Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper Was Hip-Hop Before She Was Ever Saweetie

Growing up in the Bay Area, Diamonté Quiava Valentin Harper, now known to fans as Saweetie, listened to 106.1 KMEL and Wild 949 on her drive to school with her dad every morning. And like clockwork, Turf Talk's "It's a Slumper," her dad's favorite song, could be heard blasting from the 808 speakers in the trunk as they made their way across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. At home, the family computer was riddled with viruses, thanks to her LimeWire downloads of Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma's mixtapes. This was Saweetie's first introduction to hip-hop.

"Both of my parents were really big hip-hop heads. My dad played a lot of the greats, Tupac, Biggie, but I'm from the Bay, so I grew up listening to Mac Dre, Too $hort, Mac Mall, and Mistah F.A.B.," the 30-year-old rapper tells POPSUGAR. "The Bay Area has so many great hip-hop artists from every era, but that's what my dad would listen to. My mom, she loved her some Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, and Lauryn Hill."

"I was just doing my research on where hip-hop came from and fell in love with it."

According to Saweetie, though, she was introduced to the genre three times: first through her parents, then through having access to the internet, and finally through her own career journey. "When I wanted to start rapping, I remember I went down this really, really, really long rabbit hole. I found Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, Monie Love, and Queen Latifah. I was just doing my research on where hip-hop came from and fell in love with it," Saweetie says. Beaming, the rapper says her "favorite, favorite, favorite" song as a teen was "Children's Story" by Slick Rick.

Saweetie has always had an interest in music, but it wasn't until May 2017, when she released a freestyle video of "Icy Grl" over Khia's hit "My Neck, My Back" on Instagram, that the world finally took notice. The track, of course, went viral, and shortly after, Saweetie was signed to Warner Records. While the rapper is still putting the finishing touches on her debut album (it was originally slated to drop in June 2021), Saweetie has already solidified herself as a force in the music industry with a slew of hit singles, four EPs (2018's "High Maintenance," 2019's "Icy," 2021's "Pretty Summer Playlist: Season 1," and 2022's "The Single Life"), and two Grammy nominations.

Saweetie, who has previously sampled Too $hort's music in "High Maintenance" and "Tap In," says she pulls a lot of inspiration from the Bay Area legend, as well as music from icon Missy Elliott. "What I love about Missy Elliot is that she went above and beyond. She's super creative. She was very hands-on, and that gave me the inspiration to be hands-on in my videos. I love that she thought outside the box. She was innovative, and she's a Cancer, too," says Saweetie, who rang in her 30th birthday on July 2.

Though Saweetie and Elliott have shared several sweet exchanges on social media, the "Best Friend" singer says they have only spoken on the phone and have yet to meet in person. "We definitely talked about working with one another. It was brief," Saweetie recalls. "I love Missy. What I love about her art is she was ahead of her time, but it was still appreciated. Sometimes, people be ahead of their time and people just don't get it; like people still received it, she was disruptive. I'm happy she was, as a woman, able to have that moment."

"Women in a room together is just magical, so I think it's great that we create magical moments that the world can witness."

In addition to Elliott, Saweetie says she would love to collaborate with Solange Knowles, Trina, and Nicki Minaj. "I think that something special happens when two creative worlds collide. When we're making music, we're putting our soul and our spirit into it," she says. "Women in a room together is just magical, so I think it's great that we create magical moments that the world can witness."

As one of the leading women in hip-hop right now, Saweetie is also throwing support behind the new generation of artists, like TiaCorine, Lola Brooke, Ice Spice, GloRilla, and fellow West Coast natives Lil Kayla and Stunna Girl. "To see these new girls come up, it's just so exciting, 'cause I know what it takes to build up your catalog and your career," Saweetie says.

While Saweetie hasn't provided any updates on when we can expect her album to drop, she does tease that "this next era of music will have an essence to it." What that essence is exactly, Saweetie is still figuring out. But she says she's definitely going to be "coproducing and codirecting a lot of my creativity moving forward."