Rapper T.I. made (blog) headlines this week after an appearance on a Chicago radio station in which he dismissed a conflict between one of his artists and another young female rapper as “b*tch sh*t.” I don’t blame the Grand Hustle leader for wanting to stay out of the exchange of words between his Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks (it’s not a beef; beef is when your mom’s ain’t safe up in the streets, not when your Twitter @-replies are filled with meanness); however, the reason he cited is more offensive than anything these two women could lob at each other.
The back story: Iggy Azalea is an Australian-born White female rapper. Remember Kreayshawn? The (wack) White girl rapper from Cali who got a big buzz and bigger record deal after her “Gucci, Gucci” single became a YouTube hit? Remember how there was all this debate about her, her White Girl Mob posse and the role of non-Black women in Rap music? And remember how she bombed a bunch of performances and confirmed what most of us with a critical eye already knew: she was all flash, no bang? Iggy is Kreayshawn 2.0. She can rap a little better, looks more like a traditional Pop star than Kreay Kreay (who constantly looks like she’s in need of a bath) and, thanks to the T.I. endorsement, is being taken slightly more seriously.
Unfortunately, Iggy has followed in her White sister-in-rap’s footsteps and landed right in the middle of a racial debate that did not have to happen. The 22-year-old dropped a remake of Kendrick Lamar’s “Look Out For Detox” freestyle and flipped the Compton emcee’s “I’m a runaway slave” lyric to “I’m a runaway slave…master”
Yes. That happened. She tried it. In fact, if “she tried it” was in the dictionary, Iggy Azelia’s picture would be right there. A White female rapper who desires to be taken seriously 1) did a remake of a freestyle jacking Kendrick’s flow and 2) played with the words “slave master.”
Unsurprisingly, a number of people took issue with the lyric and one of them was the similar-in-name-only Azealia Banks. The Harlem-bred emcee publicly called Iggy out and stated that hip-hop shouldn’t embrace a White woman who plays with race in such a way, tweeting “Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.” Banks is a Black woman so the response was predicable: she was hating, she’s jealous that Iggy made the coveted XXL Freshman list and she didn’t, etc.
Though she may be Black, Banks is still a woman playing what has always been treated as a man’s game. And she seems to understand the flip side of the White female rapper card: for all the criticism (fair and unfair) that Iggy is subjected to, we wouldn’t know who she was if she wasn’t a pretty White girl rapping dirty stuff and toying uncomfortably with race in the name of her “art.” And, by her own admission, Banks understands that by criticizing Iggy, she would be inevitably be labeled a jealous hater at best and a mean, Black girl bully at worst. “The internet is making me look like a villain,” she lamented in what she’d then said would be her final comments on the similarly-named blonde emcee.
While Banks has largely had only herself to defend her criticism of the “slave master” quip, Iggy had her famous boss T.I. on her side. Yes, Iggy is Tip’s artist, but he very well could have went with a ‘no comment’ both times he spoke—harshly—against her detractor. He mocked her and derided her as a hater who wished she’d made the XXL cover “…maybe she could hope that she’ll suck enough to get shelved and then next year when the Freshmen cover comes back around, maybe she’ll still be a freshman…”
The arguably more-compelling (not because she’s Black, but because she can actually rap) Azealia Banks has made a few offensive comments via social media in her day as well. As blogger Ms. Jia points out, she poked fun at both the word ‘n*gger’ and the word ‘faggot’ on her Twitter timeline. She also, ironically, implied that T.I. stay out of her issue with Iggy because he is a man. Patriarchal sexism is not hardly limited to dudes, you see, though it did seem that her comment was due at least in part to the age difference between T.I. and the two younger female emcees.
Still, T.I. gets no passes here. The “b*tch sh*t” comment revealed a lack of respect for both Banks and his girl Iggy. The idea that Banks shouldn’t address him because he is a man or that Iggy, as a woman, is infuriating. And if working with a White artist means that T.I. can now comfortably turn a blind eye to the fact that his girl is getting a lot of love because she’s White, that women of all races have had a rough road in hip-hop and the presence of White ones is now making it seemingly rougher for some of the sisters AND, the big one, it’s not okay for Iggy to use “slave master” as a punch line…then maybe diversity in hip-hop isn’t as appealing as some may have believed.
Furthermore, it sucks to see the Atlanta-rapper working against the great image we’d come to love via his reality show late last year. There’s no questioning that T.I. loves some Black women; his relationship with his wife and their children shocked reality show viewers, as we saw the trap star behaving more like Cliff Huxtable than the Cliff Harris who has a little trouble staying out of prison. Yet his sexism and insensitivity here is disappointing, if not surprising. Rap music has had girl problems since day one and this latest incident just serves as a reminder of how far we have to go in solving them.
Jamilah Lemieux is the News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY.com. Follow her on Twitter: @jamilahlemieux