Is Iggy Azalea's Career a Hip-Hop Conundrum or An Inspiration?

Categories: Hip-Hop

Nick Nuk'em
Iggy Azalea at the Observatory
It's hard to sum up exactly what Iggy Azalea means to music just months after releasing her debut album, The New Classic, which to date has sold over 100,000 copies. Her single "Fancy" is now double Platinum. Most critics, rap journalists especially, have had nothing but negative things to say about the 23 year-old's commercially successful effort for reasons that are quite obvious. The white Miami transplant from Australia sounds and looks different than other emerging emcees before her, still she is lumped into categories with other fair-skinned, "Thrift Shop" rappers who catch flack for having a ghetto pass that's invalid everywhere but the Hot 100 charts.

Let us not forget about the 2012 track "Murda Bizness" featuring her then label head T.I., where she proclaims "If you was on fire, wouldn't piss on y'all hoes." Even T.I.'s verses on that song didn't get anywhere near as gutter and grimy as Azalea's. It was a song that quickly showed she could write lyrics that could at least keep up with the status quo of hip-hop's biggest mainstream artists. In the time before "Fancy" commandeered radio waves, Iggy also collaborated with rap contemporaries YG, Problem, and Wale while Miley's "hood" antics continued to be the laughingstock of TMZ.

Wind your Rolex watch a year forward though, and see that the rising star has ditched the down south imprint Grand Hustle Records for Island Def Jam, where a shot at the show was astronomically more plausible. With the album that would become "The New Classic" in the works, Iggy was picking up steam and even performed "Blurred Lines" alongside Robin during the MTV Europe Music Awards. Sound familiar? Perhaps the Aussie was now on a mission to win over the mainstream by displaying her rap skills or the red flags a traditional rapper with a pop song might raise. Her public persona became pop flavored, yet urban-tinged; something labels and mainstream media outlets loved and the exact thing rap traditionalists hated. And the visuals for "Fancy" inspired by the movie Clueless would get Azalea invited through corporate America's front door, while more commonplace rappers and their crime-filled story arcs remain on the porch.

Now, 2014 has become the year of Iggy and talking hip-hop heads are screaming "andale" hoping her flame cools as if her product isn't "real" hip-hop would like for it to come to a close though the undeniably dope "Fancy" was mistaken for a DJ Mustard beat when it first released, and his music's been deemed the requiem for '90s rap on plenty of occasions. After all, Iggy's almost completely backed off of the tough talking since the explicit bar in "Murda Bizness" and spends a lot of her time discussing issues more pertinent to a former vagrant looking for a big break in a Black metropolis in hip-hip, still largely considered a "Black" industry who the press to adhere to stereotypes is always present.

Gary Suarez, writer for the entertainment blog Flavorwire, raised a good question in an article he wrote on Azalea back in April by asking just "how many Swiss-cheese narratives have we been fed from rappers alluding to their mastery and prominence in the drug trade, the pimp game or some other criminal enterprise?" In Iggy's case, the only reason to dismiss the autobiographical ode to pulling up your bootstraps, "Work", is unfounded hate.

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