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Get In, Bestie. Saweetie Wants To Take The World For A Ride

Saweetie is extremely online. But you probably already know that if you follow her on any of her social media platforms, where she shows how fluent she is in the language of being perceived. On Instagram, her grid is expertly curated, featuring an ideal balance of perfectly styled photos and entertaining Reels, showing off her much less serious side. Both, of course, feature the rapper looking absolutely snatched. On YouTube, Saweetie's music videos receive millions of views. She also has her own reality series called "The Icy Life," which gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at her video and photo shoots, the creative process behind her music, and the goofy antics she gets up to with her team and friends. This is also where Saweetie shares instructional videos titled "Icy University," in which she teaches her fans — also known as the Icy Gang — important life lessons like how to start a business and how to get over an "F boy." On TikTok, she showcases fully formed comedy sketches that feature recurring characters, like a group of anthropomorphised Birkin bags she's dubbed the Birkin Bratz. At 27 years old, Saweetie is like many people of her generation — a student of the internet, who might just know more than her teacher.
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Saweetie, whose real name is Diamonté Harper, grew up in northern California, but she came of age online; an early Tumblr user, she took the aesthetic she had cultivated on that platform and transferred it to Instagram with great success. By the time she attended the University of Southern California, she monetised her internet savvy by launching a merch business called Money Makin Mamis inspired by the online aesthetic she had been developing for years. "I made a lot of money with a low following only because the brand was so captivating," she tells me over a video call. "It went beyond a picture and a sales pitch. It was a lifestyle." 
It's easy to see why that lifestyle sold. Even during our casual video chat, it's clear that Saweetie is deliberate about everything. Yes, she's dressed with simplicity in a white tank top and with a headband, holding back her hair, but she still looks perfectly put together, something many of us gave up on trying to do for Zoom meetings months ago. She also speaks slowly and clearly in a way that makes it apparent how thoughtful she's being about every word that comes out of her mouth — which doesn't mean she's afraid to go to weird places. After we joke for a bit about her now-notorious ranch dressing and spaghetti video ("I have a very eclectic palate. I think I get it from my dad and my grandpa because they be makin' some concoctions"), I ask her to play my favourite game: Fuck, Marry, Kill, featuring mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch. She didn't skip a beat when she told me she'd marry sour cream, "smash" ranch, and kill mayo, though she did feel conflicted about the choice. Most people might equivocate or hesitate when answering something like this, but not Saweetie: She's intentional and in control, two qualities that have served her well and which she values highly. She has, after all, experienced not being in control.
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Photography by Erica Hernández
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There was a time in Saweetie's music career when she didn't enjoy being on set because she had to rely on others to make creative decisions that weren't in line with her vision. Work — which had always been fun — had morphed into a burden. The root of that, Saweetie says, was being too busy to actually indulge her artistic side. She's determined not to let that happen again. "During the pandemic, I realised I had to take hold of my creativity again. I was just working so much that I was allowing other people to execute my creativity," she explains. "But, no one can see what's in my head."
Fans have long been able to get a peek at what's in Saweetie's head via social media; she explains how she uses it as a "vessel," offering a glimpse into her life — though, she says, "I'm not someone who exposes my personal business, so the way that I'm able to be personal with my fans is through my content." But now they can see what's on her mind through her music videos, including the recent "Risky" video, which she co-directed. And what they'll find is a twist on angelcore. It's a vibe.
"Risky" opens with a hot pink, rimmed Honda, filled with a few girlfriends pulling up to Saweetie's house. They honk, clap, and yell from the driveway in order to wake up the rapper who is inside sleeping in a room filled with fluffy pink pillows, feathered wall accents, a large gold vase, and a lava lamp. It gives viewers cosy FOMO, and makes you wish you were invited to the slumber party. That's what Saweetie does better than anyone else right now — she makes you want to be her friend, or even her "Best Friend," the theme of her hit song featuring Doja Cat that came out in January. As Saweetie spends her video cruising around with her friends, lounging with them in her aforementioned enviable bedroom, and partying with a larger group outside of her mansion, it's hard not to imagine that if you shouted at the screen, "Hey, bestie!", Saweetie would answer you back. 
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Friendly and laid-back as her aesthetic is, Saweetie points out that it — like everything else about her — is entirely deliberate, and that being able to own her creative direction has contributed to the playful nature of her songs and their videos. "I think the fun that you're seeing is just me reclaiming the more passionate side of why I fell in love with music," she says. "I always just want to enjoy myself."
Photography by Erica Hernández
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One way she makes the videos even more fun for herself is by starting each one out with a little skit, not unlike those she's become known for on TikTok and Instagram. Maybe you've seen the delightful telepathic conversation Saweetie and Doja Cat have about "fake 'woke' misogynists" as they're approached by a cheesy dude while laying out in the beginning of the "Best Friend" video? If you haven't, watch it now and be instantly charmed and, yes, want to be her best friend. "We've all experienced that guy," Saweetie says, "who tries to be super woke, and he comes off as just hella corny. So I just thought it was a relatable moment for all women worldwide with their friends." It is! But, it almost didn't get released, Saweetie says, explaining that she gets pushback on those sketches by people who doubt whether anyone has the attention span to actually watch all the way through. Saweetie dismisses this kind of concern, though; she knows what her fans want, and she knows what she wants to do, so she makes these skits as long as she can get away with because, for her, it's "all about the art." 
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Saweetie's insistence on keeping her creative vision intact has paid off. "Best Friend" has so far been used as the sound in over 850,000 TikToks, many of which feature actual best friends dancing together. Though she credits the original creative vision she had for the song and video for its success, she says, "I can't be blind to the fact that TikTok does catapult songs. If it catches, I'm grateful, but it's never my intention to make [songs and videos] specifically for TikTok." Still, she wasn't afraid to help push the song's appeal on the platform by posting a TikTok of her and Paris Hilton riding around in a blue Bentley and matching pink Juicy tracksuits set to the song. That's the thing, though, Saweetie has an innate sense about what type of content belongs where, and when she talks about how "social media has played into the evolution of what the new artist is," you realise that she is that new artist, and that she's in control of her own evolution.
While she obviously views the internet as an invaluable tool for sharing her art, connecting with the Icy Gang, and building her brand, Saweetie does admit that nothing is quite as magical as IRL interactions. "Seeing people enjoying my music online is fun, but I think the craziest moments that I really appreciate are when I'm riding around the city and the car next to me is playing my music," she says. "Or even when I'm driving past an apartment complex and I can hear a room blasting my music." There's something poignant about the idea of Saweetie, driving alone, experiencing her art through the lens of other people's enjoyment. It's a reminder of the fact that, no matter how separate we've been from one another in this last year, certain things brought us together. According to Saweetie, sitting at home with herself during the pandemic showed her just how important life outside of a phone screen can be. "Quarantine just made me want to become more self-aware and care about interaction, relationships, and just being a human being," she explains. 
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Photography by Erica Hernández
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Now that it's becoming safer to actually have those in-person interactions, Saweetie is bringing her skills as an online tastemaker offline. She's planning events, including her upcoming July birthday party, which, seeing as it will be hosted by a Cancer queen and someone who has released an entire EP called Pretty Summer Playlist: Season 1, is sure to be the event of the season. When Saweetie finally revealed to me that the theme of the party is Freaknik, she even dropped a few bars from "Sweat Check," a song off Pretty Summer Playlist: "It's time for sweat check, it's time for sweat check. Hands on your knees, we through the streets like it's the Freaknik." 
Not all the real-life connecting that Saweetie is working toward is about letting loose, though. That need she felt throughout quarantine to foster personal relationships led her to approach her grandmother, Roxane Harper, in the autumn of 2020 about starting a non-profit together called Icy Baby Foundation. "I grew up watching my grandmother run a non-profit organisation, going to high schools, going into communities, trying to give back and really uplift those minority communities," Saweetie shares. So now, with her platform and resources and her grandmother's extensive experience, Saweetie plans on continuing that legacy of giving back. According to Harper, the foundation's goal is to inspire Black, brown, and other underserved students and family members to break through barriers, take control of their own future, and seize opportunities through financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and technology training.
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While the police killings that occurred last year and subsequent widespread Black Lives Matter protests were a catalyst for Saweetie to do this work, Harper says that it was also their family's history that served as inspiration. "She knew my story," Harper tells me over the phone. The mother of nine — and grandmother of 15 — grew up in the Logan Fontenelle projects in Omaha, Nebraska. She knows firsthand the importance of philanthropy and how it can change a person's life since it was a scholarship from the late philanthropist Susan Buffett that allowed Harper to earn her bachelor's degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Harper, who also went on to receive a master's degree from the University of Nebraska, made sure that all her kids and grandkids knew the importance of getting an education, but also that it wasn't easily accessible for everyone. "Somebody saw something in me, someone gave me help, a hand up, and I've always told my children and my grandchildren these stories," she says. Her experiences ignited a "life's passion to help little Black and brown children succeed" and it's one that Saweetie shares. "Diamonté is really extremely passionate about it. She watched her grandma when she was young, and now she's got that mantle on her shoulders. She wants to give back to these communities," Harper says. 
And it's clear that her grandaughter agrees and is excited to carry on this legacy. "I feel like, what good is all this fame and money if I'm not supporting the people that have supported me?" Saweetie asks. "It's just our way of being proactive and having a presence in the communities that support me every day."
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It's also another way for Saweetie to be intentional in all that she does. As a Black, Filipina-Chinese American woman, the only way Saweetie knew to comfort herself was to harness that control she prizes so much and get to work. "I just like taking action," she says. "So for me, the way I deal with these moments is just by being proactive and getting involved. I'm not someone that just sits home and observes. I like to go out there and make sure that I'm doing my part."
Photography by Erica Hernández
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This isn't something new for Saweetie, and she makes clear that her irrepressible drive to do things is thanks to a variety of factors. She refers to both of her parents as hustlers; they're two people whose ambition she respects deeply, and she says the way they raised her moulded her into a very independent young person. By the fifth grade, Saweetie had her own house key. She cooked and cleaned, and got herself ready for school every morning. On top of all that, she got good grades. "My mom told me to do that, but she's also a tiger mom so I was kind of scared," she laughs. Saweetie was also heavily involved in sports as a teenager, which she says made her more resilient and gave her a competitive edge. She recalls a time when she had just started at a new school, and during volleyball tryouts, she approached the varsity coach and said, "I don't want to play for freshman or JV, I want to play for you." That year, she didn't actually end up on the varsity team, but she did manage to skip past the freshman team and become captain of JV. That setback didn't dim her ambition. When she made the varsity team the following year, she told the girl who played her position, "Hey, I'm taking your spot." "I'm friendly competition. I'm always going to tell people what's on my mind," Saweetie says. "And, I eventually did take her spot."
Saweetie's competitive side is celebrated in her newest music video for "Fast (Motion)," which starts with her stretching out on a track, pre-race, and sizing up her competition also played by her. It's an appropriate depiction of the song's chorus: "Fast, I'm coming in fast (Uh-huh). First place, you coming in last (That's right)." That confidence and drive for greatness is the exact energy she's putting into this next phase of her career, which will start with the drop of her first studio album Pretty Bitch Music in July. "I think this is the first year that people have taken me seriously as an artist, and this is my moment to really put my footprint into music," she says. "The music is just so good and I think that it's a great start for this Icy Girl decade."
Just like she did with her high school volleyball team, Saweetie has approached her career with her eye on the prize, working hard never to be counted out, knowing that she will always make the cut. "I'm consistent with music, I'm consistent with content, I'm consistent with my brand, and I think consistency just always wins," she says. Even when she does something unexpected — from showing off wacky food combinations, like Top Ramen seasoning sprinkled on oysters, or, yes, ranch dressing squirted all over spaghetti, to keeping a full-length mirror in the back of my car so she can pose for the perfect selfie anywhere — there's never any doubt that she knows what she's doing, it's just up to the rest of us to follow her lead. So, we'd better be paying attention, because class is in session. "I'm going to continue working hard, I'm going to continue building out my team, and I'm excited to see what the future holds," she says. One of those things she's working toward is teaching a course one day at USC. What will the subject be? Social media, of course. Sign me up.
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