We’re living in a world where young rappers would rather be Instagram stars than, you know, actual rappers. But Saweetie is different. The 25-year-old up-and-coming star gained fame, and a considerable following, through Instagram.
But the goal was always to be a rapper.
Last May, Saweetie uploaded a clip where she was freestyling over Khia’s raunchy single “My Neck, My Back.” In just 60-seconds Saweetie put a PG-13 twist to an NC-17 song:
Can’t stop, won’t stop, get guap/Ten white toes in them Tory flip-flops/ Manicures and pedicures, I’m always tip-top.
The video went viral almost instantly:
Saweetie had been putting up these little car freestyles for years, rapping over varied collections of beats, from JAY-Z’ “Dead Presidents” to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee.” But this one, which she would later name “ICY GRL” and release officially, stuck. By February 2018, Saweetie, who is from The Bay, had signed a deal with Warner Bros.
She went to work right away. A month later she dropped her debut EP High maintenance, a breezy collection of motivational songs for young ladies. (Saweetie’s message in a nutshell: get that bag.)
Saweetie’s future seems bright. She is now in a partnership with Reebok. Saweetie — alongside rappers like Lil Baby, Bodega Bamz, JAYIDK, and MadeinTYO — is part of the Alter the Icons campaign.
On Friday, July 20th, the campaign launched with a street merchant booth outside the 34th Street flagship Foot Locker store in Manhattan. Saweetie — wearing a pair of black Icons because they make her feet look “slim” — was in attendance.
We got to sit down with the up-and-coming rapper for a couple of minutes. We spoke about Instagram fame, what working with No I.D. is like, and what Zaytoven, who is her cousin, was always doing when he was a kid.
Okayplayer: What’s been the biggest change since you put out High Maintenance?
Saweetie: Life is changing rapidly. I’m working more, making more money. I’m just constantly working. I haven’t had a break. Sometimes I don’t get to sleep. It’s all a part of building. You can’t stop. We’re working on songs, concepts. Like, I have a song coming out with Rich the Kid and G-Eazy. It’s produced by London on Da Track.
Do you still get hit with the “she’s only an IG rapper” stuff?
Not so much. I mean, I did for a while. But once the EP came out I received a ton of great press. I transitioned out of that label.
Did that bother you?
It did but it didn’t. Because if it wasn’t for IG I wouldn’t be here. Like, I don’t know how else I would have gotten my music out.
What was the first IG video you ever uploaded?
My first car rap? I did the “So Far Gone” challenge. That was my first one minute video of me rapping on my IG.
Was it good?
It was hella good. (Laughs)
Is Zaytoven is really your cousin?
We grew up together.
What’s a memory that comes to your mind of young Zaytoven?
Him always playing the piano. He played at my grandma’s church. And his mom and my grandma are like best friends.
Were you freestyling over his piano or you weren’t even thinking like that yet?
I didn’t have the patience. (Laughs) But as far as I can remember he was always playing the piano.
How much of a role does he play now in your career?
We’re working together. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be on my album. I just came from Atlanta, hopped on some of his beats. So we’ll see where that goes.
Are you also working with No I.D.?
I was working with No I.D. at the end of last year. His schedule got fairly busy. And I was working on my EP. So hopefully we could come back. He’s so wise so I love working around him because he taught me a lot.
What’s something that he taught you?
Patience. Like real patience. Like, don’t rush it. I like to keep what we talked about it privately. But just patience. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was 14. I was so hungry and ready to pop off the rip. With good things it takes time.
What was it at 14 that made you want to be a rapper?
I was writing poetry at first. And then I started to like writing over beats. And Young Money was out and to see them hop on so many hot instrumentals I was like “OK, I’m going to do that too.” And then I tried to do the YouTube thing for a while, but it didn’t work out.
My subscribers weren’t there. (Laughs) So I just took it to IG. It’s easier, just post and record. You don’t have to upload it to the computer, wait for it to go up. It’s just instant.
Where do you think you fit in with other female rappers?
I think my role is to just be me. To grind. I think it’s amazing that a lot of women are out right now. Because there was a time when there was only just one or two. Because of the Internet, we have been given the opportunity to go to our own fan bases. I mean there are so many women out right now. And they are thriving.
I’ve heard you talk a lot about how much Nicki Minaj inspired you.
I remember hearing her mixtape Playtime is Over.
Were you like calling yourself a Barb?
Well, I was already calling myself that. My AIM name was “Rich Barbie.” So when she came out I was like “oh my God! She’s so dope!”
You haven’t been able to link with her?
No not yet. But I’m looking forward to it.
Tell me something interesting about the album.
There will be features. It’s interesting because I didn’t have any features on my EP. So you’ll finally hear me collaborate with other dope artists.
For more information about the Alter the Icons campaign head here.
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