Music

Does Iggy Azalea Deserve A Second Shot At Rap Superstardom?


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If you ask anyone what their problems with Iggy Azalea are, the litany of answers could almost fill one of her verses on Genius.

The “Blaccent.” That “slave master” line. The back-and-forth with hip-hop pioneer Q-Tip. That super awkward, garbled performance where nobody could quite make out what she was saying. There are any number of complaints about the Australian rapper, and if we’re being totally honest, some of them are quite fair.

She does come across as an outsider, her music is as much slickly-produced pop as it is street-level hip-hop, she has had a few PR missteps, and certainly a bad performance or two.

But here’s the thing: So have many rappers, and we have yet to see the same level of vitriol leveled against them for their bizarre opinions and subpar performances. In fact, we give plenty of male rappers multiple chances to shine in the rap game, even after instances of total disrespect, violent crime, and brutal abuse.

As Iggy gears up to finally attempt to climb back into the rap game that chewed her up and spat her out with Surviving The Summer, her long-delayed follow-up to debut The New Classic, a question looms: Does Iggy Azalea actually deserve a second chance at rap stardom?

The worst you can really say about Iggy’s music is that it hasn’t even been bad, maybe the biggest critique would be it is manufactured and impersonal — and we could say the same about dozens of artists across any genre. Ditto for her bad performance; many of our legends and pioneers have forgotten lyrics to hits live, yet we never excoriate them in the same fashion, despite the fact that they perhaps should be held to a higher standard, considering tenure and talent.

Iggy’s music was competently executed and catchy enough to enter Top 40 radio rotation, which means people liked it if nothing else.

Her only transgressions in hindsight appear to be rapping in a weird voice, which lots of rappers do, paying insufficient respect to a rap legend, which appears to be as much of a rite of passage in today’s hip-hop, and delivering a bad performance, which lots of rappers do.

However, this isn’t really a defense of Iggy Azalea. This is just a long, hard look at a social media-based “gotcha” culture that’s gone way too far over the years, in all the wrong directions.

This dogpile culture finds its target of convenience and wears them down in a war of attrition over the pettiest of slights in an effort to feel productive and protective of “hip-hop” or “Black culture,” while simultaneously selling out both in pursuit of the next viral hit. Of all those complaints listed above, can anyone of them really be considered as harmful to hip-hop as the litany of charges against XXXtentacion — let alone another person?

At least with Iggy, we knew she wanted to rap. She left behind what was likely a comfortable life in Australia to sleep on couches in Atlanta and Los Angeles chasing a dream. That’s hip-hop as fuck, whether or not anyone truly wants to admit it, and makes for a far better story than “went on Dr. Phil, went viral, dropped a single to extend those 15 minutes of fame.”

Social media has made us all bloodthirsty, and far too often it seems to be for the wrong blood.

While Iggy tries to make a comeback with “Savior” and a guest verse from Quavo, I imagine more than a few rap fans wonder whether we should give any country to this hip-hop colonizer again, after she was ripped again and again by critics from Halsey to the eternally-perturbed Azealia Banks.

However, those rap fans tweet “Free Kodak” — ironically or not — implicitly giving Kodak Black license to continue abusing Black women while never holding him accountable for the catalog of charges against him that now runs just as long or longer than his actual discography.

While Tekashi69 fights gangbangers in the streets and openly admits to chasing controversy for clout while making distorted, broken “mumble rap” on purpose, one viral video of Iggy blowing a live acapella rap was grounds to excommunicate her from hip-hop entirely.

As fans celebrated “getting her outta here,” they left the door open for Danielle Bregoli, a daytime talk show brat with a similarly viral catchphrase, to fill the vacuum left behind. She’s been as prone to lawbreaking as dropping a dope punchline, but her fans hooted and hollered when she called out Iggy on the remix to her single “Hi Bich,” which is as formulaic and ghostwritten as anything Iggy herself has done.

It strikes me that, were Iggy a man, her foibles might be largely forgiven — and if she were Black, she’d be relegated to the same island of lost and ignored toys many of her peers were banished to.

Angel Haze never got a second chance. Neither has Lola Monroe. Azealia Banks has been gotten outta here a few times, but still lingers on the periphery of rap like a hangnail by tossing rocks at more relevant names like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Lil Kim hasn’t received her second chance, nor has her erstwhile rival Foxy Brown. Missy Elliott tried for a comeback and ended up making (admittedly catchy and fun) Mountain Dew commercials trading on nostalgia rather than her endless well of creative talent.

Tiffany Foxx never got a first chance. 3D Na’Tee should have blown up ages ago. Rapsody only just began to receive recognition for her craft after nearly a decade of penning intricate, fiery rhymes that went overlooked. Tink’s been around but hasn’t received her due. Dreezy dropped one of the strongest debuts for a rapper in 2016, yet still elicits a “who?” when mentioned in conversation. Where is Dej Loaf’s album? Why isn’t anyone talking about Ill Camille’s excellent Heirloom from last year?

There are dozens of Black and Latinx female rappers like Nitty Scott and Snow Tha Product who haven’t received half the attention for being dope that Iggy Azalea has for having a bad performance and rapping like Trina. There are so many incoming like Aaliyah Keef, Kash Doll, Rico Nasty, Tokyo Jetz, Asian Doll, Princess Nokia, and Leikeli47, who deserve their first shot a rap stardom, but we’ve gotten too busy playing the gotcha game and whining about MCs we don’t like to give any shine to these newcomers who at the very least, deserve our attention, if not our interest.

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be: “Does Iggy deserve a second chance in the rap game?” Instead, it should be: “Why haven’t other female rappers been given a similar platform?”

We spent so much time and energy getting Iggy outta here, we left almost none for getting other, worthwhile female MCs into the rap game, which is still desperately lopsided when it comes to representation. The sooner we stop wasting so much time on the former, the sooner we can finally get around to fixing the latter.

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