If there is anything you’d hope Australian rap star Iggy Azalea would have learned from the last four bumpy years of her career, it’s that she should probably stop trying to defend herself. Yet here she is, once again making the attempt to clear the air surrounding her missteps and trying to wrest control of the narrative from the social media mob with a comeback album titled, fittingly, In My Defense.
In doing so, she crafts an album — her first in four years — that does finally work to recenter the discussion on her music, if imperfectly. However, the album is likely to deliver as much ammunition for her detractors as it does comprehensive mea culpas for her various cultural faux pas of the last several years.
By now, the rise and fall of Iggy Azalea should be a tale from the annals of recent hip-hop history that anyone could recite, the quintessential cautionary tale about privilege, appropriation, keeping it real, and when to sit there and eat one’s food. After making a splashy debut with the 2011 mixtape Ignorant Art, Iggy’s path seemed set; after all, a blog-favorite, pretty, blonde white woman who could actually rap seemed like it should be gold.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the road to stardom turned out to be paved with obstacles from horrible beat choices (arguably determined by Iggy’s handlers at Sony, as Iggy insists she wanted to make a straightforward rap album and their tastes leaned more pop), criticism of her “blaccent” from the similarly-named fellow rising star Azealia Banks, and a market that turned out to be less receptive than initially anticipated. Eventually, through repeated trials — and plenty of errors — Iggy got a hit, the DJ Mustard-aping, Charli XCX-featuring “Fancy.”
Things pretty much went off the rails from there. Despite the success of “Fancy,” the exposure level proved to be more detrimental than beneficial, as the criticisms against her went wide. Then, she made the fatal error of trying very, very hard to defend herself. In the process, she put her foot in her mouth more times than anyone could count, simultaneously irking legends of rap and alienating her own benefactor, T.I., who was her final shield. Eventually, she was declared persona non grata in the hip-hop world, her sophomore album shelved, and all her endeavors met with disdain, her failures similarly greeted by condescending mirth.
Intriguingly, In My Defense sounds like the album Iggy always wanted to make and perhaps should have made. Rather than experimenting with jock jams and EDM, here, she sticks to rugged, trunk-rattling, strip-club-and/or-trap-house-ready beats that provide a sturdier backdrop to her Dirty South-influenced flow. Whether or not the “blaccent” was strictly necessary, Iggy’s tendency to sound like Gangsta Boo and Jacki-O means her delivery lends itself far more naturally to the ratchet rap purveyed by Three 6 Mafia than the dubstep provided by Diplo on TrapGold.