'You Know Who I Am': Saweetie Demands Recognition and Respect

Saweetie's brash attitude is more than bravado—it’s an essential part of her plan to dominate rap.
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"When you're trying to break into the industry, especially rap, you go through this phase of people not taking you seriously. Especially as a woman; like, can you rap like a man?"

"When you're trying to break into the industry, especially rap, you go through this phase of people not taking you seriously. Especially as a woman; like, can you rap like a man?"

Glance through the comments section of any of Saweetie's social media platforms and you'll see a flood of glowing praise. "My bae is so perfect," one fan comments under a picture of the rapper holding a bottle of Hennessy. "QUEEN," another writes, in response to one of Saweetie's tweets. Emojis sporting heart-eyes and tears of joy currently saturate her feeds.

And why wouldn't they? Her breakout single, "ICY GRL," has accumulated over 60 million plays on Spotify and SoundCloud combined, leading to a record deal, a cameo in Rihanna's Super Bowl commercial, and Saweetie's first summer-long tour across America.

"'ICY GRL' was everywhere, my name is everywhere right now, because it got covered in a way that I will forever be thankful for," Saweetie says. "My fans look up to me. When they see me out here doing it, it makes them feel like [rapping is] achievable."

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In fact, for the 25-year-old Bay Area rapper, it's more perplexing when people act as if they don't recognize her. "That's what's most annoying—when people in this industry act like they don't know me. And they say it in a way where you can just feel that it's shade," she explains. "It's different when someone just says, 'Oh, I don't know who that is.' But when they say it in a way that's like, they don't even want to talk about it—I know they're just mad my name is being mentioned. You know who I am."

Saweetie's brash attitude is more than mere bravado—it's an essential part of her plan to "dominate" rap.

"When you're trying to break into the industry, especially rap, you go through this phase of people not taking you seriously. Especially as a woman; like, can you rap like a man? Can you make a song that is as impactful as a man's? In rap, you're constantly having to prove yourself."

Before Saweetie's song "ICY GRL" became a viral sensation that landed her a deal with Warner Bros. Records, it was an aspiration—or a prophecy. Freestyled over the beat of "My Neck, My Back," "ICY GRL" tells the imagined story of Saweetie's rise to a life of fame and luxury—but she wrote it at a time when she was, in her words, "really broke" and uploading Instagram videos of herself rapping in her car.

"I was renting a room off of Craigslist, and my main source of income was being a brand ambassador for sports events to make ends meet," Saweetie says. "I was struggling. My mom was concerned—she wanted me to be able to support myself. But it's hard to support yourself from music when nobody knows you."

In between shifts at sporting events, Saweetie—at the time still going by her given name, Diamonté Harper—uploaded freestyle rap videos of herself online. It was on Instagram that "ICY GRL" first went viral, prompting Saweetie to film and release a full version of the song with an accompanying music video.

"Immediately all the major blogs picked it up," Saweetie recounts. "It was gratifying to see the respect I was getting from these writers. For a long time, [people] were seeing me as just a social media rapper. I definitely had a lot of moments of self doubt and thinking, like, 'Damn, I need to step it up.' After 'ICY GRL' gained this momentum, that's when I felt like I was on my way."

Since signing with Warner Bros., Saweetie has released her first EP, High Maintenance, as well as a handful of singles with other Bay Area artists like Kehlani and G-Eazy. She raps about her commitment to working non-stop and celebrates always moving forward. "If it ain’t about the money, it’s a waste of conversation," she notes on her song "Up Now." On a track titled "B.A.N.," she raps, "Ever since I left your dumb ass I been winning."

"Men and women needed a break-up song that wasn't sad," Saweetie tells me of "B.A.N." "I made that song because I just thought that's what we all needed."

Throughout her music, Saweetie's brazenly confident lyrics are buoyed by snappy beats and her cool, polished delivery.

"You have to be unapologetically yourself," Saweetie stresses. "Once I was able to be proud of myself, it came across in my music really clearly."

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"We all want to be identified as someone cool, and I have struggled with repping where I'm from and my heritage before. It's part of growing pains. But when people see me being proud of what I am—and they are what I am too—it makes them proud. That's why I try to represent my Asian and my black side."

"I don't remember the last popping Asian girl we had out, can you?" Saweetie asks me. "You see other rappers using Asian stuff, but they're not Asian. And I know there's a lot of Asian girls that like to rap. So it's dope to see a girl who's actually Asian repping it so that other Asian girls are proud of it too."

Saweetie circles back to her previous point about competition in the industry. "Hip-hop has a lot of pre-existing standards and is so male-dominated. But people are starting to recognize the new wave that's coming." Suddenly, the rapper's tone brightens. "There's just so many dope women coming out right now, and I feel like I'm part of that next generation."

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