By Emily Eveland
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"Own up to it, you know you do it too," says rapper Sweetz P, in reference to her latest mixtape's title, #liferrrs Guide to Watching Porn Without Headphones. "It's the situation where you're home alone and your roommate's not there. No headphones, crank it up, enjoy this shit."
Aside from its recorded skits that depict a very adult version of being home alone, Porn Without Headphones serves as a metaphor for not worrying about the concerns or expectations of others. As in the best rap music, Sweetz P walks the line between honest expression and fictive posturing, never wholly revealing herself but still selling whatever she writes with a natural braggadocious magnetism.
"It's part of my personality, I just kind of like to take it there," she says. Sweetz P is more soft-spoken in person, and our interview at Cause reveals new layers to her persona. Charismatic and excited about her future, she is light-hearted in conversation but dead serious about the craft. "Everything is so nice and makes people feel comfortable. I just want to go against the grain."
It certainly seems to be working: Sweetz P recently drew the attention of both XXL, which recently profiled her, and The Hype magazine, which put her on an eight-city tour showcasing new artists this past February.
Born in '88 in Chicago, she moved to the Twin Cities suburb Brooklyn Park with her family in her early years.
"My mom brought us here for better opportunities, to get out the city," she says. "We've been here ever since. It's such a versatile city, and it played into my music as well. I don't think I would've been listening to Blink-182 and shit if I was still in Chicago."
Sweetz P's flow is a blunt force, immediately captivating but quietly transgressive. She simultaneously subverts and pays homage to the hardcore rap she grew up on, asserting herself in a traditionally male-dominated sonic space with her own dauntless approach to the style.
"I don't always make it blatant that I'm a female," she says. "I think how I think, I can't really do nothing about it. I just let it flow. Just let it be what it is."
Though she downplays its importance ("We're just creating art with sound. It shouldn't matter. If it's good, it's good," she says), Sweetz P's female identity complicates the misogynist tropes she plays with in her lyrics. Subtly blurring gender lines, the music sustains a conventionally masculine sound, and lyrics consistently refer to the rapper as male, but Sweetz P never dissects this presentation and instead simply owns the lane.
"I don't know why everything has to be one way or another, black and white," she says. "I don't get that. You find yourself enjoying a whole lot more stuff if you kind of didn't pay so much attention to the little things; just enjoy the record. That's why I give people a record before I tell them it's me. Bump it, they'll end up liking it before they ask 'Who is that?'"
The lead single off Porn Without Headphones, "Impressive," finds her delivering boasts and brazen confidence alongside a tough and technical verse by Gary, Indiana's mixtape sensation Freddie Gibbs. Shortly after the two were introduced at an in-store signing at Fifth Element, a chance meeting in Chicago led to the realization that Gibbs would mesh perfectly with the vibe of the record.
"I always was a fan of Gibbs: His style, his work, it's so consistent. It's insane to me. When I wrote the record and was listening to it, I was just like, I can hear him on this," she recalls.
The song's video, directed by 13twentythree while Gibbs was in town for his most recent Cabooze appearance, is as cold and stark as the beat, and introduced Sweetz P to a wider audience. She proves her mettle next to one of rap's grimiest gangsta voices, and her raw power comes across loud and clear.
Though the content is unquestionably tough-as-nails, the most powerful aspect of Porn Without Headphones is Sweetz P's insistence on doing exactly what she wants regardless of outside expectations. "Why should I be what you want me to be like anyways? I did what I do and I stuck to it, it kind of caught on I guess."
As likely to evoke the smoked-out pop leanings of a Wiz Khalifa as it is to parallel the street-rap precision of a Fat Trel, Sweetz P's second project — following 2013's #Liferrrs: Guide To Total Fucking Awesomeness — proves her remarkable ability to grab your attention no matter the angle. With a malleable and gritty flow, she tackles a range of material, from take-no-shit swagger ("Champagne Grammy," "Role Model") to auto-tuned ballads ("Pull Out," "It's Over") to expounding on relationships with women beyond utilization as punchlines or assertions of power ("Red Button"). It's clear she can handle a number of musical spaces.
"I definitely have fun trying different things and different styles, and I've learned that I am really more versatile than I thought I was," she says. But her rugged and unrelenting hard-edged persona is the consistent backbone that connects the songs. "I'm definitely not going to stop. [I've] got a hunger."