Courtesy Warner Bros Records

Music

Saweetie is Hip-Hop's Next Valedictorian

Right in between spring and summer, there’s a man-made time that consumes everyone in its path: graduation season. Instead of allergies or sunburns, ill-fitting gowns and decked-out mortar boards act as the physical markers of the celebratory season. This year, Diamonté Harper—better known as California rapper Saweetie—was also part of the grad festivities, her lyrics adorning caps and yearbooks around the country. Lines from her 2017 breakout hit “ICY GRL” (“That’s how a hot girl do it,” “Looking in the mirror I thank God for what I’m about to be”) feel like a natural fit amongst the affirmations that other graduates pick to cement this momentous occasion. “It’s surreal for me because this is forever,” says Harper in her adopted home of Los Angeles, swelling with pride as she thinks about her #IcyGrads. “You’re going to remember this moment forever and now my kid, ‘ICY GRL,’ [is part of your special moment.]”

Harper’s entire career has been influenced by school and the pursuit of education in one way or another. Her success inspiring others proves that she’s on the right path—and Saweetie is always concerned with being on the right path. She watches recordings of her own performances (“I want to make sure that I give it my 100 percent with my attitude, my mood and my enthusiasm.”) and she practices each step of her highly technical performances over and over until she gets it the way she likes (“Even after my dancers leave, I still like to go over my moves, my attitude, my faces.”)

Under a long bob of pink hair, Harper sits on the edge of a couch that looks large enough to swallow her whole. She speaks with precision about her process: “I’m open. I’m like a sponge and I like to learn. I think that’s important and I think that people can’t recreate themselves if they’re not willing to learn.” It’s sound advice, particularly strong coming from a 24-year-old who’s already changing the rap game.

After growing up around northern California (Hayward for childhood, Sacramento for high school), Harper attended San Diego State, transferred to USC and got her degree in business and communication. “My dream school was USC. So I [thought to myself], ‘I’m either going to drop out or I’m going to be accepted. But, before you think about dropping out, because you’re already here, make a plan.’”
Don’t underestimate Harper and her plans—they are what have taken her from bite-sized Instagram raps to over 25 million streams for “ICY GRL,” collaborating with Kehlani, starting a label (ICY), landing a deal with Warner Bros Records, releasing her debut EP High Maintenance and touring the world. She manifested all of these milestones while learning to trust herself. “I was constantly moving schools [when I was a kid],” Harper says. “I was a really young child and I just had to become comfortable with myself. Sometimes I would eat alone, sometimes I didn’t have friends and I think that I spent a lot of time with myself and that made me comfortable....When you’re comfortable with yourself then nothing can really bother you.”

While Harper is more than comfortable in her own skin, she wants to make sure that she’s always at the top of her game—on and off the stage. “A moment lives forever now, it’s no longer just in that space at that moment in time," says Harper. "No, now it’s on Instagram, it’s on Twitter, maybe a bigger blog might pick it up. I’m not going to be perfect all the time, but I want to make sure [I’m at] my best and I want to make sure that my material and my music is represented the right way because you only get one shot.”

Harper isn’t going to let this one get away. After the massive success of “ICY GRL,” Saweetie is making her dreams more personal. “When I reflected on all of the things I wanted to achieve—like winning Best New Artist—it all stemmed from recognition. And those are great things to achieve, but they subconsciously influence me to become a slave to other people…The awards and accolades, if they come, they come, but I’ll sleep better at night if I’m happy with the music I’m creating. I just want to focus on creativity, happiness and consistency.”

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