While Kanye West’s Jesus Is King rollout and disastrously incorrect political commentary have dominated the headlines this week, the other banner story in hip-hop has been the ongoing feud between Australian rapper Iggy Azalea and her onetime benefactor T.I. It’s a classic case of “he said, she said,” with the two rappers bantering back and forth in the media and online about T.I.’s role in Iggy’s career and why it came to a screeching halt after the release of her major-label debut. It begs the question: Who is right?
First, let’s examine the claims. Early in October, T.I. called working with Iggy his “biggest blunder” while promoting his new show Rhythm + Flow on Netflix at the opening of Tyler Perry’s new studio. He admitted that he was still searching for a viable female talent to work with, in an effort to contribute to gender parity in hip-hop. “That is the tarnish of my legacy as far as [being] an [music] executive is concerned,” he said. “There’s a lot of dope female talent right now in the industry.” The implication is that Iggy is not all that dope and doesn’t really deserve her position.
T.I. doubled down on the sentiment earlier this week, providing additional context during an interview with New York radio show The Breakfast Club. There, Tip explained that while he felt “she was meant to be great,” that she “switched up” after “she found out white people liked her and she didn’t really need Black people to like her anymore,” referring to her then-flippant attitude toward criticism of her affected rap accent and attempts to provide guidance by hip-hop vets like Q-Tip.
For her part, Iggy downplayed his comments both times, sniping at his original “blunder” comment with a since-deleted tweet asserting “We have a whole list [of blunders] for you.” Perhaps someone close to her reminded her of the ghosts of her previous Twitter tiffs, which had caused her predicament in the first place because she removed the tweet almost as quickly as she put it up. It was a smart move; in recent years, as she tries to dig herself out of the hole she’s been in with redemptive efforts like In My Defense, she’s tried to focus more on keeping her timeline a positive place instead of clapping back from the proverbial moral low ground.
However, as T.I. continued to throw shots, Iggy’s patience reached its limit. In the wake of his Breakfast Club interview, Iggy lashed out, going on a tirade that accused the Atlanta trap rap pioneer of overstating his impact on her career — although, she didn’t say so in as many words. Instead, she wondered, “When will this guy shut up,” and noted that “the only song you ever were a part of making was ‘100.’”
Understandably, she deleted that thread as well but left it up long enough that screenshots were taken, circulated, and blogged. Since then, it seems both artists have cooled off somewhat, but knowing the rap game, it’d likely only take the spark of one well-placed question to fan the smoldering flame of their tension back to a roaring blaze of a beef. After all, the back-and-forth leaves so much room for interpretation by fans and detractors alike, with Iggy’s fans looking to defend her from what they see as unprompted bullying from T.I., and central rap fans always angling for more opportunities to ridicule the faux pas-prone Iggy yet again.
The thing is, as lame as it sounds in these sorts of situations, both sides have valid points. T.I. is correct that Iggy was far too cavalier with her position as a hip-hop outsider. She made decent music early on, and she can definitely rap, but flouting the advice of rap pioneers like Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip reflected poorly on her in context. She probably never really needed to apologize for her rap voice, but as irritated as the criticisms may have made her, snapping at her critics only gave them more ammunition and pushed her further and further from rap’s center.
But Iggy also has two good points of her own. T.I. scores easy points with his base by throwing her under the bus, but if he really wants to contribute to dope female rappers’ opportunities in the industry, he could have just as easily used the time and energy to promote his recent Grand Hustle signee Tokyo Jetz. Sure, there probably aren’t as many headlines in doing so, but right now all the focus is on Iggy, not Tokyo, which is a net negative than having even a small conversation about his new artist.
Secondly, Iggy’s right that T.I.’s presence and contribution to her career came late in her development; by the time of her first co-sign from the Grand Hustle impresario, she’d already garnered beats from Diplo and viral blog buzz that had many fans tabbing her for a big breakout. The pair did collaborate on the T.I. hit “No Mediocre,” but by then, Iggy was already taking flak from disgruntled rap fans who resented her “Fancy” success (as rap purists often do). T.I. did try to defend Iggy early on as the chorus of critics grew, but he eventually disowned her at what she describes as the lowest point in her life.
However T.I. or anyone else feels about his “blunder,” the fact is, Iggy is now a pop culture fixture and that isn’t likely to change — especially if he keeps bringing her up every few months. So, yes, T.I. could definitely ease up on all the ex post facto criticism and stick to plugging his artists without the added negativity. And Iggy, who has made a lot of progress lately, could stand to grow a thicker skin and stop reacting to purists’ nitpicking in favor of pushing her new project, which is actually pretty good when it’s not trying to live up to its title. If both can learn to get along, there’s plenty of room in the rap game for more female talent. Iggy Azalea fits the bill, like it or not, but that energy might be better spent promoting other rappers — of which there are plenty.