Saweetie: Straight Boss & Unapologetic (by Ronda Racha Penrice)

It was nearly impossible to miss Saweetie’s “My Type” in 2019. It was such a breakout single for the Bay Area rapper that the hit TNT show Claws, starring Niecy Nash as a
nail salon owner with a complicated relationship to the law, used a remixed version of it to launch its third season.

The “Icy” rapper performed the hit song during the pre-show for the 2019 BET Awards in the summer and, then headlined the stage during the 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards in the fall where she was joined by Lil Jon and Petey Pablo who brought “Freek-A-Leek,” sampled in Saweetie’s smash, alive again. It even enjoyed several girl power remixes, including a Spanish one with Becky G and Melii and another one featuring Jhene Aiko and City Girls.

This kind of success, Saweetie knows, is just a springboard that demands even more hard work. “I’ve been really focusing on developing my sound. So, I’ve been heavily involved in just cooking up [or] co-producing the beats, and just really trying to represent the West Coast,” she shares via phone.

While she describes her sound as “straight boss” and “unapologetic,” she knows, to go even further, she has to dig deeper. “I feel like I’ve done great, however, I feel like my
story hasn’t really been shared,” she confesses. “So, I’m getting into this sharing more about my personal background, whether it’s my family, shit that I’ve been through, just
becoming more vulnerable in that aspect.

“I’m not a vulnerable person,” she continues. “But I feel like in order to connect to your audience, you’ve got to share some pieces of yourself… that’s what I’ve been trying to do in the studio, just peeling back the layers and deciding, like what makes sense to talk
about and how can I give the girls and even the men motivation.”

Part of her musical approach going forward is not to rely so heavily on samples. “I’m great at flipping a sample. I feel like that’s my specialty, but, at the end of the day, I
love the art. So, while that’s easy for me, I like to challenge myself and I feel like me going to the studio and really taking my time to figure what does my voice sound good over. Like Saweetie sounds good over the 808s; Saweetie sounds good over heavy
bass, but how can I still bring that same energy but just with some original shit,” she explains.

When it comes to producers, she definitely has a type. “I like working with producers who are hungry to come into the studio and just create something fresh,” she shares. “I’m the artist that likes to come to the studio, sit down, catch the vibe or share how
I’m feeling and then we build from that. Whether you’re a Grammy-nominated, big producer or upcoming producer, it doesn’t matter as long as we can translate my emotions into that beat.”

Interestingly, super-producer Zaytoven, known for his work with Gucci Mane, Migos, Future and more, is her cousin. Although she says, “we haven’t gotten that much time to work together, one thing that I’ve learned from him is just to keep going. You know he started off playing the piano in my grandma’s church. A lot of people don’t know he’s not from Atlanta, he’s from the Bay. . . to just watch him grow from my cousin playing the piano at church to now being one of the biggest producers in America is just amazing. And I feel like I’m in it for the long run and not short run. So, sometimes,
when I’m hard on myself, I am able to look at people like that and I’m ‘okay as long as I’m working hard, the end result is going to be cool.’”

From Quavo, with whom she has been romantically linked since she appeared in his “Workin Me” video back in August 2018, she says she’s learned to be free in the studio. “I’m a perfectionist and sometimes I just want to be perfect right away, but, for him,
he’s just like an explosion in the studio. It doesn’t matter if it sounds good or bad, he’s just gonna go and that’s one thing I’ve learned, that I can’t be perfect in the studio, just become more free. That’s what I learned from Q,” she shares.

Saweetie has actually changed her whole approach to working in the studio. “I used to want to write all my raps down and then go to studio. Now I can just record directly to mic,” she says. “I don’t even write my raps down no more. I just go to the studio, I
record. I was so into preparation only because of my background. I couldn’t afford studio back in the day so studio time really counted so I would always make sure that my raps were written before. But now it’s like I don’t have to go there and have everything prepped and perfected.”

Although the USC grad began writing poetry at an early age, she credits her love for rhyming to a cousin who recently passed away. “I used to think he was such a dope rapper and he was so fly to me and I would try to keep up with him. So, I feel like that’s where I got my real, real interest in rap because I loved him so much and he was always rapping and that made me want to rap,” she shares.

Saweetie also acknowledges industry heavyweight Max Gousse, whom she says, “Has been a great mentor,” and his Artistry team for bringing her “guidance, especially on the business side.” Still she doesn’t discount the critical role social media played in launching her career, especially as a female rapper.

“I’m very thankful for social media,” she says. “We’re living in a social media age. [Before] I feel like it was difficult for women to get a foot in the door because they always needed a cosign, or they needed to get signed
and then that push. But, nowadays, it’s kind of like you hop on the gram or Twitter and, if you tight and you go viral, you got eyes on. I’m really into strategy. My team is icy. . . I’m slowly but surely building my own business team.”

When it comes to fashion and her overall style, Saweetie says that’s another area where she’s growing. “My style has evolved in a sense of being able to tap into the creative of
really building outfits from scratch,” she shares. “I’m known for my shows to give like a custom look. However, I’m not that educated in high fashion and that’s something that I recently just tapped into.” Right now, she is educating herself on the various brands and learning about many iconic looks of the past.

As for what’s on the horizon for 2020, the Bay Area rapper says “You can look
forward to my [untitled] album. You can look forward to Saweetie being on national television, having a recurring role on a show, Grownish. You can look forward to big makeup collaborations (Morphe-Coachella). You can look forward to my second capsule with PrettyLittleThing; that’s doing well. Just a lot more,” she says. “I feel like 2019 was foundation and 2020 y’all will be able to see the seeds I was planting and see it come to fruition.”