with an album full of original beats.
“West Coast girls, we have the dopest personalities—we’re down to earth but ready to pop some shit when we gotta pop some shit.”
“I think this body of work is scary in a good way,” Saweetie says of Pretty Bitch Music. “When you’re playing a video game and you unlock another character, you’re like, ‘Oh, dang—I’m that person, too! They had to level up!’ I have a lot of tracks on Pretty Bitch Music that are bigger than what I could’ve ever seen myself being. This is definitely going to change the conversation of what a Saweetie is.”
The “bitch” in the album’s title stands for “boss, independent, tough, CEO, hyphy”—the last being a style of up-tempo hip-hop. Two of the album’s singles are collabs with strong female artists: Saweetie brought Jhené Aiko back into the fold for “Back to the Streets,” a sample-free R&B banger coproduced by hitmaker Timbaland, and paired up with rapper Doja Cat for the new single, “Best Friend.”
“West Coast girls, we have the dopest personalities—we’re down to earth but ready to pop some shit when we gotta pop some shit,” she says of her chemistry with Aiko and Doja Cat, both native Angelenos.“Women are magical creatures. Because we’ve never really had a girl from out West go super global, it’s my job to represent and show the world what we’re capable of.”
In addition to the album, Saweetie is laying the groundwork for a busy 2021. She’s launching a nonprofit—the Icy Baby Foundation—with her grandmother, to aid single mothers, people living with autism, and education initiatives in low-income communities. She and Quavo have been discussing their next project, and she’s thinking it could be “more of a ballad, like an R&B duet.” She is always writing, always scheming, always thinking of the next collaboration or video. Like the demogorgon, she stays hungry, and 2021 better watch out: “Saweetie is coming.”
CREDITS | TOP PHOTO: Photo by Corina Marie Howell; styling by Jordan Grossman; Stylist Assistant: Zoe Anastos; Fuchsia coat: Schiaparelli; Earrings: Tiffany Hardwear graduated link earrings; Rings: Grace Lee and Ananya | SECOND PHOTO: Photo by Corina Marie Howell; styling by Jordan Grossman; Green Dress: Brandon Maxwell; Earrings and Rings: Ananya; Shoes: Rene Caovilla; Stylist Assistant: Zoe Anastos