LOS ANGELES – When Bay Area-rapper Saweetie learned she was nominated for two Grammys, including best new artist, the competitive nature she learned from growing up in an athletic household came out in full force.
Her grandfather, Willie Harper, played for the San Francisco 49ers and her father played football in college.
“I played football, track and volleyball," Saweetie told The Associated Press, which has named her one of its Breakthrough Entertainers of 2021. "You might be invited to the playoffs, but you have to win. So I felt like I was invited to the Grammys, but have to win.”
Saweetie, who is also nominated for best rap song for “Best Friend” featuring Doja Cat, has claimed her title as an icy queen, a swaggering rapper whose sharp lyrics placed her in the ring alongside seasoned veterans. Over the last three years, she's landed three Top 40 hits, including “Best Friend,” “Tap In” and “My Type," has her own McDonald's meal and became a TikTok meme.
All that success over a couple of years came from a hard work ethic instilled by her family. Her mother, Trinidad Valentin, was 17 when Saweetie was born and had a career as an actress in music videos, but she insisted that her daughter finish college. Saweetie graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in communications.
“I’m really appreciative of her pushing me to go because when I was in college, I didn’t appreciate it," she said.
Meanwhile her father, Johnny Harper, would encourage her to show off her rap skills whenever his friends came over for a game of dominos. “And I was never scared,” she said. "But in hindsight, when I look back, I know that he was preparing me for anything, so I really appreciate him.”
Now with three successful EPs under her belt, and a nonstop schedule, she's had to learn how to slow down and breathe. Even finding time to sit uninterrupted and talk about some of her achievements was challenging during a party she held at a dance club, but did her best to remain fully present as music blared in the background. She's also juggled high profile gigs like her debut appearance on “SNL" and hosting the MTV Europe Music Awards in Hungary.
She meditates about two hours every morning, after learning about the practice from two of her mentors.
“Meditation is really important for me because my life is very chaotic," said Saweetie. "In order for me to be centered, I have to pray and I have to meditate.”
For Saweetie, the meaning of being an “ICY GRL” has expanded beyond just her brand to her next EP project, called “Icy Season” to come out on Jan. 7, which will be seven songs plus a bonus track.
“When I put out this project, it’s about clarity. It’s about healing. It’s about self-reflection," said Saweetie.
But she's also aware that there is a lot of demand, not to mention pressure, for her full-length debut, which she is already calling “Pretty Bitch Music" and will be coming in 2022. To her, “Icy Season” is the caterpillar phase, but her full-length album will be the butterfly emerging.
“A debut album must be clear," she said. "It’s a blueprint, in a sense. It sets the tone for your career.”
For more on AP’s 2021 class of Breakthrough Entertainers, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-breakthrough-entertainers