The Filipino community won big on Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 23) when artists such as H.E.R., Bruno Mars, Olivia Rodrigo, and Saweetie clinched Grammy nominations for their stellar efforts this year. The latter — who has proven to be a business savant in 2021, earning partnerships with McDonald’s, Mac Cosmetics, and Crocs — placed a bow on her stellar 2021 run when she secured two nods, for best new artist and best rap song, the latter for the Doja Cat-assisted smash hit “Best Friend.”
“I think everything is falling into place as it should be,” Saweetie told Billboard early Wednesday afternoon. “I think we’ve been working really hard.  is the year I think I’ve worked the hardest and not just out of my career but in my years of being on the Earth. So to be acknowledged is very gratifying after a year of hard work.”
The bouncy earworm “Best Friend” propelled Saweetie into top 20 territory on the Hot 100, skating to a career-best No. 14. The record also served as her third Hot 100 top 40 song, following 2020’s “Tap In” and 2019’s “My Type,” and solidified her lane as a premier hitmaker. After hosting this year’s MTV’s EMAs and performing on Saturday Night earlier this month, it’s safe to say that Saweetie is beginning to find her groove as a budding star.
Billboard spoke to the self-proclaimed Icy Girl about becoming a first-time Grammy nominee, unlocking her soul for her upcoming debut album Pretty Bitch Music, silencing the naysayers, and staying true to her heritage.
What was your initial reaction after learning you landed not one, but two nominations for the Grammys?
I actually woke up to it. So that was some of the best news I’ve ever woke up to. I was definitely caught off guard, but in a good way.
Which nomination caught you off the guard the most?
I would say both only because those are two really major categories, so I’m just thankful to be acknowledged for all the work that I’ve been doing with my team. Honestly, they both did. They’re both two, strong, powerful categories.
Along with your music thriving, you’ve been succeeding on the business front with your partnerships. Which partnership specifically are you most proud of?
I would say McDonalds. I’ve loved McDonalds ever since I was a little kid. They’re a top 10 food chain franchise that’s known globally, and the fact that I was an ambassador just opened so many doors for me. So I was grateful for the experience. You don’t see a lot of people doing it — and I was the first woman, at that.
I spoke to H.E.R. yesterday and she mentioned how big of a moment it was the Filipino community knowing that you, her, Olivia Rodrigo and Bruno Mars were all nominated. Talk about the importance of that win and how it can help those looking to breakthrough in the music industry?
It was such a major win, because you don’t see a lot of Filipino artists in hip-hop or R&B. I think that it’s great that we celebrate our culture so that people who are of our blood, look like us and come from where we come from as far as origin goes know that they can do it too. Representation is really important — and I’m glad that was actually highlighted, because I saw a couple of articles [about it]. I was pleased with that.
You’re also on the bill for the upcoming Head in the Clouds Festival, which is put on by 88Rising and catered to Asian artists. How have you managed to make representation an important pillar for you?
I think it’s important to represent what makes me, me. Like my mom and her family were immigrants — they’re a very traditional Asian family. I think that it’s important, that I represent my Black, Asian side, and whatever in my DNA that makes Saweetie Saweetie. That’s why I push it, because representation matters.
I saw you kicked it with Robert Greene as part of your Icy University series. What were some takeaways you got from that conversation that you hope to instill in your future business endeavors?
Well, we were discussing the law of mystery — and I feel like the law of mystery with celebrities isn’t really valued anymore, because of social media. I don’t remember the specifics — I would have to look at the video again, if I’m being honest. He was basically breaking down the new celebrity, and how you kind of have to find a happy medium between being a mystery, but still catering to your fans. It was very insightful. The consumers are no longer interested in the celebrity that goes missing. [Laughs.] The consumers want to know what you’re eating, who you’re dating, and what you’re wearing. It’s all about finding a happy medium — because you don’t want to saturate yourself either. So it’s just trying to find that balance.
Have you been able to strike that balance yet?
Sometimes, I do, but then sometimes there’s so much media that goes with the campaign launch or a release. I feel like that’s when things go a little crazy but I prefer to post every now and then. Because I work and there’s so many looks and outfits, I feel like I need to post sometimes. So I’m trying to find a balance between that.
Talk about your experience working with Halle Berry on the Bruised Soundtrack being that it’s an all-female lineup.
Well, Halle actually got that song from me two years ago. I honestly forgot what it sounded like, and when it was on the soundtrack I was like, “Wow. This song sounds great.” To see it finally come out, especially with the all female line-up, was really dope of Halle to do.
You recently performed on Saturday Night Live. How did it feel to check that off your bucket list?
Honestly, I had so much fun. A lot of people told me that it’s a big stage, and the rumors that go around about performing on that big stage with the pressure… I don’t know. I loved being up there. I’d do it again and again. And I loved the live audience. Honestly, I loved the SNL crew. I love my crew and I thought it was a great collaboration between music, art, outfits and beauty.
After your performance, fans took notice of your breath control and cited that as a hurdle for you while on stage. I know you’re big on constructive criticism, but was that something you caught as well and is something you look to improve on for the next performance?
I actually am very proud of the performance. I feel like I’m growing. I’ve never danced that much during a performance. And I’m open to constructive criticism — however, I would love to see someone do what I do. I would like to see their breath control. So unless you’re someone who’s been doing this, then I’m open to it. I’m aware of my weaknesses, I’m aware of my strengths. But it’s growth. It’s a process. I would really love for them to do the bar routine. I would love for them to twerk. I would love for them to do all of these intricate dance routines while maintaining their breath, and then we can talk about it.
I remember having the same conversation with Bia about constructive criticism. She kind of said she’s open to hearing feedback, but will also take things with a grain of salt.
Absolutely. That’s like when fans criticize an athlete that plays in the NBA. Y’all not about to make 30 buckets. Y’all not about to do this good of defense. So just enjoy the show and if you believe in who you’re rooting for, you should enjoy the process of their development. One thing about me is I’m such a business, proactive person that I’m not always in artist-mode. Not only am I killing SNL, killing the EMAs, I’m a business woman. So I’m running a company [and] an organization along with trying to balance artist development and other things in my life. I think I’m doing a pretty good job and I know nobody is doing what I’m doing so I’m really proud of that moment.
Is there anything you took from the business side that you’ve implemented to the new music, most notably your debut album? Maybe even some new principles or practices?
I feel like there’s two answers to that. The reason I’m so busy is because I try to be proactive over my business ventures. Like — people who work with me, they can’t read my mind. So it’s important that I don’t waste anyone’s time, and I’m on these calls and in these meetings so that everything is translated appropriately and effectively. Otherwise, a lot of time gets wasted, and I don’t have time for that.
I feel like that’s translated over to my music side. I co-produce my beats. I’m very hands-on, and I don’t like things to go on without me being in the room. I feel like in order to be in full control, I have to be involved, despite how crazy my schedule gets. I think that translated over to the music side. I’m heavily involved, instead of trying to get advice and let someone do what they want with my songs.
And as far as new practices, I actually have a meditation song that I’m working on. It’s really cool. Meditating keeps me sane, because my life and my schedule is really crazy. No one works as hard as my team. I know it’s a fact because other teams have told me that. I think it’s important that I meditate. I told my team members about meditation because we work really hard. We work so hard.
I’m so happy we’re even having this conversation, because obviously the labor is paying off. I’m not saying that because it’s an opinion, but I’m saying it because it’s a fact. Credible people in the industry have told me and my team members over and over again. We have a relentless work ethic. So I’m really proud to be around good people, because I couldn’t do this alone.
Lastly, were you able to unlock the soul you were hoping to find when you postponed the release of your Pretty Bitch Music?
Yeah, and I think the soul just came from me. I don’t know how to explain it, but… I think because I’m hyperaware of self now, I know what I would want. I know what my intentions are. I know what my focus is. I feel like that’s the direction I was missing because at first my life was like organized chaos. I was a breaking artist. I was doing a bunch of things that weren’t necessary. Instead of smart work, it was busy work. So after I was able to pull back, self-reflect and really get in touch with self and with God, I finally figured out the point of Pretty Bitch Music. I feel like music is only impactful if it has purpose. Now that I know what that is, I believe the soul is born. Now we’re just grooming it.