Words By Marky Mark
“What is a blaccent?”
That’s the first thing I asked myself before I read The Washington Post’s article on Iggy Azalea and how she mastered the art of “spitting in unmistakable black tones.” What followed was a study in linguistics and an examination of what two researchers call “African American English.”
Now, if you’re a black man or a black woman and of a certain age, you know all about this and often hear it referred to as code-switching. There’s the way you talk to your family and friends and the way you talk when it’s time to be professional. But there’s something different about it seeing it in your local newspaper, on social media, etc..
According to this new study, Azalea’s songs reflect a far deeper, more sophisticated understanding of how black rappers speak. “We find her using this nuanced representation of African American English,” says Eberhardt, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Vermont. “She does it very well. She uses the features in the right places and in the right contexts.”
See, that’s just weird. It’s almost the reverse of the “he speaks so well” line we’re used to hearing from other races when we get in public and show that we’ve got brains that work. But according to the research, this makes her a student of the game. She’s studied not just how to rap, but how to sound when she raps.
Here’s an example of how she showed the fruits of her “astuteness”:
Speakers of AAE often drop their “r’s” — saying mista instead of “mister,” for instance. They also harden up their “th” sounds — mouf instead of “mouth,” dough instead of “though,” wit instead of “with.” These are well-known features of the dialect, and the linguists say that Azalea goes beyond them. She seems to be fluent with some of AAE’s rarer and more subtle speech patterns.
So basically, Iggy is like Natasha Henstridge in Species: She studies our movements, studies our speech patterns, and mimics them with aplomb. Only it took her years to master it, not days. But according to a few artists, like Eve, ?uestlove, and Jill Scott, along with a USC professor, it’s this Species-like behavior that did her in.
Eve said it would be dope to hear Iggy sound like Iggy and hear her struggle and hear about her culture. But it’s the USC professor who probably put it best when he said that the game has a way of policing itself and that you can’t try to be authentic. You’re either real or you aren’t. Unlike Henstridge though, Iggy may not get a sequel.
(Via The Washington Post)