Saweetie knows what it’s like to be the new girl, but you’d never guess it after marathoning her music videos and discography. Her work is the sonic embodiment of attitude and electricity, packaged as fiercely feminine rhymes with fire beats that have garnered over 1 billion streams on Spotify. The latest addition to the rap star’s body of work? Her May 7 single, “Fast (Motion),” and its spirited music video, both released just months ahead of her debut album, Pretty B*tch Music, which drops this #hotvaxsummer.
Just two years after her breakout smash “My Type” skyrocketed to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, Saweetie, aka Diamonté Harper, is synonymous with summer bops and girl-next-door glamour. Everything about the 27-year-old rapper radiates confidence, but stepping in the limelight didn’t always come naturally. Before becoming famous, Saweetie was an athlete, a rookie facing her insecurities on the hardwood court.
“I know what it feels like to be the new girl at school, trying out for the volleyball team, not being as good as the other girls who are trying out — being intimidated,” Saweetie tells Elite Daily. “But [I knew] if I worked hard, I would be a strong, respected player. And eventually, I was that. My name was forever in the gym. I was Athlete of the Year.”
Saweetie sounds assured, but like anyone else, she still gets nervous about new experiences. “I’m grateful for my sports background because it’s made me mentally tough,” she says. “I learned at an early age that if you work hard, it will eventually pay off. So, yes, I do get intimidated. Yes, I do get scared at times, but it’s not about that. It’s about how I deal with it.”
One way she “deals” with butterflies is by simply not giving negative ish the time of day. “As an artist, you can’t compare yourself and your journey to anyone else, or else it’ll throw you off your game,” she says. “[Being an athlete] taught me to welcome challenges. I’d rather give my 100 percent and go back to the drawing board if it doesn’t work out. Mistakes are okay, but it’s how you deal with them and how you improve. I accept successes and failures; either one of them makes me a better person.”
Obviously, her determination has come in handy. In May, she earned a nomination for Top Rap Female Artist at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards alongside Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.
“Fast (Motion)” is yet another feat for Saweetie. Anthemic and fresh, the bop epitomizes MVP energy with catchy lyricism and big production — its spirited handclaps and stacked vocals are evocative of a one-woman cheer squad. The track’s accompanying video showcases her athletic prowess, as Saweetie plays what feels like every sport imaginable. “‘Fast (Motion)’ is a memoir and an ode to all my female athletes out there who are winners and strive for greatness,” Saweetie explains.
Fittingly, the song’s music video includes a cameo from an IRL sports champion: WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. It also spotlights Black-owned brands, such as Matte Collection, Mielle, and Brandon Blackwood. Even these small details hit at the Icy Girl’s big priorities. She’s not just a music icon on the rise. She’s a burgeoning entrepreneur, too.
Enter: Icy, the overarching brand name for Saweetie’s soon-to-be empire. Under the Icy name, she’s already started an apparel and accessories line, and in the future, she wants to make waves in the beauty, philanthropy, and TV and film arenas. “I feel like I’m already a young mogul, so the more I continue to lay down my blueprint and foundation, it’s only going to get bigger and stronger,” Saweetie says. “Honestly, [Icy] will eventually supersede the Saweetie name, and I’ll have my family — my kids and my grandkids — operating our corporation.”
Saweetie is all about professional growth, but she’s also grounded in the social issues that matter to her as a mixed-race Black, Chinese, and Filipino woman. As a kid, she related most with a particular businesswoman: Kimora Lee Simmons, the Black, Japanese, and Korean American entrepreneur behind the iconic Y2K fashion label Baby Phat.
“That’s the only girl who I felt represented both of my cultures, so I know what it feels like to have people who look like me limited in the media, which is why I have so much pride in sharing who I come from,” she says. “Being a ‘tri-racial’ woman has made me hyperaware of representation and its significance, so when I choose my dancers and models, [I choose talent] who support me in my campaign, making sure every type of girl is represented from my background.”
For Saweetie, activism is her other focus. With Icy Baby Foundation, the USC alumna’s budding nonprofit, she plans to work with Black Lives Matter, fight anti-Asian violence, and empower underserved communities through education and mentorship. “What is all the platform, all this money good for if I’m not educating, sharing, providing, empowering the people who support me?” she asks. “So I think it’s just really important that you give back to the people who look like you, think like you, who were once in your position.”
Atop the tower of her Icy aspirations, Saweetie evidently wears a lot of hats — but the rapper’s music will forever be her claim to fame. On her upcoming album, Pretty B*tch Music, the entertainer is spitting bars with more skill than ever. “One [improved] element that really stands out to me is my inflection, attitude, and energy on the mic,” she says. “The more I record, the more I realize that recording is just acting on the mic.”
Despite her progress, Saweetie stays humble. “I think one of the most misleading things about any form of entertainment is that the professionals make it look so easy,” she admits. “But when you’re actually in it, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. I’m super proud of my accomplishments, but I know that I have a lot of room for improvement, so one of my biggest goals is to continue perfecting my craft.”
When it comes to art, Saweetie doesn’t play. But in between endless hours of practice (athlete, much?), she imagines her fans stepping back from their own grind to turn up to Pretty B*tch Music. When I ask her what the ideal backdrop for the record is, her answer is as clear and cool as ever. “I can picture [my fans listening to the album] at day parties, clubs, in the car, rooftops, while getting ready with the girls,” she laughs. “All that good stuff.”