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Rap Music Needs Iggy Azalea

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On racism, class warfare, rap’s 21st century realities and Iggy Azalea’s rise to superstardom

Fraught with the strife of chafing against the idea that in hip-hop culture’s 49th year that “real” anything in rap music is more marketing ploy than absolute reality, the culture’s purists are missing out on an emcee who is quietly developing into one of the genre’s potential best of all time. 22 years ago, a future rap superstar was born Amethyst Amelia Kelly and raised in the most unlikely of places – a mud brick home on a 12-acre farm in New South Wales, Australia. However, it wasn’t until she reached the age of 16, with “no money, no family…in the middle of Miami” that Iggy Azalea began her incredibly slow and arguably what will be an incredibly successful climb to global super-stardom. In an era where rap music has literally become everything to everyone, it’s in being the queen of the fringes of hip-hop where Azalea succeeds. Moreso than Nicki, moreso than Angel Haze, moreso than Princess Superstar or anyone else you’d care to mention, Iggy Azalea is best poised to excel as the heroine that can possibly unify rap’s oddball and often disrespected extremes with it’s incredibly pop present, presenting an unparalleled and incredible future.

If central casting were to find pop music a rap superstar for the next generation, they wouldn’t come close to finding Iggy Azalea, and that’s why she works. Pop trendsetters will tell us that Iggy Azalea should be Nicki Minaj or Angel Haze. Nicki and Angel are both brown, American, sensual and outspoken. Their styles trend into electro and trap, and both are comfortable with being uniquely wild and artistically progressive, both clear necessities in this ultra-creative age. However, in having everything on paper, it’s what Azalea has in reality that separates her from the rest. She’s a physically attractive and starkly pale Australian from the Earth’s edge. There’s something unique about Australia in that being technologically very plugged in while being physically very removed allows for an interpretation of American culture that seems like it exists in a truly idealized reality; rap in a snow globe. When you study Azalea’s career-to-date, it’s in simultaneously living in two atmospheres – still seeing rap’s history in an idealized manner and also learning and excelling in America – then combining them into a potent rap reality, where she has set her standard for excellence.



Blond-haired Azalea rapping next to T.I. in the in-studio video for the female emcee’s 2012 single “Murda Bizness” with the most put-upon of stereotypical Southern cadences would be offensive as hell if she were born in America. However, she’s not, so it’s stands as possibly one of southern rap’s greatest victories that when presented with a plethora of templates from which to choose, the admitted teenage rap fanatic chose to spend a career mimicking Tip Harris. Azalea’s father was a painter and comic artist, and this upbringing shines through in her work-at-present. The same reason we as a critical hip-hop culture wag a finger at Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” should be the reason we accept Azalea with open arms. Baauer attempted to mirror hip-hop culture and got it wrong, but with one helluva right track. Azalea mirrors hip-hop culture and so far, has always gotten it right, with amazing rap-tinged tracks, to boot.

Rap needs Iggy Azalea to save itself from five (or more) years of shaking its head and wringing its hands at a world of post-racial youth now believing that devaluing race and class in the creation of ghetto fabulous and hood rich “real trap shit,” plus other rap traditions to follow is absolutely okay. It ultimately is, but given America’s (and rap music’s too) perilous traditions in racism and class warfare, we absolutely need someone so alien to who we are and what we’ve become to reflect our realities back to us. Ultimately, Iggy Azalea is important because she makes sense of hip-hop culture’s past and present, and gives us a clear window to an amazing future.

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