Rapper Saweetie talks about representing her heritage, proclaims Filipino cuisine is ‘the best food’

28-year-old Saweetie has made her mark in the hip-hop game with several viral hits, including “My Type” and most recently, “Best Friend” with Doja Cat.| Photo courtesy of Instagram/@saweetie

IT’S the year of Saweetie — from the viral hit “Best Friend” to a song collaboration with Gwen Stefani to securing key brand sponsorships.

Though she’s made a name for herself since her first single “ICY GRL” dropped in 2017, fans can expect her long-awaited debut album “Pretty B*tch Music” in coming months.

The 28-year-old rapper was born Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper to Trinidad Valentin, a 90s video model who is of Filipino and Chinese descent, and Johnny Harper, who is African American. Growing up with both cultures and different family dynamics in the Bay Area, she said, has influenced her worldview and how she approaches her music career.

Personifying the nickname that her grandmother gave her, Saweetie launched her rap career after graduating from the University of Southern California. It wasn’t a straight shot to being a breakout, platinum recording artist, however. She’s candid about her pre-fame grind of recording herself rapping in her car because she couldn’t afford studio time.

During any opportunity she can, the “My Type” artist proudly shares that she’s part Filipina and stories of her upbringing with that side of the family from the home-cooked meals to karaoke sessions. On her upcoming album, expect some colorful Tagalog words on one of the tracks.

“I do talk some s— in Tagalog,” Saweetie said in a recent interview with Billboard. “My mom was really against it. My Asian side, they’re very traditional — they were immigrants. So it’s like, their culture’s a little bit more reserved. So, she was just like, ‘Girl, I can’t believe you just said that!’”

The Asian Journal recently caught up with the “Icy” queen about releasing new music, plans to travel to the Philippines one day, and memories growing up in a Filipino household.

Asian Journal (AJ): How was the pandemic for you, and connecting with fans digitally and still creating music?

Saweetie: The pandemic was interesting. I think I had to find out a way for me to still be connected to my fans, which is why I started creating so much content. But other than that, I hope the world is healing and once everything is safe enough to open back up, I can’t wait to see my fans in person again.

Saweetie poses with her mother Trinidad Valentin in a throwback photo posted on the rapper’s Instagram page for the latter’s birthday in 2019. The “ICY GRL” artist said “mahal na mahal kita” in the accompanying message. | Photo courtesy of Instagram/@saweetie

AJ: You’ve spoken a lot about your Filipina side. Is there something from your culture and heritage that you continue to keep in mind in your career and when you’re making music?

Saweetie: I remember my mom telling me that it’s important for me to share my heritage, to share my culture. So anytime that it makes sense, I do let people know that I am half-Filipina.

AJ: You’ve also used your platform to speak out about different issues affecting the community and also the Black community. How important is it for you as an artist to do so?

Saweetie: I think it’s important to defend and to support communities that support me every day. I’ll be doing a disservice to not speak out about it. As an artist who has a huge platform, I think the more people are taught, there’s more awareness and the more we educate people, then we can move forward with making a better difference in our community. So that’s my goal.

AJ: Aside from your McDonald’s meal coming out, is there anything else fans can expect from you for the rest of the year?

Saweetie: Definitely new music and I mean, that’s about it. I’m really focusing on my music right now. Hopefully, everyone enjoys the concoction because the point of the meal is to remix it in different ways, whether it’s making a crazy burger or combining the fries [with] the nugget box and creating some type of rendition of nachos, so I’m just really excited to see everyone enjoy their meals.

 

 

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AJ: You’re representing not just our Filipino community, but also biracial women like you.

Saweetie: I really can’t wait until one of my campaigns reaches the Philippines so I can go out there and do like a mini tour. Or being able to go around the islands and the mainland. Although I rep being Filipino in America, it’s different so I can actually touch the people. So hopefully, sometime in the near future, when COVID is over, I can travel to the Philippines.

AJ: And maybe shoot a music video over there.

Saweetie: Yeah, I want to shoot my first island video in the Philippines, so hopefully that can happen soon.


AJ: On the topic of food, do you have favorite Filipino dishes and food memories with your mom and lola?

Saweetie: Filipino food is the best food — I could eat that for the rest of my life. My favorite is sinigang and then it would be adobo but it has to be a soupy adobo. I don’t like when people have a dry adobo. I also love lumpia. Just my favorite childhood memories of my mom and my Lola, just watching them cook in the kitchen and the sweet aroma that fills the whole house. Oh my gosh, I mean, I really enjoy the Filipino restaurants in LA but there’s nothing like a home-cooked Filipino meal.

Cooking Filipino food does make me nervous only because at least for us, they taste as they go so there’s not really a recipe and everything is from scratch. Before I make a Filipino dish, I always get nervous.

AJ: Leave us with some inspiration. Any advice for people, especially Filipinos, who are considering unconventional careers like rapping?

Saweetie: I gave my mom and Lola a heart attack when they found what I wanted to do. But I think it’s just important to support. This more so goes for the parents — just really support your kids. We’re going into an era where non-traditional roles and jobs are accepted so please just support your kids. Not to say that my family didn’t support me, but if I had cheerleaders from the jump then maybe I would have had a stronger sense of self and self-esteem when I was pursuing my journey into being an artist. But please support your kid’s dreams because you never know they might be the next Saweetie.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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