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
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