It seems frivolous to waste more than two words on Iggy Azalea at a time like this (“Absolutely not” are good ones. “Nah, son,” if you’re hip to the hip talk. Maybe “Bye, Felicia” would’ve worked before it had been completely ruined by Video Hits One.) Nevertheless, I’m going to do it anyway because 1) people are talking about something I been sayin’ for two years, which gives me a particular sense of validation, and 2) her problematicness is particularly problematic in these troubled times.
In case you missed it, which means you don’t have a Twitter account at all, Q-Tip gave the Australian import the most polite of reads this weekend following a less polite/just-as-fair takedown by rabblerousing raconteur Azealia Banks. Tip’s free online course was delivered after longtime Ghostface Killah-imitator Action Bronson made the poor decision to jump in the fray, stating that Banks had “no talent” and “no sex appeal.”
Banks’s annoyance with Iggy is well-documented: she feels the frustration that a lot of us do when listening to a White, foreign woman appropriate the dialect of Diamond from Crime Mob and Da Brat, while making insensitive racial jokes and comments and being loved on by both an audience that increasingly prefers Black womanhood through the filter of imitation and Black men who are overly impressed by White women.
Unlike the vast majority of Iggy’s detractors, Banks is herself a Black, female rapper who is both attractive and quite talented. Does she covet Iggy’s success? I don’t know. Would it be unreasonable or unfair for her to do so? Absolutely not. Her own issues aside (the biggest being an inability to censor herself on Twitter that is bested only, perhaps, by Chris Brown), it is wholly unreasonable to hold up these two women who are close in age and made their first impact at the same time and say that Iggy is more talented and more worthy of this Clear Channel-propelled/T.I.-cosigned rise to the top.
I’ve had these thoughts for quite some time, but I held back. Because the way my blood pressure is set up, I really can’t be bothered with people dismissing this as “angry Black woman” haterade. But now that folks are taking a more critical look at Iggy, I feel like the cultural climate is safe for me to say that “Fancy” sounds like “Bossy” for people who clap on the one and the four. It is awful. Iggy’s rap voice is awful.
Iggy is awful.
I’m a Black woman from the South Side of Chicago, and there are clear Southern tones in my language—and a lot of Black Vernacular English in my vocabulary. I have never organically said the word “dat,” as in “do dat.” She is the rap game Al Jolson. She makes me long for the days of Paula Abdul and the rapping cat. Everything about her “swag” is appropriated from Black and Latino women, but they are little more than barely visible props in her videos. Every time that she has been publicly challenged on her appropriation and her mediocrity, she’s made a thinly veiled reverse racism argument. She has yet to explain how a voice that sounds like the Charli Baltimore of South Cack comes from a woman who spent the majority of her life in Australia.
Iggy is awful.
The Black male treatment of Iggy makes her infinitely more insufferable. Sisters have had to fight for a seat at the hip-hop table since day one, and you mean to tell me of all the young White women out there who want to rap… this is the one y’all picked? One who’s flippant, terrible at her job and dismissive of things that are important to Black men, like the Ferguson and Eric Garner protests?
Lest we not forget that she thought “runaway slave… master” was a clever punch-line and none of the brothers in her camp thought to put her in check. As many have pointed out this week, though he did threaten to throw Banks down a flight of stairs for making a cruel joke about Tiny, has anyone ever seen T.I. go as hard for his wife as he has for his artist? To be fair, at least he gets paid to cape for her, but Nelly, Lupe Fiasco and Will.i.am were happy to do it for free. And let’s not mention the dozens of Black men on Twitter who pop up in your mentions when you critique her to call you a hating Black bitch—those guys who delight in anything that makes sisters unhappy, but gladly use the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag created by three Black women.
I’d be remiss not to mention the nasty, childish social media beef between Iggy and old Snoop Doggy Dogg—the one that ended with him apologizing to her. (And rightfully so, but where is the apology for 20 years of on-wax misogyny that was almost exclusively targeted towards Black women?)
Maybe Iggy got her seat for a reason. Most of the male MCs out there can’t be bothered to spare even a tweet to express any concern for what’s going on in the world. A lyrically-vapid foreign White woman doing lazy blackface in a lacefront may be the most appropriate woman in the game right now and I’m just too blind to see it.
She isn’t problematic simply because she’s terrible at rapping or because Old Bitter Jamilah thinks Azealia (or Rapsody, hello) should be the one meeting the Beatles’ Billboard records, or because certain Black men are curiously supportive of her. She is yet another beneficiary of this cultural gentrification that’s painfully timed to coincide with the physical gentrification of Black communities and “heightened racial tensions” (a.k.a.: this racism is killing us, we’re mad about it and people are mad that we’re mad about it). Adele, Ariana Grande and Sam Smith are the sounds of soul, Macklemore and Iggy Azalea are going to be Grammy twins. It’s a lot to bear at once, and that grating, faux-Southern voice is the last thing we need to hear over and over again.
Iggy is awful. That’s not bigotry or bitterness, that is simply the truth. This isn’t about keeping White artists out of Black music; it’s about acknowledging how a mediocre one can dominate unfairly. I think it’s the current political climate that led to the pushback. Black folks are getting gunned down in the street and told to be quiet about it. It’s even easier than usual to be perturbed by unapologetic, unchecked White privilege. Funny enough, I’d bet money that a few pro-Ferguson tweets and a “hands up, don’t shoot” IG post could have protected this delicate flower of White womanhood from most of the new critics. Too bad she doesn’t care.
One day, another White female rapper will have a hit record and she’ll be good at rapping and she, too, will likely have had a career trajectory made easier by her race (that is, if she’s pretty, straight and cisgendered). Hopefully, she’ll speak in her real voice, unlike Iggy.
Because Iggy is awful.
Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com’s Senior Editor. Views expressed here are her own.