Recently, Iggy Azalea has been dropping out of gigs left right and centre. What gives? Jessica Vomiero takes a closer look at the rapper’s deflating career and legion of haters.
There is no in-between with Iggy Azalea; you either love her or you hate her. But these days, it seems her haters have multiplied. The recent announcement of her cancelled tour leads us to ask, why can’t we stand Iggy Azalea? Wasn’t it just yesterday that “Fancy” was on everyone’s lips?
Iggy rose to fame after debuting her first video, Pu$$y, which was quickly removed from YouTube in August 2011. The controversial video was quickly condemned for its inclusion of children and, to this day, has not returned to the superstar’s main YouTube channel. Soon after, she was under fire after her mixtape “Ignorant Art” allegedly hijacked an instrumental from Kendrick Lamar’s “Look Out for Detox” on the track “D.R.U.G.S.” A reference made by Azalea to Kendrick’s track in the lyrics has repeatedly come under fire. The line, “When the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave master/Shittin’ on the past gotta spit it like a pastor,” was accused of being racist. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Azalea kept releasing mixtapes but continually missed the mark, receiving tepid reviews at best. Interestingly, Azalea’s critics have been consistently via social media. Twitter has taken up arms against Azalea, regularly accusing her of racism and questioning the originality of her lyrics. They also dig into her tweets with other big names in the music industry, such as African-American artists Snoop Dog and Nicki Minaj. In February of this year, Azalea cut ties with social media, relinquishing control of her accounts to her management.
The release of her hit single “Fancy” earned Azalea her spot among the best of the best. After earning the top spot on Billboards throughout the summer of 2014 for smash hit “Fancy,” followed closely by her collaboration with Ariana Grande, “Problem,” at number two, Azalea became the only artist since the Beatles to hold both slots.
Iggy seemed to be on her way to the top. She was even called the next Tupac by Jimmy Iovine after signing a deal with Interscope Records in January 2012. Even though the comparison didn’t come from her, the Twitter-verse wasn’t pleased. After appearing on XXL’s Freshman List, Azalea became the first female artist in history to make the cover. However, Azealia Banks quickly responds on Twitter.
“How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’?”
Banks also stuck Iggy with her unfortunate nickname when the rapper failed to speak out against the Ferguson riots earlier this year. “’Its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen… Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” tweeted Banks in December 3 of last year. This tweet was retweeted over 30,000 times.
Her social media woes were far from over. Azalea recently pulled out of the Pittsburgh Pride Festival after accusations of racist and homophobic comments tweeted in 2011 resurfaced. She issued a formal apology, saying she wouldn’t want to distract from the original intention of the festival. This is representative of any flare ups regarding the controversial artist. She can’t seem to get away from her past missteps, and especially in the world of online media, nothing ever really goes away.
But not all her haters are accusing her of racism. When “Fancy” won the Billboard for Top Rap Song for its record sales and popularity, critics petitioned to have the award revoked, claiming the entry was ineligible not for a lack of Iggy’s talent, but because it was released outside the specified time slot.
The public response to Iggy Azalea is particularly interesting because white rappers are not new and she’s not the first of her kind. The most obvious of these is well-known artist Eminem, who’s widely recognized as one of the best. The difference between Eminem’s style and Azalea’s style is the cultural appropriation present in Iggy’s work. Her most vocal critics claim she takes segments of black culture and repurposes them in her music. Other white rappers who’ve found success in the music industry include Action Bronson, Macklemore, Brother Ali and Yelawolf. She is one in a long line of white rappers, many of which who have been readily accepted by the public and the black community and were rapidly boosted to superstardom as a result.
It seems as though Iggy’s five-year career has been a series of negative flare-ups sprinkled with brief moments of validation. Most of Azalea’s criticism seems to stem from her presence as a white woman in the traditionally black rap community. She’s been accused of taking on a borrowed accent, having memorized slang and flat-out copying a look. With Iggy, each step forward is rewarded with a defiant shove back.
Despite the seemingly constant backlash, Azalea has endured huge successes in the past few years, but according to Mic, that’s not her greatest accomplishment. “It was hard not to notice that her status as a white woman singing a traditionally black genre helped her succeed so wildly. It was hard not to notice that her voice and style heavily rips from black women. Azalea’s largest contribution to music in 2014 wasn’t her music, then; it was helping bring cultural appropriation to the forefront of mainstream conversations unlike ever before,” wrote Derrick Clifton.
Love her or hate her, it’s impossible to deny that Iggy’s career choices and questionable tweets have brought the discussion of race back to entertainment. At the very least, when Macklemore swept the rap categories at the Grammies despite the contagious popularity of Kendrick Lamar, fans were able ask whether race was a factor. Despite getting lost in a sea of haters, an Australian white woman may not be the worst thing to happen to rap.
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