IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THAT ANYONE EVER UNDERESTIMATED
That they told her there was no way she was smart enough to get good grades in school. That she was too pretty to be taken seriously. That she’d never be a successful rapper.
“I wish me, or someone, would have thought, You know what? That’s not right,” she says now. Instead, as she puts it, she spent years dimming her light.
Not today though. Today, Saweetie, world-famous rapper, looks like someone you would always bet on. She’s perched in the kitchen of the luxe Los Angeles rental she’s called home for the past year, casually eating a late lunch of steamed mussels and nigiri sushi. To borrow a phrase from her 2020 hit single “Tap In,” she’s “drippin’ in Chanay-nay”: a vintage creamcolor Chanel blazer over a black bra, vintage gold Chanel belt, black miniskirt. A large diamond-studded pendant, shaped like a dripping cross, gleams at her collarbone. Her lip gloss is popping. Even under harsh overhead lights, even through the unnatural veil of a laptop camera, even when she says, “I’m sorry, girl. I keep burping”—yeah, Saweetie is shining bright.
As she should be, because, well, let’s pause for a career recap, very much abridged: Her songs have hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. She earned a 2020 People’s Choice Awards nomination for Favorite New Artist; she’s had a guest spot on the Freeform show Grown-ish. And then there’s her proudest moment, making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. It was a huge deal for Saweetie, who earned a business communications degree from the University of Southern California—with a 3.6 GPA, it should be noted—and who considers herself a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur. “I screamed,” she says about when she found out she’d made the list. “It just let me know that I’m on my way to where I wanted to be.”
All that and she’s also The Content Queen. (Self-proclaimed but still.) You already know this because you’re probably one of her 17+ million
followers across Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. And you’re probably addicted to her feeds because in a year when other celebrities are cringe-ily doing the most or revealingly doing the least, Saweetie’s posts are an irresistible bright spot of actual, authentic fun. She trades bars with her family (PSA: don’t try her auntie in a game of In the Classroom), flips a full-length mirror into a must-have travel accessory (the mystery of whether or not
Saweetie legit brought a full-length mirror to a gas station for selfie-whilepumping purposes remains unsolved, but the legend lives on), and hilariously personifies each of her four (!) Birkin bags (a collection gifted, at least in part, in case you were wondering, by her boyfriend, the rapper Quavo). It’s like if your group chat were a YouTube channel—real, silly, fun, unself-conscious—if, that is, anyone in your group chat owned a Bentley.
For those keeping track, this all *officially* began in the summer of 2017, with what was then becoming the standard entry point for aspiring unsigned music artists: a video posted on Instagram with the hopes that it’d go viral. And it went very, very viral. In the clip, Saweetie goes off over the familiar beat of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” giving the raunchy anthem a fresh spin with a now-iconic opening
line: “Can’t stop, won’t stop, get guap / Ten white toes in them Tory flipflops.” Penned when she had just $40 to her name, the freestyle went on to become “Icy Grl,” Saweetie’s first big song and introduction to a music industry that had begun to indicate it was maybe, possibly, finally open to supporting more than one female rapper at a time. The track quickly lit up her SoundCloud. Its dreamy SoCal video, filmed when she was just a year out of college, racked up tens of millions of views. After a label bidding war, Saweetie signed a deal with Warner Records.
But it wasn’t all love and Likes and double-taps. Never forget the Hot 97 interview.
It was February 2018 and is perhaps better described as an ambush. One of the radio hosts flat-out insults Saweetie, calling her freestyle “basic” and telling her she needs to do a lot more to “impress” him. He seems to suggest she has little to offer but her beauty. Social media quickly glommed on. “It was a really dark point in my life. I went from being so loved so quickly because of ‘Icy Grl’ to, on my first promo run, well, you saw the
interview. The script flipped really quick, like night and day. I was like, Wait…” she trails off. “I had PTSD from that.” There were other gut punches too. Like when the whole internet seemed to decide she was a terrible rapper after clips from early performances surfaced online. “Because ‘Icy Grl’ was so popular, I was being booked at huge festivals,” she points out. “I was literally thrown into it.” She didn’t yet know how to rip a stage.
Saweetie doesn’t make excuses though. Instead, she works through things. Literally and hard. “I’m really grateful for my start,” Saweetie says. “Because the mistakes, the struggle, the grind—it allows me to appreciate the rewards that come now because I know what it feels like to sleep in motels, to drive and do promo, to be stressed out.” I point out that, no shade, she is an infinitely better rapper and performer today than she was when she emerged and that she seems to have expended as much energy into her songwriting as she has anywhere else. Saweetie agrees, and she wishes more people could see that. That she perfected her stage presence by learning about things like breath control and movement and how to pull off complex choreo and rap without missing a beat. That she’s taken vocal lessons and hunkered down in the studio, carefully constructing the songs we can’t get enough of. “Some of us have it naturally. And some of us don’t—like me,” she says. “And that’s okay because I know that as long as I work hard, I’ll become one of the best.”
While we were all on our own 2020 quests toward better versions of ourselves—but from the couch and in sweatpants—Saweetie was soundtracking one of the wildest-ever stretches of time. She owned July 2020 with “Tap In” and then did it again with its mega-remix, featuring Post Malone, DaBaby, and Jack Harlow, a month later. October brought the Timbaland-produced “Back to the Streets” with Jhené Aiko, and then there was “Best Friend” with Doja Cat just this January. Each single has been more compelling than the last, showcasing a different side of Saweetie’s personality—her style swings from bossy to playful, the sounds have range (a hyphy sample here, an 808s banger there), and the lyrics are stacked with witticisms that double as affirmations. Drop one in that group text: “Bitch, you look goodt with a ‘t’ at the end.” Hype yourself up in the mirror: “I’m a 5-star bitch with a price tag / Gotta find me somebody that could match that.” Flex on Instagram: “Icy from my lips to my toenails.” The overall mood, though, is consistent—think of it as “No Scrubs” for the TikTok generation. It’s no wonder she’s topped Billboard charts and cracked the Top 20 on the Hot 100.
Honestly, knowing what went into all this is exactly why it’s so easy to root for Saweetie, who’s somewhere between warmly relatable and wildly aspirational. The idea that we don’t arrive fully formed, that part of the point is to do the work in the face of harmful expectations, is familiar, whether your struggle is broadcast to millions of people or not. What’s also familiar is the desire to reclaim that power, to use it even when it feels easier to succumb to the doubts in your head. “Last year was the year that I finally became comfortable in my own skin. I kind of figured out what my