With Instagram followers numbering 5.6 million and counting, plus another 1.2 million followers on YouTube, there’s no denying Saweetie has an audience. But even with last year’s single, “My Type” setting records on Billboard’s Top 100, the rising rapper is after something more. “As a new artist coming from being an influencer, a lot of people didn’t respect me,” she tells us.
Rhyming, rapping and as racy as she likes, Saweetie’s smart enough to know that you can’t expect respect from others unless you respect yourself. It’s all in her new release, Pretty B*tch Music.
“I want to change the meaning of pretty ’cause there’s this model on social media of how a woman looks,” she explains. “I grew up in a house of all shapes and sizes of women. Pretty means different things to different cultures, different groups, different backgrounds and different ages.”
That covers “pretty,” but what about “b*tch”? “Bitch means Boss, Independent, Tough, Creative and Hyphy,” she spells it out in an acronym. “This is going to be a great moment for women. My music is empowering, inspiring, but it’s also fun.”
The new project features tracks by producers like Dr. Luke, J White, and The Morgue as well as Danjahandz & Rob Knox. Timbaland produced a song called “Back to the Streets,” which she posted part of on Instagram.
Inspired by Too Short’s 2006 Bay Area smash “Blow the Whistle,” “Tap In” and its newly released music video deliver that same energy. It shares its title with an IG and Twitter game Saweetie plays with fans in which she posts a picture of herself and asks all her pretty girls to tap in. The result is a thread of beauties in all shapes and colors. And if a fan doesn’t think she’s pretty enough the sisters offer a wave of encouragement.
There were plans for a summer tour, including college and high school campuses, but those are on hold during the pandemic. “It’s a time when we all need to be sensitive to what’s going on, especially when people are risking their lives,” she says. “These doctors and nurses don’t have to be doing what they’re doing. They really don’t. We all have a choice.”
Part of the Pretty B*tch Music push that even the pandemic can’t stop is Saweetie becoming the first rapper to grace Maxim's cover. “I’m extremely honored to be a part of such an iconic moment in the history of Maxim cover stars,” she says. “Maxim to me has always showcased strong and beautiful women who were bosses and in control of their body and not afraid to be sexy. That connected to me so much as I believe I embody those same qualities. This was truly a perfect match.”
The daughter of Trinidad Valentin and Johnny Harper, Diamonté Qiava Valentin Harper grew up in Sacramento and the Bay Area. “It’s a really dope mixture for me cause’ all my Filipino girls love me being Filipino and all my black girls love me being a black girl. So, I have the best of both worlds,” she says of her mixed heritage.
With both parents working full time it was often her father’s mother who raised her. A pastor and owner of a real estate firm, Saweetie’s grandmother hustled every day except Thursday when she would get her hair and nails done. “She’d come back with her pretty nails, her bomb hair, and she had a whole bunch of money in her purse and I was like, I want to be like that one day,” she says of her grandmother and best friend who first called her “Saweetie.” “She inspired me to get my hustle on and at the same time be fabulous."
Diamonté ran track and played indoor volleyball in high school and was the first in her family to attend college—SDSU and then transferring to USC, where she majored in Business Communication. “College really molded my mind into a businesswoman,” she says. “I feel like that’s really important for artists ‘cause a lot of artists don’t know their business. I always wanted to be in beauty, I always wanted to be in fashion, I always wanted to be on TV, but you can’t pursue all of these things at once.”
So, she focused on writing songs. What she came up with was “Icy Grl,” which she posted to Instagram. She expected about 70,000 views. In the first week it got a million. Suddenly, XXL, The Source, MTV and all the major blogs started writing about it after deejays began ripping it off the internet and playing it on the radio, even though it wasn’t on any streaming platforms.
In 2019 Saweetie owned the summer with the single “My Type,” which debuted on Billboard’s Top 100 making her only the seventh female rapper to do so. While “Icy Grl” drew eyeballs and her first EP for Warner Records, High Maintenance, put the hip-hop world on notice, “My Type” proved Saweetie’s bankability. It’s all part of her master plan—an empire dedicated to entertainment, beauty and fashion.
For inspiration she needs look no further than two of her idols, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. “They remind me that all of these things are possible especially for people who look like me. Black excellence,” she says, noting her biggest commonality with the pop diva. “She always had the eye of the tiger and I feel like that’s what I have, too. Because I’m a woman, people are always trying to make decisions on my behalf. But I always have to step up to the plate and say no, this is my shit, this is my company and we’re going to run it this way. I really love that she’s professional, but she’s the boss. And that’s something I strive to be.”
As executive producer, the new album bears Saweetie’s creative fingerprints more than any work so far. For her, it represents a turning point, but how will it be received? “I’m still working toward having that respect of being an artist,” she says.
“Pressure is more my friend ‘cause it makes me a better artist. For me it’s fine ‘cause I like a challenge. The more I record, anyway, the better I get. I’m not worried.”
Special thanks to the creative team who produced this cover shoot exclusively for Maxim, including: Photographer, Brandon Almengo @brandonalmengo; Styling, Bryon Javar @bryonjavar; Hair, Jared Henderson @JStayReady_; Makeup, David Velasquez @mugopus; Manicurist, Temeka Jackson @customtnaiils1; Videographer, Phillip Silver @pgsilver.