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Saweetie Is Enjoying the Grind

The Bay Area rapper on being a self-made woman and why J. Cole inspired her to stay in college.

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You can say what you want about 26-year-old rapper Saweetie, but you can’t deny that she’s a self-made success. She’s been sharing her music via social media, specifically SoundCloud, since her college days, when she studied a Communications and Business degree at the University of Southern California. She’s always been a grafter—as a student she paid her way through college by working three jobs and running her own successful t-shirt business. Clearly, she’s been primed for the hectic schedule of an up-and-coming star since way back.

Her debut EP High Maintenance was released last year, and its lead single ‘Icy Grl’ is the type of song for which viral success seems inevitable. On the track, Saweetie freestyles over the beat of Khia’s classic hit ‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’. Her hunger for success is front and centre throughout, with memorable lines like “You tryna get a bag of weed / I’m tryna get a bag a week / Put it in my savings and invest in the right companies” summing-up her hustler mentality.

Fast forward a year, and that hunger has been replaced with bonafide success—Saweetie’s undoubtedly one of the most talked about women in hip-hop at the moment. Her second major label EP, Icy, was released earlier this year, she has a hugely popular jewellery brand that sells out almost as soon as it’s released, she’s releasing a clothing range with e-commerce retailer PrettyLittleThing next month, and has plans to debut her own lip gloss range soon.

By her own admission, she’s working so hard she barely has time to sleep, but she’s enjoying the grind. We caught up with Saweetie on the phone recently to chat about her entrepreneurial streak, why she aims to have seven streams of revenue within the next few years, and what advice she would give her 16-year-old self.

Hey Saweetie, how you doing?
I’m good thank you, how are you?

Good! When did music first come into your life? Who were the first people showing you music and what artists were you listening to early on?
Growing up, my parents loved hip-hop. My mom was listening to Lauryn Hill, Foxy [Brown], Lil Kim, and my dad listened to a lot of West Coast music like 2Pac, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. I grew up in a big hip-hop family, but my mom especially was listening to other genres too. She liked Coldplay and Goo Goo Dolls, a lot of Spanish music. My dad liked listening to old-school music like The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye. I feel like because I was exposed to all this music at a young age, I really fell in love with it, and different genres too.

And when you first started writing raps, was there anyone you were trying to sound like?
I was really trying to sound like myself, and the reason I say that is that a lot of the artists that I looked up to just sounded like themselves. Lil Kim sounded like no one else, Foxy sounded like no one else, I even love Trina who sounded like no one else. I feel like originality has always been important to me and with each studio session and each song I make, I’m slowly working towards my own sound.

Before the music took off you were at college right? What were you like as a student?
That’s right, I went to college for five years. I was working three to four jobs at one point, I was going to school full-time, and I had a social life so I was barely sleeping. I was a busy body! I was going to school between morning and night time but if I had a half day, I would go and work at one of my jobs, or work at the sports bar. Then on the weekends I would go and sell my t-shirts online. I had a brand called Money Makin Mamis and it sold really well and actually helped fund some of my tuition.

Wow that’s a lot, so you were already used to the busy schedule back then!
[Laughs] I’m used to this hectic lifestyle of just working all day and barely sleeping, but we gotta make these moves to be number one so that’s what keeps me focused.

You’ve got a jewellery line too, right? What made you want to make moves outside of music?
Yes, I currently have a jewellery line that’s doing extremely well, the chains are selling out almost as soon as I put them up. I’m also working on a lip gloss line which is going to be ready soon, it smells good, it looks good, and it even tastes good so I’m excited about that as well. My grandmother taught me that you need to have seven streams of income so I’ve always been about finding income that makes sense for myself and for my brand, and capitalising on that creativity.  I have my music, my fashion, cosmetics, and I’m working on some other streams of income as well, so hopefully by next year I’ll have at least five or six streams of income.

That’s really dope. What do you feel your biggest achievement has been so far?
Being the number one emerging artist on Billboard. I think it’s dope to be recognised for all of the hard work that me and my team have done this year. ‘My Type’ is climbing so fast up the charts, it’s at number 35 right now which is so exciting. I think that is one of my favourite accomplishments this year for sure.

What advice would you give to other young women who want to follow the same dream that you had?
My advice would be to always stay ready. The way I met my manager—I didn’t [send] a demo, but I had my rap videos on my Instagram. So when I met him, I was able to give him my Instagram link and from there he decided that he wanted to work with me. So, my advice would be to always stay ready, always have something that’s presentable because you never know who you’re going to run into.

I know you’re a big J. Cole fan. I wanted to ask what about him resonated with you so much, why is he your number one?
I am a big J. Cole fan. I think it’s because he went to college, and I was going to college when I wanted to be a rapper. You always hear about people dropping out of college, but the fact that he was one of my favourite rappers and he stayed in college and graduated, that made me want to stay and graduate as well. So I wanna thank him for showing me that you can do both.

I respect that a lot. There’s a lot of great talent around right now, are there any other new artists that are impressing you lately?
I was at a shoot yesterday and there were two artists that really caught my attention. One of them has been in the game for a while, and the other one I just really love the song that came on. So, Mila J—she’s been around for a long time but I really love her song ‘Kickin’ Back’, and then Maliibu Miitch, we’ve spoken on social media a couple of times and I really love her song ‘Give Her Some Money’ it makes me feel sexy, it makes me wanna shoot, and it just makes me just wanna go out there and get some money! [Laughs]

And what about fashion, who are some designers that you like right now?
Well… I have a collaboration on the way with Prettylittlething and I feel like what we did is very original. When it comes to fashion, I’m not really into decking myself all in high-end, name brands and designers. I’m more into putting interesting pieces together and what I really love about this collaboration is that we took my style and just took it to the next level. I think it’s important that when you dress, that you have style and not just fashion, because fashion is just going to a big name brand and just decking yourself out. I feel like my collection has pieces to offer that allow people to put their own spin on it.

That’s exciting! I loved your blue bandana look at the Real Street Festival in LA the other day.
Thank you! A lot of people were taken aback by that, but what a lot of people don’t know is that my dad is actually a crip. I don’t talk about my background a lot, so for me, not only was it a West Coast thing but it was me showing love to my father, because growing up—not to get into it too much—that’s just what our lifestyle was. It was an LA show so it was the perfect time to show love and put the West Coast and my childhood together and create a fun look.

So what’s next for you Saweetie, do you have some new music in the works?
I’m definitely working on new music but right now I’m really just focused on ‘My Type’, like I mentioned before it’s my first Billboard entry so I really want to see how we can work the record. I’m focused on my shows, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to perfect my stage performance. As an artist it’s not enough for me to just get on the stage and rap, I really want to get up there and put on a show so right now I’ve just been focused on rehearsing and making sure my show is as good as it can be.

Hopefully we get a chance to see you perform in Australia soon.
Yes, I would love to come down there. I see a lot of people commenting and asking when I’m coming down there so hopefully we can work something out because I would love to.

We’d love to have you here. Ok, final question: What would 2019 Saweetie say to 2009 Saweetie?
Girl, don’t worry! [Laughs] It gets better! You know what? I really respect artists that go out and make a name for themselves on their own because with this business, you’re either in it or you’re not in it. You’re either getting paid for your music or you’re not getting paid so when you’re out there and you’re struggling and this is what you want to do, you really have to hang in there and have faith in yourself. There are moments that are tough and moments that are discouraging when you don’t have all the resources you need, but I believe that if it’s meant for you, it’s meant for you. So just be patient.

Saweetie, appreciate you. Thanks for taking the time and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
My pleasure, thanks for taking time out of your day. I really appreciate it.

For more on Saweetie follow her here.

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