Saweetie Is Good At Her Job
There was no reason to expect anything out of the Saweetie live show, and if Saweetie’s PR people hadn’t gotten me into the arena, I might’ve shown up late. But Saweetie’s PR people did make sure I was on the guest list, so I was in the building when Saweetie opened for Cardi B at my local college basketball arena a year and a half ago. Back then, Saweetie was really only one hit deep into her career, and I’d been to enough big rap shows to know that the opening act with the one big hit was not usually a must-see situation. (I’m thinking specifically of Yung Joc, opening and closing his set with “It’s Goin’ Down” while warming up the crowd for T.I. at the Apollo in 2006.) But Saweetie had a show. She had dancers and choreography and a million-dollar smile. She had “My Type,” her one big hit, and she had a bunch of other songs with hooks that were immediately legible. She was a performer, and she showed up ready to play. I was impressed.
When Saweetie opened the Cardi show in those long-ago pre-pandemic days of August 2019, I didn’t know too much about her. I knew she was dating Quavo, and I’d heard a handful of songs, but she mostly seemed like another major-label rap hopeful with so-so prospects. I didn’t know the background. I didn’t know, for instance, that Saweetie is the niece of MC Hammer, the man who basically redefined rap music as arena-level entertainment spectacle. I didn’t know she’d finished up a USC communications degree before she’d even attempted to launch a rap career. Saweetie came into the game with a strategy, a business plan. Nobody in the arena that night was there to see Saweetie, but Saweetie was going to make sure that people at least remembered who she was. She was a model of professionalism.
I thought about that version of Saweetie this past weekend, when videos of her and Doja Cat performing “Best Friend” at the Jake Paul fight made the rounds. It was bad. Saweetie did not want to be there. Neither did Doja Cat. Saweetie hit all her extremely choreographed marks, but she barely even bothered to lip-sync. Her whole energy was somewhere between “teenager at boring family picnic” and “hostage in proof-of-life video.” The song is all about how Saweetie and Doja Cat are ride-or-die soulmates, but they didn’t stand anywhere near each other while performing. Doja was in the ring with a bikini and a multicolored fur coat on, and she did rap, which we know because she tripped over her words at least once. There was absolutely zero excitement in any moment of that performance. Saweetie and Doja Cat weren’t worried about whether people knew who they were. They knew everyone already had that figured out.
“Best Friend” deserved better. It’s currently the #17 song in America, down three spots after reaching a high of #14 last week, and it’s the biggest hit of Saweetie’s career. The song is breezy and hooky and fun, and it’s the kind of thing that will probably make for a report-to-the-dancefloor party anthem once everyone feels good about going to parties again. Saweetie has a lot of songs like that. For a long time, Saweetie had a cheap but effective gimmick. On “Icy Grl,” the 2017 track that got her signed to Warner, Saweetie rapped over the beat from Khia’s 2002 analingus anthem “My Neck, My Back.” On the singles that followed, Saweetie pulled that trick again and again, hijacking beats from early-’00s hits. She hit biggest when she ganked tracks from Lil Jon’s peak pop era: Petey Pablo’s “Freek-A-Leek” on “My Type,” Too $hort’s “Blow The Whistle” on “Tap In.” But anything from the Y2K era was fair game, including the signature song from the late Black Rob.
In a way, Saweetie’s whole approach was an update of what Puff Daddy did at the height of the Bad Boy era, when he raided the playlist of every circa-1984 pop-station playlist. It worked for me. Maybe it wasn’t too imaginative to rap over songs that were already proven party-starters, but it’s not like I’m ever sorry to hear that “Blow The Whistle” bassline. Saweetie used those beats, too, coming up with slick punchlines and sticky hooks. She had presence. In a way, those beats made Saweetie a throwback, too. She couldn’t rely on the garbled Auto-Tune hooks of so many of her peers. She had to actually rap, and that’s what she did. It’s what she’s still doing on “Best Friend.”
Saweetie still doesn’t have an album, and she’s been talking about her upcoming debut LP Pretty Bitch Music for something like a year now. I don’t know if she’s still tinkering or if her label isn’t ready to give her a release date yet. But Saweetie now has a pretty deep catalog of straight-up hits, and it’s growing. On Friday, Saweetie released her new EP Pretty Summer Playlist: Season 1, a tight and low-stakes collection of brisk, efficient West Coast party songs. Other than Drakeo The Ruler, who shows up on the single “Risky,” all the guests are relative unknowns: Bbyafricka, Kendra Jae, Lourdiz, Loui. Nobody on there is trying to make a big, bold artistic statement. Instead, Saweetie has really just made 20 minutes of songs that sound good on a car stereo when it’s nice outside. That’s a good thing. We need those songs.
It’s harder to make bangers when you’ve got a public profile. Saweetie has been at the center of a whole lot of online attention lately — for her contentious public breakup with Quavo, and for the troubling leaked footage of her elevator fight with him. (Saweetie doesn’t say too much about Quavo these days, but she does throw a dart at him on the new track “See Saw”: “Fuckin’ narcissist, you just mad you got caught.”) When you’ve got a public profile, it’s hard to get away with a listless performance like the one that Saweetie gave this weekend. But all that is a sideshow. Saweetie is still doing the important work of making bangers. For that, I salute her.
1. ALLBLACK – “Ego” (Feat. Drakeo The Ruler & Kenny Beats)
ALLBLACK has a springy, chaotic energy that I love, and he also knows how to come up with a hook that can stick with you. He doesn’t do it by singing. He just simplifies his flow and barks out a line that can work as a chant: “Big bread! Hero!/ Pressin’ n***as! Deebo!/ At the bank more than Harden at the free throw!/ All this cash that I’m gettin’ fuckin’ up my ego!” That’s just good writing.
2. Your Old Droog & Edan – “The Glitch”
I love the way Edan can make a beat sputter and clang. Edan works with breakbeats, just like most of the other great producers from his era, but he turns them into dizzy, psychedelic, overwhelming things. It can’t be easy to ride a beat like that, but Droog has it figured out.
3. BeatKing – “Keep It Poppin” (Feat. Ludacris & Queendom Come)
The Club King casting himself as Sir Mix-A-Lot in the “Baby Got Back” video is funny. The ultra-ignorant punchlines are funnier: “You do makeup on YouTube? Bitch, I don’t give a fuck!” Somehow, though, the funniest thing about this whole thing is the image of BeatKing standing next to Fast & Furious 9 star Ludacris while wearing a shirt that says “TAKE THIS PLAN B, I’MA WATCH.” (This is all morally objectionable, of course, but I still laughed.)
4. Foogiano & Geezy Escobar – “Flies In Da Trap”
Federal agents reportedly arrested Foogiano last month after he’d spent months on the run. (He’d allegedly violated probation, ditching his ankle monitor.) That makes me wonder whether he shot this video while on the lam. Whatever the case, though, that guy can rap, and the syllables on this one scatter like raindrops.
5. Tee Grizzley & G Hergo – “Never Bend Never Fold”
Right now, G Herbo is one of the best in the world at punch-you-in-your-face music. I hear that rasp, and I feel like I could flip a 4Runner with one hand.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO