Iggy Azalea – who grew up and lived in NSW country town Mullumbimby until she was 16, only to move by herself to the United States of America, has become one of the most intriguing new musicians in recent memory.
This is not only because of her rapid rise to fame and a team around her made to generate smash pop hits, it’s because most of us witnessing her are forced to ask ourselves – shouldn’t this be a little bit offensive?
People often accuse Iggy (real name ‘Amethyst Kelly’), a caucasian Australian, of playing a stereotypical part of an African American woman in the rap industry. People criticise the way she talks, the way she dresses, the content of her music videos, and relate it all back to the idea that she is misappropriating African American culture; taking what is essentially an African American art form and making a mockery of it to make hits – all while ignoring what made rap/hip-hop what it is today.
At the end of 2014, after a history of making not-so-nice comments towards each other, American rap artist Azealia Banks shared a tweet mocking Iggy and accusing her of selectively appropriating black culture:
its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen… Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?
— AZEALIA BANKS (@AZEALIABANKS) December 4, 2014
While the argument continued on in a rather immature way – Banks has a legitimate point about Azalea’s popularity and image; she chooses to appropriate black culture, from the accent she puts on in her songs, to the way she flaunts her body, except when real African American issues arise, Iggy remains silent and offers no support or anything whatsoever.
Shane Thomas, writing for mediadiversified.org, talks about how she has ignored the issue of white privilege positively affecting her mainstream success, also citing her appropriation of other culture over the years, in particular her song “Bounce”, to which Thomas states what he thinks the videos message ultimately gives off about a rich Indian to the wider audience:
“Hey, look at that sari! I need to try one! Oh, and aren’t those braids adorable! Someone needs to do my hair like that…”
But some people are thinking, why is Eminem accepted, but Azalea hated?
“The main reason people aren’t complaining about Eminem’s victory is that, quite simply, he has unequivocally demonstrated his love for hip-hop as a culture and a genre. He long ago recognised his white privilege (“If I was black I would have sold half”) and committed himself to the old-fashioned aesthetic of masterful lyricism. That he became the world’s biggest pop star almost seemed like an accident, whereas with Iggy Azalea it seems to be the main goal.”
That, above all, is the main problem, the problem that Azealia Banks failed to sensibly communicate – above the cultural appropriation, of which the offensiveness is still being debated, the fact that she becomes M.I.A. when issues of police brutality towards African Americans, or any other “black” issues need discussion, and being selectively involved in black culture just to make pop hits and money, is most offensive of all.