Iggy Azalea – ‘The New Classic’

The Aussie rapper's debut is about as convincing as her American accent

Iggy Azalea was born and raised in Australia. Not that you’d know it, from the faux-American accent she raps in on this much-delayed debut. Azalea grew up in Mullumbimby, a hippy town in New South Wales. Ostracised by her pop-loving peers for hero-worshipping Tupac Shakur, she made plans to escape. Working as a cleaner, she saved up for an airfare and jetted into Miami at 16. From there, she moved around the South, working for Atlanta-based hip-hop and R&B collective The Dungeon Family, and adopted that accent.

This kind of artifice isn’t a good move. Accusations of racial appropriation and white privilege have followed, prompted by a litany of missteps: the accent; racist Tweets from Iggy about women of colour [archived at piggyazalea.tumblr.com]; problematic videos. Azalea was using twerk choreography and women-of-colour-as-props way before Miley’s ‘Can’t Stop’ controversy, notably in the rebooted video for her rachet-y 2011 breakthrough track, ‘Pu$$y’.

By 2012, Azalea had bagged a management deal with Interscope, a modelling contract with Wilhelmina and the patronage of TI, who released her Diplo-produced ‘TrapGold’ mixtape and ‘Glory’ EP via his Grand Hustle label. Gracing the cover of XXL magazine, she became the first female, non-American emcee to feature in the publication’s prestigious, annual Freshman list. But an ill-conceived line on early track ‘D.R.U.G.S.’ had Azealia Banks raging on Twitter, “How can [XXL] endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’?”

It’s on this wave of hype and infamy that ‘The New Classic’ – first slated to drop in early 2012 – belatedly arrives, delayed while Azalea vacillated between contract offers, worked the UK festival circuit and toured in support of Nas and Beyoncé, respectively. Unfortunately, Azalea – like Kreayshawn before her – is no more than a great white hope. There’s nothing game-changing about ‘The New Classic’, just recycled hustlin’ tropes and an ugly, nasal double-time flow overcompensating for mediocre wordplay. Essentially, ‘The New Classic’ is an extended version of ‘Change Your Life’’s class-mobility fantasy, privileging diamonds [‘Fuck Love’] and blonde ambition [‘Impossible Is Nothing’] over wit, personality and lyrical prowess. Azalea’s gaze is trained so fixedly on US assimilation that her origin story – like her native accent – goes unutilised, consigned to a short, eloquent couplet on ‘Work’: “Two feet in the red dirt, school skirt, sugar cane, back lanes”.

London-based production crew The Invisible Men – who beatsmithed the bulk of the album – do a pretty job of tempering chattering trap-rap hi-hats into soft, fluttering motifs, pushing them deep into an EDM-lite synth mix, while Atlanta based trap-steppers Watch The Duck bring them to the fore on the soulful ‘100’. But everything here feels unoriginal, from the brooding Drake-and-40-style ‘Don’t Need Ya’ll’ to the Minaj-alike dancehall of Mavado-featuring ‘Lady Patra’. The struggle, as rap parlance has it, may be real – but for a six-foot rapper/model with white privilege and pedestrian bars, hustling in a post-Macklemore age? Nah.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Details

Director: The Invisible Men, The Arcade, 1st Down, The Messengers, Watch The Duck, Stargate, Benny Blanco, Reeva & Black, Rock City
Record label: EMI
Release date: 21 Apr, 2014