No-Sign: The Year of Iggy Azalea and Cultural Appropriation

Iggy Azalea: 'Getting the word racist put on me sucked.'
No-Sign is a regular feature that gives an in depth opinion on whatever deserves a proper verbal thrashing.  Basically, instead of earning a highly esteemed Co-Sign, it’s about to catch fade on a No-Sign.  To wrap up 2014, this edition of No-Sign sends out a long awaited thrashing on hip-hop’s culture appropriating troll of the year: Iggy Azalea.

I feel like this article should have been written months ago; hell, maybe even last year. But throughout 2014, as much as Iggy Azalea fancied her way into becoming a household name, into Nick Young’s arms and snagging Rap Album of the Year awards, I artfully dodged any semblance of Iggy in any of my news feeds (and this is where I give Facebook a nod in their data analytics-based ad schemes.) In my brief, though neglectful encounters with Iggy Azalea, my perception was that she’s a mere Gwen Stefani imitator in her appearance and futile attempts at hip-hop, but as the year comes to a close, I may have missed the mark on that a bit. Or by a lot.

Iggy Azalea is much worse.

And where it starts with her music, it certainly doesn’t end there. Born Amethyst Amelia Kelly, an Australian native that immigrated to the US to pursue “dreams” in music, and by either sheer luck or “hustle,” Iggy earned the Southern hip-hop stamp of approval from T.I. and began to work on “The New Classic.” As the rest of the story goes, the album dropped and “Fancy” took over airwaves and copped her a rapper, then an NBA player, had some Twitter beefs (Snoop Dogg, Azealia Banks) and before you know it, hip-hop’s newest poster “Feminem” was a white Australian girl staking to claim, “what’s a world with no I-G-G in this bitch?”

See, the issue is that there’s tons of “I-G-G’s” in this bitch; Iggy’s just the queen of them all. You see them at Coachella wearing Native American headdresses and begging to hear, “Hey Ya.” You see them wearing, “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It,” tees from Forever 21 and throwing up ‘Westside’ in their Instagram pictures. In Iggy’s case, appropriation came in the form of trolling around Atlanta for a couple years and acquiring a T.I.-approved Southern accent, a few key slang terms (“I luhh dat!”,) and an affinity for all things related to Nicki Minaj – just not Nicki herself.

And this all comes back to the age old adage once fittingly articulated by comedian Paul Mooney…

Like many others before her, Iggy remains on the upper hand of said cultural appropriation because she has monetized on the action on top of gaining social clout, but that’s not anything new; there are storied traditions of white musicians piggybacking off of black culture and black sounds to invoke commercial success — Iggy is no pioneer for that motion, think more along the lines of Elvis Presley or The Beach Boys.

But 2014 hit hard in race relations and what it means to be black in America. Following the non-indictment of officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, many took to Twitter and Instagram to display their outrage. Iggy, on the other hand, took a different approach to the court decision:

image1This tweet bleeds insensitivity. One of the biggest “hip-hop” artists of 2014 redirects attention to herself in light of social outrage and injustice, neglecting a crucial issue of political discourse that affects the livelihood and culture that she built her success off of.

Well, it’s not her livelihood, per se. It’s someone else’s, she just makes bank off of her imitation of it. The way she and Miley go about making their music and building their careers takes all of the good and none of the bad — all the bling and the glamour that comes with being a hip-hop artist is the one side they choose to partake and revel in, but wash themselves of the social responsibilities that come with being a figurehead, let alone one that takes home awards such as Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album and Best Rap Artist.

GTFO here T.I.
GTFO here T.I.

Truthfully, it’s hard for me to take her seriously in all her antics but the harder pill to swallow is the public perception. Solely based off of her success and accolades, the general public’s acceptance of her makes her method of rising to the top acceptable, but the real problems are only seen when you’re willing to scratch the surface beneath the pale facade; of which few are likely to do. Iggy’s dive into a genre of music that is so rich with a history of vocal uprisings and struggles, and her choosing to dismiss that part of it, is exhausting. Acknowledging that her success and her skin tone are directly correlated is exhausting.

There’s no real answer or solution to the Iggy epidemic, and some have even called her career “unique” and “laudable.” In the short number of years she’s lived in America, Iggy Azalea has somehow found a way to float her way to the top of a genre where the female counterparts of its fore bearers have been fighting for decades to be represented. And the worst part of it all is that she’s not even unique in her approach or her sound. She’s a cookie cutter rapper in every sense of the word, just a white version of it that has no business in being called a star in that realm.

This isn’t to say that you have to black to be in hip-hop, but for all the success she has had in 2014, Iggy has hardly paid her dues back to the community. Everyone knows the story of hip-hop: its birth from the Bronx projects, its role in political unrest and the fight against police brutality, the region-based styles and sub-genres of the folks that lived in poverty and hardship. Iggy Azalea doesn’t know any of that. She chooses to not know or understand any of that. She skips the hard parts and takes in only the surface layer of hip-hop, the commercialized, sexy part with diamonds, shoes and cars. Sure, that makes her fancy, but all that glitters doesn’t make it gold.

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Nina Tabios

Nina Smoove aka Champagne Ninang. Certified hooligan. $F Bay Area born and bred.

3 thoughts on “No-Sign: The Year of Iggy Azalea and Cultural Appropriation

  1. Your observation of her being a Gwen Stefani imitator at least in her looks is dead on. She has not paid any dues, and it is always a brother that is the mentor of white rappers that wanna be accepted. Eminem it was Dr Dre. Her it’s T.I.

    Like

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