Recently, a lot of fuss has been made over the Aussie rapper, Iggy Azalea. For those who aren’t familiar, Iggy Azalea is the female protégé of T.I., a famous hip-hop artist and the self-proclaimed King of the South. Iggy is an interesting personality, and I can definitely understand the intrigue. Beyond her summer radio hits, she is interesting because she is full of glaring contradictions.
For one, she’s a White, female rapper, which isn’t common in hip-hop. Besides Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas, I can’t think of a mainstream, White female rapper who has ever been as popular as Iggy. Fergie, also, was more of a singer, so that would, in some respects, make Iggy the first, White, female rapper that has reached such a high level of success.
Secondly, she’s Australian, yet she raps with a southern hip-hop accent, another blatant contradiction, which becomes apparent during interviews, awards shows, or any other time where she has to speak without rapping. Finally, and I don’t mean to be rude, but her body, especially her backside, adds to this list.
If you’ve ever paid any close attention to Iggy, you’ll notice that although she has the height of a supermodel, she has the backside of a video vixen, an asset that is clearly accentuated. Again, here we have another contradiction in that most would not expect a 5’11”, White, Australian, and female rapper to also have those kinds of curves; it’s just generally not assumed to come with the territory.
All of these contradicting characteristics—her race, nationality, accent, and curves—cause some to be intrigued by her, thus adding to her success. Others, conversely, are irritated by these contradictions, thus adding to the negative attention that has also characterized her career to date. For those who love her, they see her as a talented rapper who brings a bit of diversity to the hip hop scene. Others, however, share a different view of Ms. Azalea.
For others, the problem with Iggy is that she is a White woman benefitting from her cultural appropriation of Black women’s style and overall persona. Her presence and her success brings up the issue that many Black people have with Whites who traditionally enter hip-hop or any other arena heavily influenced by Blacks. It’s not that people feel that White people should be excluded from becoming hip-hop artists; it’s just that it often seems that White people enjoy mainstream success without bringing anything fresh and new to the scene. In short, it seems as if they are being hugely rewarded simply for being White in a Black person’s genre, as opposed to being exceptional.
Black women, on the other hand aren’t rewarded for such characteristics; instead, they are criticized, which adds to the frustration upon seeing the success enjoyed by Iggy. In essence, Iggy can adopt a 2014 version of LL Cool J’s “Around the Way Girl,” and still become a highly successful hip-hop artist. Black women, on the other hand, are criticized, even though they are the originators of the very style and flavor that makes Iggy popular. Similar criticisms were made about Miley Cyrus and her twerking. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but such is not the case when the imitator is able to make a significant profit from imitation while the originator is not.
Still there are others who would disagree with this assessment of Iggy, using none other than her recent nemesis, Nicki Minaj, as a clear example of the argument’s fallacy. Though the two seemed to be in a quasi-feud (I use the term quasi because it seemed manufactured and not at all genuine), the two artists share quite a few similarities. Both have an international background; both women came into the industry under the tutelage of a very popular male, hip-hop icon. Additionally, both women have sort of an animated flare to their individual styles, and both use their rear ends as part of their hip-hop persona. Finally, and most importantly, both women have become successful artists, with Nicki enjoying a longer and more successful (so far to date) career.
Since Nicki has enjoyed success, even more so than Iggy, the argument is that this issue is not about race. In short, Iggy is successful because she has that “it” factor, much like Minaj. It’s not based on her race, for if such were the case, then Minaj wouldn’t be as successful as she is, with Pepsi campaigns and the like. Instead, it’s about marketing and management, and Iggy is fortunate enough to have an iconic look, sound, and mentor to guide her through the process.
Reading the entertainment blogs and comments from social media has shown me that both sides are passionate about their arguments. One side firmly believes that Iggy enjoys success purely because she has a great package: a great look, great music, and great connections. The other side, however, believes that she is largely successful due to her imitation of Black women. Both sides make compelling arguments, but what do you think?