Iggy Azalea, the unlikeliest breakout singer, maybe, ever, swept the rap world in 2014 with her bold, brassy looks and smooth Southern rap style. But instead of being lauded for re-energizing the fading scene, she was scorned by fellow rappers and social media scolds.
African-American rappers Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, were the catalysts for most of the criticism.
They complained loudly about “cultural appropriation,” but jealousy could just as easily have been the motive.
She came seemingly out of nowhere with two mega-hits that dominated the charts. And, she nominated four times at the 57th Grammy Awards.
She was cited for Best New Artist. Her song “Fancy was named for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. And her debut album The New Classic was nominated for Best Rap Album.
Azalea simply got too big, too fast. But, in reality, she was just too white.
Rappers couldn’t reconcile her style with the fact that Iggy is from Australia. She speaks with an Aussie twang but raps with a buttery Southern drawl.
The spat drew other rappers on both sides and a slew of social media scorn. The controversy upended her world for most of last year.
Iggy lashed back, but ultimately decided to pull back. She dropped off social media and sat out the rest of 2015, including canceling her much anticipated world tour.
But that was then.
Now, she’s back, working on a new album, Digital Distortion, expected this year. And she released a new single “Azillion,” in January. She’s even returned to social media.
“I’m back. But this time I’ve given myself some rules so I don’t get too sucked in again,” she told Elle Canada in a new interview.
“For me, what happened, not just on social media but with everything in my career, was like a whirlwind. I started to feel like I was losing control over my own life. And it wasn’t just how people began perceiving me or the stories that were written about me—it was everything. I just felt like I had lost control of the whole thing to the point where it was like being on this rocket and then suddenly realizing you aren’t even driving it anymore. It was really scary.”
She says it got to the point it “felt like I didn’t have any power over my own life. At that point, I needed to take some time, step away and just get that control back.”
She also says the perception that she didn’t care about rap music and the rap community, fueled by Banks and others, was hurtful and false.
“So many people think that I don’t care about rap music and the community, but I absolutely care about it, to the core of my being. That’s why the Q-Tip incident annoyed me so much: Why do you think I need a history lesson? Because surely if I did know anything about hip hop, I wouldn’t mix pop and rap together? Or I wouldn’t rap in an American accent if I truly understood? I just have a different perspective about rap music. I love learning about hip hop, I love reading about it and I actually love having debates with other people about it.”
Question about her American rap style and Australian background are valid, she acknowledges. You either accept it or your don’t. But she doesn’t find it disconcerting or a “misappropriation” of black culture.
America dominates television, music and film the world over, she notes.
“I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. I grew up watching Nicole Kidman speaking with an American accent in every movie. Even Keith Urban sings with an American country accent. And that’s just what you have to do to make it in this industry and be accepted. It’s what I heard and it’s what I saw, so how can you not understand that that would be influential for me?”
She also says part of the problem is American culture itself.
“I don’t think I realized how prevalent racism still is and how hurt people still are until I moved here and saw it for myself. As I was growing up in Australia, it was easy to think ‘Well, that was then and obviously it’s not like that now.’
“It’s not something you can understand when you’re on the other side of the world.”
She says she still wishes she could “Men in Black memory-erase 2015.” And she still hates Azailea Banks. But she also learned something else out of the whole ordeal.
“I think the biggest lesson I learned is that people are going to say what they’re going to say. And it’s really hard not to get emotional or become overly sensitive about other people’s opinions, especially if you feel like they’re wrong. But I think I spent a lot of energy last year trying to explain my side of the story because I thought ‘If you could just understand my side, surely you’d agree with me.’ But some people aren’t ever going to agree with you—and that’s just life.”
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