The New Classic
Iggy Azalea's backstory reads like a flight of fancy from a pulp fiction writer gone wild. She was born Amethyst Amelia Kelly in the tongue-twister Australian town of Mullumbimby, New South Wales, a rural hamlet with a population of just 3,000. "But when I was there it was probably 1,500. We didn't have a mall or a movie theater," she told Complex magazine. What she did have was rap—a genre Iggy bonded with deeply at a young age.
A road trip across America with her grandparents when she was 11 then opened her eyes to a wider world. "I bought a blue wig on Sunset Strip, and I wore it everywhere," she told MTV. "I remember seeing the showgirls in Las Vegas and thinking, Wow, I wish this was my life." At 14, she began rapping. And one year later (in 2006) she boarded a plane, alone, bound for Miami, telling her parents she was going on holiday with a rap fan named Derek. (She'd met him online.)
She didn't tell them she wasn't coming back.
"I was drawn to America because I felt like an outsider in my own country," Iggy says in a widely circulated quote. "I was in love with hip-hop, and America is the birthplace of that, so I figured the closer I was to the music, the happier I'd be. I was right." Since touching down in Miami 8 years ago, Azalea has made good on her dreams (as well as cultivating a modeling career), moving from Miami to Houston to Atlanta to Los Angeles as she's pursued rap superstardom.
Now she's in the top tier of Billboard's pop chart after her videos for the controversial songs "P‑‑‑y" and "Two Times" put her on the hip-hop map in 2012. That led to a collaboration with rap kingpin T.I. and a contract with Island Records. As she's honed her rapid-fire style, it has mingled with occasional singing that evokes influences as disparate as Eminem and Drake, Beyoncé and Kesha. And just as each of those influential artists has done, the 23-year-old known as Iggy Azalea seems determined to make her mark … for better and worse.
"Don't Need Y'All" acknowledges the darker side of celebrity: "All this cash it just complicates things/ … Sometimes fame like a curse latched to my blessing." Iggy also references the difficulty of her early years in America ("No money, no family/Sixteen in the middle of Miami"). She shrewdly notes, "If you wasn't here when I was down/Then you won't be here when I'm up."
On "New B‑‑ch," Azalea says of an ex, "Said he trying to move on with his life, but he still wanna be a good daddy." By song's end, she affirms marriage when she suggests he would have been better off with her: "If we end up poor or rich or famous/I'm all he needs and more chick/His home chick/His tour chick/His fourth finger, left hand chick."
"Work" and "Walk the Line" talk about how hard Azalea has worked. On the former, she raps, "Pledge allegiance to the struggle/Ain't been easy/ … Do anything for my mama, I love you/One day I'll pay you back for the sacrifice." Perseverance is the theme of "Impossible Is Nothing" ("Keep on living, keep on breathing/Even when you don't believe it/Keep on climbing, keep on reaching"). Elsewhere she adds, "My prayers for you is that you hit all them goals you tryna reach." "Rolex" laments time wasted in a broken relationship.
Though a handful of lyrics suggest a longing for lasting love, more often Iggy seems content to look for meaning in materialism. "Married to the money, put a ring around it, what!?" she raps on "Walk the Line." Meanwhile, "100" spells out what such a "nuptial" looks like: "No Michael Kors, just Tom Ford/Saint Tropez, I'm like bonjour/In Spain wearing that Balmain/Lanvin, Givenchy/On the top floor of that penthouse." And on "Change Your Life," she promises that anyone who rolls with her will enjoy "exclusive s‑‑‑ with all access granted." An even cruder distillation of Azalea's quest for cash comes on "F‑‑‑ Love," where she repeatedly, narcissistically insists that things are more satisfying than romance: "F‑‑‑ love, give me diamonds/I'm already in love with myself/So in love with myself/I'm already in love with myself/F‑‑‑ love, give me diamonds." The song rejects any man who just wants "a type of b‑‑ch that'll stay at home," concluding with 22 blasts of "f‑‑‑ love" combined with two uses of "that love s‑‑‑, I won't do it."
More songs than not contain frequent harsh profanities like those (including "Lady Patra," with its repeated uses of "p‑‑‑y," sung by a man). "Change Your Life" finds guest contributor and Azalea's mentor T.I. waxing rhapsodic about smoking marijuana ("I be blowing on strong weed when we ride"). On "Fancy," Iggy spits, "I'm still in the murda bizness," then namedrops a bunch of alcohol brands: "Cup of Ace, cup of Goose, cup of Cris." Guest Charli XCX summarizes what happens after the girls get inebriated: "Trash the hotel, let's get drunk on the minibar/Make the phone call, fells so good getting what I want/ … Chandelier swinging like we don't give a f‑‑‑."
Two songs mention oral sex. The f-word is repeatedly used in a harsh sexual context. "Just Askin" includes a sample of a woman (apparently Iggy) calling an ex while drunk and spewing yet another f-word laden rant.
If all that weren't enough, "Goddess" finds Azalea stealing from Beyoncé's playbook by ordering supplicants to worship her: "Lord, lemme know if you got this/Preaching about prophets/It ain't no one man can stop/Bow down to a goddess, bow down to a goddess, bow down to a goddess/ … Goddess! Got it?"
Iggy Azalea's Behind the Music-ready rise to fame is no doubt a big part of her appeal. There are, after all, very, very few white, Australian former models turned rappers prancing around near the top of the charts these days.
Azalea's hard work and perseverance, in the abstract, are praiseworthy virtues. Unfortunately, she's put those virtues to work in the service of a tired litany of rap vices—behaviors that are neither New nor Classic, but rather Sad and Predictable.
Parsing the bling-centric lyrics of "Fancy," National Post's David Berry writes, "Also kind of interesting, here, is how closely tied up to material things that the idea of 'fancy' is. … There's literally nothing inherent, no 'fancy mindset': It's just Champagne and watches and money."
And the demand that we all bow down to the goddess.
I'll stay standing, thanks.