Iggy Azalea performs on stage on Day 2 of Park Life Festival 2013 at Heaton Park on June 9, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images) Photo: Andrew Benge
Every couple of years comes along a pop star with an image to launch a thousand think pieces. Past recipients of this cultural honour include Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey. Rather excitingly, this year’s most buzzed about songstress is a 23-year old rapper from Australia.
If you aren’t familiar with the name Iggy Azalea, here’s a brief recap. She came all the way from Mullumbimby to achieve the rather mammoth feat of conquering the American record charts, just last week coming in on the Billboard Top 100 in spots one and two with her first two chart entries, Fancy and Problem.
To put that in perspective, the last (and indeed only) time that happened was for The Beatles, so it’s kind of a big deal. And for an Aussie to be moving rap singles by the truckload to Americans is very much a selling-sand-in-the-desert type scenario.
So you’d imagine Azalea might be sitting atop a mountain of cash while praise rains down upon her, right? Well, the first part might be true, but the second part isn’t. Even a brief perusal of the comments on any of her YouTube videos finds an army of haters comparing her to Nicki Minaj (because of course there couldn’t possibly be two women rappers without them being the same), pulling apart her looks, discussing her butt (real or fake?), and even, occasionally, talking about her rhymes.
Azalea is clearly a divisive figure on the music scene – but is she simply an easy target as a white, non-American woman in rap? Here are five times that, despite her newfound success, it sucks to be Iggy Azalea...
Your authenticity is constantly up for discussion
There’s a reason Azalea opens up Fancy with the line “First things first, I’m the realest”. Authenticity is an ongoing discussion in hip-hop – if Jay Z took aim at Nas in Takeover with “You witnessed from your folks’ pad, scribbled in your notepad”, a woman from Australia is definitely going to have a tougher time not being labelled as ‘fake’ in the rap game.
In Azalea’s case most of the attention has fallen on the fact she raps with an American accent, instead of with an ocker skip-hop drawl. Azalea herself has said that she prefers US rap music to Australian rap music, so it’s not exactly surprising that she would want to mimic that sound in her own work if that is what she enjoys. It’s virtually certain that if Azalea hadn’t affected an American accent she would not be experiencing the same degree of success she currently is. (Simply look at the US formula of remaking UK television shows like The Office and House of Cards as evidence of how completely averse the American public supposedly is to hearing those icky foreign accents).
Probably the strongest argument regarding her authentic passion for hip-hop was made by Iggy herself in her track Work which regales listeners with her origin story of leaving Australia for America as a teenager to pursue a hip-hop career. She raps, “No money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami” and “This dream is all that I need, ‘cause it’s all that I ever had”.
You’re unaware of the cultural sensitivities of the genre you’re part of (and some would argue exploiting)
Azalea got a lot of well-deserved ire for a line in the track D.R.U.G.S where she refers to herself as a ‘runaway slave master’. Fellow rapper and non-fan Azealia Banks rather reasonably tweeted her anger at the description with “I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it”.
Azalea later issued a public apology for the line stating, “It was a tacky and careless thing to say and if you are offended, I am sorry. Sometimes we get so caught up in our art and creating or trying to push boundaries, we don’t stop to think how others may be hurt by it. In this situation, I am guilty of doing that and I regret not thinking things through more.”
Much like Elvis or Eminem, Azalea comes from a position of being a white person profiting from black music and as a white, thin, conventionally attractive woman is most likely getting more opportunities that an up-and-coming black female rapper would receive. She should certainly try to be more aware of that racial privilege.
You get mixed reviews
First up, both Fancy and Problem (which is actually Ariana Grande’s single with Azalea guesting) are fantastic pop singles. They are tight and catchy earworms that will bounce around in your brain incessantly, so their current airwave domination is warranted.
However, her debut album The New Classic as a whole has not been getting the same level of love from the critics. Entertainment Weekly took an even-handed approach saying, “Iggy's got a handful of top shelf singles, but too much of The New Classic is old news”, hip-hop magazine XXL wrote “Iggy Azalea falls short of high expectations on The New Classic” and NME went in for the kill describing the album as “recycled hustlin’ tropes and an ugly, nasal double-time flow overcompensating for mediocre wordplay”. Ouch.
You can’t stage dive
Azalea recently stated that she no longer crowd surfs and had to increase security measures at her concerts due to people trying to sexually assault her while she is performing. This is obviously disgusting and indeed criminal behaviour. Worst of all, it’s not a new problem but one female performers continue to battle. Courtney Love has spoken out about the issue saying to New York magazine that Hole’s 1994 track Asking For It was based on an incident where she was assaulted while stage diving. It’s just further evidence of how women’s bodies are viewed as public property, celebrity or not.
Other rappers hate you
To be fair, this isn’t a criticism that can only be levelled at Iggy Azalea. Rap is known for its ongoing, ever-bubbling feuds, and it’s almost a measure of having made it to be beefing with another rap star. Azalea has already had the a few tiffs with Azealia Banks and Tyler The Creator recently passed judgement with “she stinks”. Azalea does however have some powerful allies with T.I. having mentored her in the past. And if these insults do keep flying thick and fast, Iggy can probably mop up at least a few of those tears with her hundred dollar bills...