Let’s Talk About Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea is a hot button topic right now. She came (seemingly) out of nowhere and took popular music by storm. But that’s just the thing, she took the pop world by storm rather than the hip hop world.

I have a lot of issues with Iggy Azalea, least of all the dialogue concerning her often racist comments. I’ve been researching hip hop for the past two months for my senior thesis, so my brain is steeped in these dilemmas and arguments and every time Iggy Azalea comes up in conversation, I try to hold my tongue. To be clear, I take no issue with white artists entering a traditionally black musical territory. What I do take issue with is the way many of them choose to approach that entry. Artists who don’t accord the proper respect to the tradition in which they claim to work drive me crazy. Iggy Azalea is the perfect case study.

Amethyst Amelia Kelly, better known as Iggy Azalea, is a native Australian. She does have true passion for hip hop and rap culture, and it seems to have played a vital role in her development as a person. Yet when she became a hit recording artist stateside, any of the personal respect she has for rap was squashed by her professional disrespect of it. Her fans applaud her for being a slight blonde white girl who “sounds black,” but that borrowed affectation is simply that: an affectation. This is her normal voice:

The voice is which she raps is not her own, it’s an imitation of the black rap voice. I’m not saying that every rapper’s spitting voice is unaffected, but Azalea’s is clearly a rip of a different culture — both nation- and race-wise — to which she has no natural connection. Of course, we’ve seen this issue with Eminem and Macklemore. Eminem has carved his place in the hip hop world by showing the proper respect and by working hard. Her work ethic, at least what’s shown publicly, seems to be lacking — considering that she hasn’t really collaborated with her hip hop peers and it’s speculated that she doesn’t write her own music. Macklemore’s place in the hip hop world is still very much on the fence. He broke in with songs like “Otherside” and wormed his way out of just about everyone’s esteem with his public apology to Kendrick Lamar, as Pitchfork said, an “attempt at humility undermined by [his] decision to post [his] text on social media in an awkward, self-congratulatory way.” Azalea is sort of in this territory, but she doesn’t yet realize that she needs to work a lot harder to claim her proper place in hip hop. I understand that she had to actually work hard to make ends meet when she came to Florida, but that work ethic that got her into the recording studio goes missing as soon as she hits the mic.

Not to mention that the hip hop scene in Australia is actually awesome. It’s born out of American hip hop, but it has its own flavor and its own culture. It’s similar to what French hip hop has done or even British hip hop. These countries have put their own distinctive twist on it, making it their own. It’s just strange to consider that Azalea didn’t feel like she had a place in her home country’s own tradition of hip hop, which is utterly unique. There’s no problem with it, but wouldn’t it be a little strange if all of a sudden Kendrick flew to London to start recording British hip hop?

I would have much more respect for Azalea if she approached her work with more humility and if she appropriately responded to the objections thrown her way. So far, all I’ve seen of Azalea’s responses to legitimate questions about racist lyrics is a complete lack of response, going so far as to block the people who are asking. American hip hop’s history is long, complicated, and difficult (but not impossible) to understand if you’re an outsider to this country. Azalea has blazed in to the American hip hop scene with a ferocity that is commendable, but her disrespectful comments to her peers, predecessors, and potential mentors are out of line, especially when she doesn’t understand the history she’s entering. I understand that she grew to appreciate and love rap in her youth and found her place there. I have respect for that. I do not have respect for the way she’s approaching her place in the rap world. There is a place for her, but she needs to bring a little humility to the table and ask for a little help now and then.

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She went on to publicly apologize for the line, after Azealia Banks called her on it, saying that “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.” But is that really a sufficient excuse?

I don’t mind Azalea’s music. Her production is unique, but her rapping is lackluster. In fact, her top two songs aren’t known for her rap verses but rather the choruses sung by featured artists. I’d be more okay with her presence on the music scene if her music (as it stands right now) didn’t try to pass itself off as rap or hip hop. Azalea just needs to show a little respect toward the genre in which she’s working.

I know I’ve made a lot of bold claims here, so I’m curious about what you guys think of Azalea. Speak your mind in the comments below!

Image via Wikimedia Commons user Nthep.

2 Comments

  1. af

    October 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I love Iggy

  2. Pingback: 2015 Grammy Nominations: An Opinion - Rock On Philly

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