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To describe 25-year-old Bay Area native rapper Saweetie as a bonafide hustler would be putting things lightly. Saweetie’s work ethic is unparalleled. Her level of tenacity, self-discipline and power to speak her dreams into existence isn’t just impressive, it is contagious beyond belief. Her love affair with writing music began at age 14 when she discovered poetry as her creative outlet.
Once she realized rapping was essentially just combining poems over a beat, she knew this was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. While creating music has always been where her heart feels at home, Saweetie grew up with a Filipino mother and not attending college was not an option. Unsurprisingly, she received a full academic scholarship to attend USC studying business and communications whilst juggling three part-time jobs, along with a full-time school curriculum.
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She worked as a receptionist, a coder for kickstart and ran her own online clothing company appropriately named, ‘Money Making Mami’s’. Once out of college and finally living in Los Angeles, the city where they say dreams come true, Saweetie decided it was time to focus on making her own visions come to life. She spent the next year of her life turning down “safety net” job offers and devoted her time and energy into her craft. The road to success for Saweetie has been filled with sacrifice and with turning down more than a handful of what she calls “deals from the devil.” Male producers wanting to exchange time in their studios for a lot more than Saweetie was willing to give.
Using social media as her platform and staying true to her morals and herself, Saweetie made her way into industry by recording herself rapping in her car in between job shifts and free-styling anywhere she could, including outside J.Cole’s tour bus for the legend himself.
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When she downloaded her rap “Icy Girl,” onto Instagram, her manager knew instantly, it was going to change the game for her forever. He was right. Shortly after Saweetie recorded the song and was signed to Warner Bros Records, she’s released two EP’s and tells me she feels she’s finally found her sound. I caught up with Saweetie to discuss the mentality that saved her, embracing her womanhood, and what lies ahead for her icy girl empire.
If you could choose any song to embody your artistic journey thus far? Which song would you choose and why?
Hmm well the second you asked that question the song that popped up in my head is 50 Cent’s “Hustler’s Ambition”. Not only because I feel like it accurately embodies my journey but I think in middle school I listened to that song maybe like a hundred times. Back to back to back. And I have young parents. So I grew up watching my parents hustle. That work ethic is engraved in me. Since childhood. Whether I was hosting a bake sale, in high school selling candy, or in college working three jobs, I’ve always stayed hustling.
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I saw an interview where you compare your E.P. to a scrimmage and your album to an actual game. I love that metaphor. How are you warming up for your album? And do you have any rituals or routines that you live by to keep you grounded in the midst of the chaos?
I don’t feel like I’m in space to prepare for an album. I feel like I just recently discovered the sound I’m going for. It kind of took me two EP’s to figure out what I do and don’t like. To answer the second part of that question, I stay grounded by always talking to or being around my family as much as possible. If you’re not conscious of what you’re doing and where you’re at and the people you’re spending your time with, a lot of your energy can get drained. And energy is real. The music industry is a very interesting place that kind of puts artist in this fantasy world. It’s important to unwind, relax, get a massage, talk to your childhood best friend, talk to your grandma, talk to somebody who truly knows you because they’re the ones that help you get back to reality.
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What advice would you give to other artists who find themselves in those inbetween stages of their career?
For me, I like to say my relationship to my dreams and my goals is like any other relationship I have. When you really care about something, and I care about music a lot, you wanna give it your all before you decide to call it quits. So I made a promise to myself. I’m going to give this 110% of me, just like I would with a best friend or even a boyfriend, and if this doesn’t work out, then it wasn’t mine to begin with. I think everybody has a dream. Whether it’s creating music, being a doctor, being a hairstylist, whatever that dream maybe, I feel like you should always go as hard as you can before giving up. Because I’m the type of person where I wouldn’t be able to live with myself wondering if maybe I could’ve made it if only I tried.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made to get here?
I think the biggest sacrifice I made while I was hustling was renting rooms off of craigslist. During my time in college I had to work three jobs and I was paying my rent but I couldn’t get an apartment unless I was making a certain amount from one single paystub. I couldn’t afford my own apartment so I remember having to rent rooms off of craigslist and not really being comfortable because I’m renting rooms from strangers I don’t know. I felt like I needed to stay in LA in order to pursue my dreams. So I think me just sacrificing comfort and moving back home and staying in a nice house or a bed with people that I could trust was a huge sacrifice. I have family in the bay area and I have family in Sacramento and I don’t think my opportunity would’ve been the same if I had moved back home. I sacrificed working jobs that I don’t really like, sometimes just eating pasta or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. Really being conscious of how often I’m driving my car or where I’m going because then I’d have to pay for gas. I sacrificed not enjoying one or two years of life after I graduated to really hustle and do whatever I had to in order to stay in LA.
Oh I can completely relate to that. When I first moved out for college and was living on my own for the first time, I bought a month worth of noodles from the Asian market near my house and for a month straight I ate noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Independence comes with a price. I’m curious, what’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you and what’s one phrase or sentence that you really hold onto?
I have a lot of things that I try to live by. I would say really living in the moment and giving it the best you’ve got. I think that really translates as far as my performances go, you never get those moments back. This kind of sounds corny to say but just living every day like it’s your last one. I don’t practice that often but when I remind myself that’s what I should be doing, I go harder and I try to do as much in one day as possible. So I think just having that mindset and just going hard for yourself is super important because nobody is going to go farther for yourself than you.
That’s wonderful advice and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can you talk to me about your evolution not only as an artist but also as a woman? How is the woman who started this journey different from the woman that I’m speaking to today? Who were you when you started and who are you now?
I think one of my biggest hurdles or one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced from being a female artist is owning my sexuality. I think owning every part of your being, including your sexuality, is part of becoming a woman. Growing up I would kind of tiptoe around the subject or use a lot of euphemisms for it in my poetry or in my music, but for this second EP I kind of just went for it. Icome from a family full of men where I’m the baby and my grandparents are pastors, so I’ve never really been outward about those type of things until now. As an artist, my sexuality is part of my story. So being comfortable and open about it is one of the biggest struggles I had to overcome. When my second EP came out my family was like “okay I can’t listen to this song or this
song, but keep doing your thing girl.”
Wow, it’s interesting that you say that because one of the first things I noticed while listening to your music is how in-tune you are with your body and with your spirit. I love the way you carry yourself. You seem extremely self-aware.
I think that has to do with spending a lot of time with myself. When I was renting rooms off craigslist I couldn’t really do a lot. [Giggles] So I would stay home and daydream, thinking about where I’d be once everything came to fruition. I’m so happy that everything did. Because when I was in that time in my life, it wasn’t very inspiring. Your environment really affects the way you think. So I really had to grow really tough skin and a tough mentality to get me through those times. I feel like that helped me to further my self-esteem and my confidence just as a person in general. Because I kind of had to trust the process. When you’re not able to visually see your work pay off right away, it can be tough to stay motivated from time to time.
Did you ever feel like giving up in those moments?
GURLLLLL yes! [Both giggling] I remember I really wanted to make a lot of money because I love the finer things in life. I love getting my hair and my nails done, I love shit like that. So I was trying to get a job at a hospital or a financial firm while pursuing music. I was seeking a full time position and I was probably offered a role like three or four times but every time I was about to accept it, my body and my soul just didn’t feel right. In moments like that when I’m listening to how my gut reacts to certain things, I’m like okay, this is not what you’re supposed to be doing.
If you could wear an invisible cloak for the day, where would you go and why? If you could go behind the scenes of any artist’s production studio, which artist would you choose?
Oooh, that sounds like fun! I’d say Beyonce. She has a really crazy work ethic. And I would love to see how she handles herself when she gets sleepy. When I get sleepy I get really cranky, I don’t wanna be messed with, and I’m especially cranky when hungry. I heard that she’ll not eat for who knows how long. I heard she won’t sleep because she’s so focused on her vision and the outcome. I think sleeping and eating is important but I would love to see where her head is at. In moments of stress or sleep deprivation, etc, how is she speaking to people, how is she speaking to herself? I want to know so that I can eventually become that kind of a work machine. She’s had such a great and long career and I can see myself having the same longevity as her.
I love that answer. Who’s your dream collaborator?
I think one of my dream collaborations would be with J.Cole. Only because everybody has seen that video so everyone will be able to see the process and the journey of me putting myself out there and really going for it and really being ambitious by rapping for somebody of his stature. And then finally doing what I told him I would that day outside his tour bus. That would be the best full circle moment for me. Just to show people and inspire people that when you believe in what your purpose is, it can really come to life.
Girl it’s gonna happen. I feel it. I see it. It’s yours. Aside from collaborating with J.Cole, what are you looking forward to the most? What projects do you have coming up?
I’m really excited for the “My Type” music video which I’ll be shooting in a week and a half. I’m going home to the Bay Area to really showcase where I’m from and the culture because to me, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m excited for the lip gloss line that I have coming out because I love lip gloss, so I need to share that with the girls. I’m also just really excited to put out some new music. I really feel like I know what my sound is. I can’t wait to share that with everybody.