Feel the Vibe
Saweetie didn’t let a pandemic and quarantine knock her hustle this year. After using Instagram and TikTok to her advantage, the West Coast rapper is reaping the benefits of success.
Interview: Kathy Iandoli
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Saweetie looks like she's ready to rob a bank.The 26-year-old rapper (born Diamonté Harper) is seated inside her grandmother’s home in California with a black hoodie tied tightly around her head and thick, cat-eye glasses buoying the hoodie’s fabric from closing in on her entire face. Still, somehow, she looks perfect during this November Zoom video call.

“I didn’t get to do my hair,” she says with a smirk. And while she’s being completely sincere and attempting a straight face, there’s still something comically endearing about her. It’s as if what Saweetie’s really about to do is create a video of herself attempting to rob a bank, and it would inevitably go viral.

While most people turned inward during the height of the pandemic’s quarantine this year, Saweetie harnessed her creativity and pushed her personality outward. Her 2019 double-platinum single “My Type” became a TikTok anthem in the spring of 2020, as she slowly started building her online presence and persona across both TikTok and Instagram. A series of videos—including her eating a McDonald’s secret menu item “The McGangbang”—she released on both platforms went viral, allowing fans to learn more about the woman behind the music.

The sanguine artist’s remarkable ascent as a content creator coupled with the handful of songs she released in 2020, including the gold certified “Tap In,” has kept her in a league of her own—all while the pandemic made her peers clamor for content. Saweetie even kept the music coming, teasing the arrival of her long-awaited debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, through her hard-hitting “Pretty Bitch Freestyle,” and collaborating with Jhené Aiko on the banger “Back to the Streets.” Her new album arrives at the top of 2021. She’s well on her way to becoming America’s Saweet-heart.

Three years ago, this would have all been a moot point. As a USC grad holding multiple jobs, Saweetie sat in a Toyota Corolla, hyping herself up to even attempt making music. The product was “Icy Grl,” her 2017 platinum-selling, breakout track that has since carried over into her entire brand. From creating The Icy Life video series to recruiting “students” for Icy University, which includes video courses on “How to Bag an 8 Figure Man” and “How to Start Your Own Business,” she’s keeping the momentum going. Saweetie believes her desire to create comes from growing up as an only child, but there’s more to it than that. She’s managed to not only tap into the various sides of her personality, but still keep the music coming, a feat in and of itself.

As she prepares for 2021, Saweetie talks about how she handles the spotlight on her relationship with Quavo (of the group Migos), the imbalance of cancel culture and the humor behind her infamous Birkin bag comment.

XXL: This year was such a big year for you, in spite of the fact that we practically never left our homes.

Saweetie: Well, I think I have only child syndrome because I was an only child for like, 11 years. I spent a lot of time by myself. I’m super creative when I’m by myself. I have a lot of fun. I think that’s why I’ve prospered in quarantine. I’m really grateful for my success, but as soon as I got signed, I was flying and just traveling. I didn’t have time to create anymore. I felt like my creative soul was like, slowly dying because I was tired. I wasn’t getting sleep, I wasn’t able to recharge. So, I think quarantine was a time for me to kind of just get back to like, my creative roots.

Do you feel like because people held your every day on social media posts so close to them that it got to the point where you couldn’t even come in for comedic value? Your comment about men buying women Birkin bags, do you feel people started to become too focused on your every day activity?

I think when you’re in the spotlight it comes with the territory because I saw both sides. There are some people who because they have learned to know me in quarantine, through my Icy Life, through Icy University, through my TikToks, they knew that I have a sense of humor. They knew that I was just playing. I actually clarified it afterwards. I’m just saying women deserve gifts. Period. I was that girl in my Toyota Corolla, renting rooms around Los Angeles for about two years. So, I mean, that ain’t no Birkin tax bracket. So, when I’m speaking, I’m having fun.

I feel like people just want to get mad. I’m an entertainer, I come to entertain. But a week before that, I covered SARS [Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad], I donated to BLM [Black Lives Matter]. I’m very proactive with giving back to the community. So, it’s like, yes, I have those moments where social media may not agree with everything that I’m doing, but if you know me, you know where my heart is at.

@officialsaweetiemy babies craaazy ♬ original sound - SAWEETIE

Did you record Pretty Bitch Music during the pandemic?

Actually, PBM was already done before the pandemic, but because I was recording at home and recording in my studio, I just got better every time. So, I did substitute a lot of songs out for the ones that I really do love. Maybe I’ll do like a Lost Tapes one day, but I’m always pushing out new records for better ones.

Being in a power couple with Quavo, did you two have a sit-down over how much you would let the world in on your relationship?

We definitely have eased our way into that moment. Especially when we started dating in the beginning. I was scared for people to find out that I was dating him because he’s established [and] I’m new. That automatically juxtaposes me as a someone who needs help, someone who hasn’t earned it, someone who’s “using a man,” because that’s how women are perceived. But I’m like, I really like him. He really likes me, we love each other. So, let’s just ease our way into that because I still have to make a name for myself.

Are there marriage and kids in your future?

I come from a big family, so, I could definitely see myself having a big family. I don’t know how quickly I can do that if it’s later on in life, but I’ll figure it out. If this job didn’t require so much of my time, I would love to have a kid right now. I thought I was gonna be a young mom. My mom was a young mom, both my grandmothers started at an early age. I come from a big family, and I’ve always wanted to have a big family because I was an only child. I

’m waiting for a time where I can give the attention to my kids. As a child, I had young parents who were always hustling, always working. They couldn’t give me all of their attention, and I know what it feels like to be the kid that’s always babysat. I want to give my kids the proper attention because that’s really important.

Blair Caldwell

What do they call that? A latchkey kid?

OK, it’s crazy. My dad trusted me. I was like, the cool kid. I had keys to my apartment, but people weren’t coming to my house. I would literally go home, wash the dishes, do my homework, wait for him to come home and then I would go outside and play. I was like, a little adult. My dad, he would make me read articles about kids who got abducted. So, it made me like, hyper aware.

How does it feel for all of these great things to be happening to you this year?

I think it’s a moment of satisfaction, to be acknowledged and to be respected, especially as a woman in music—not just hip-hop, as a woman in music. I feel like women in every field— whether it’s music, business, banking, catering—we’re not as respected as our counter- parts. We’re not trusted in powerful positions. So, I think this is great to not only be respected as an artist, but to be respected as somebody who can compete with the other sex.

What would you consider to be one disappointing aspect of 2020?

You know, one thing that was just disappointing to me was cancel culture. I’ve seen a lot of my peers or a lot of people that I’ve known in the spotlight get “canceled,” and what’s unfair is that people feel pressured to speak before knowing the facts, or sometimes their intentions are good but it wasn’t expressed the right way. Public figures, sometimes we don’t know everything that’s going on, which is why I had the SARS Live with [Nigerian artist] Omah Lay, because I think that we need to normalize asking questions, being curious and getting the right answers instead of acting like we know it all.

If we weren’t in the middle of this pandemic, where do you think Saweetie would have been right now?

I would probably be overseas right now. I have a lot of overseas offers for shows. I’m trying to be global, baby! You already know how I’m trying to be down.

What’s the biggest thing that you’re cautiously optimistic for in 2021?

I’m optimistic for PBM dropping. I’m optimistic to hopefully outside opening again because I miss performing. I’m optimistic to touring...I’m just excited. I’m excited to go back outside and to give the world PBM because it’s definitely a well-rounded album.

Blair Caldwell

Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2020 issue including our DaBaby cover story, an introduction to DaBaby's Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment label roster, an interview with South Coast Music Group founder Arnold Taylor, who discovered and signed DaBaby, one of King Von's last interviews, how the coronavirus changed hip-hop, we catch up with Flipp Dinero in What's Happenin', we talk to Rico Nasty about rediscovering who she is as an artist, Marshmello reveals the rappers he wants to work with in Hip-Hop JunkieShow & Prove interviews with The Kid LaroiFlo Milli and Iann Dior, we take a closer look at how rap music gets leaked, producer LilJuMadeDaBeat shares how he made Megan Thee Stallion's hit song "Body," Kash Johns, founder of Winners Circle Publishing, discusses what makes a hot producer, get to know hip-hop's hottest new collective Spillage Village, Doin' Lines with Junglepussy and more.

See Photos of XXL Magazine's Winter 2020 Cover Shoot With DaBaby