Iggy, Iggy, Iggy, Can’t You See?
How your unconstrained superficiality in hip hop is ethically insensitive
I can write this in good conscience because I am absolutely not a fan of her music 🎧, aesthetics 👁, style 👗, or persona(s)🤷♀️🤷🏾♀️. I don’t actually hate on Iggy Azalea with withering vitriol just because her songs are trash and she white. Iggy Azalea’s aesthetic whiteness and her music, or the combination thereof has no real effect on me. I suspect that for either of those reasons it should have no effect on you too, well at least it is my hope that it doesn’t especially after reading this. Most would agree, rather that it’s the wielding of white privilege and her unethical charm offensive with hip hop that is really unforgivable.
Most have and certainly do acknowledge that she monetarily did well in her successful rise to fame with hip hop as her tool and trade. Iggy has done remarkably better than most of her more culturally entrenched peers in the genre with added pop appeal. But the Azalea bandwagon has gone through some notable defections which she laments about in a GQ article and interview by Eve Barlow which inspired me to write this one on Medium. In it she jaded cynically at the probable cause without actually stating the cause for the desertion.
“Remember that? Acknowledge it ever? Didn’t then? Don’t now? Does that surprise me?!” She spits out “surprise” like a piece of rotting fruit. “No, it doesn’t surprise me. People would like to pretend I never existed. I don’t think they wanted me to be successful to begin with. A-ha-ha-aha.” These “a-ha-ha-aha”s are over-the-top nervy laughs that pepper the entire hour. (Nothing we talk about is especially funny.) The laugh ends abruptly when I ask: Really, why? “Um.” She lowers her head, she softens her voice and with a look of unequivocal shame she responds. “Because I’m a white woman from Australia.”
Unbeknownst to Iggy, quite a bit of investment and risk (social) capital usually goes into these ad-ventures along with the unqualified benefit of the doubt. Couple this with the pageantry of being a gimmick to compete for spoils in the music game of nuance, the returns were expected in the stream of conscious held at that time. Now its a little different.
I say that because in many aspects of discovery, overemphasizing racial identity skews our sensibilities on authenticity. That Azalea, otherwise known as Amethyst Amelia Kelly, can command enough of an audience to put out another album and go on tour with all the label fanfare and accoutrements of a regal talent is quite telling of its symbolism, and not necessarily in the bona fide.
The mysticism surrounding her should have faded earlier on and the attempt at revival seems typical yet absurd. But maybe that crowd isn’t looking for authentic music. Maybe they are actually looking to indulge themselves in misappropriated art. This could be a possiblility. There is expressed privilege dating way back in that.
I don’t think Iggy sees that though.
“You’re blind, baby
Blind to the fact of who you are maybe” — Jay Z verse in We Made It, performed with Jay Electronica, released in March 2014.
But Kelly admittedly believes she is true to love of the music itself, just not to the people who culturally inspired it in defense of their given and marginalized identity under the social construct.
When it’s come to more pressing issues in the community she’s been so influenced by, Iggy has not been an ally. Has she sought to learn more about the history of the country she now calls home? Has she felt a new responsibility to use her platform to support Black Lives Matter or counter police brutality?
“I think it’s one of those damned if you do damned if you don’t things,” she says. “I’ve tried not to be too political because I am an immigrant. I’m on a visa. I’m not trying to go to a protest where they’re arresting celebrities and making an example of them because I’ll get deported.” Iggy is getting her Green Card now. Does that change things? “I don’t think you’ll ever see me at a march. I should show that I support those things but I’m not a political activist. I don’t wanna bring the complications of the world into my arena. I understand why people criticize that because I have a voice in hip-hop. I make ‘black’ music. I don’t want people to think it’s not something I care about. I want to make music for girls in the gym.”
I ask Iggy what she listens to in the gym. “I try not to go to the gym,” she laughs.
This is an aspect of motivated ignorance — just not willing to know, even though you should want to know. Just like you wanted to know how to rap and immerse yourself with a blaccent so as to become an authentic member of the hip hop community. Unless, what you really want — is to do those things at the expense of said community.
That belief insensitivity enables you to profit tremendously off of a subculture you aren’t even willing to stand with or defend — against the oppressive wrath of marginalization and inequality. You don’t necessarily have to relate to the struggle but you can be supportive of it and accept that white privilege is a pall over minority groups, and representing humanity in this art form can be dignifying to embrace in solidarity.
But Iggy doesn’t even pretend to be charitable or grateful with it. Instead she would rather be complicit in the intractability of white privilege within a reserved space. She callously does this by way and capitalistic misuse of the very same tools and trade that African Americans have created in part to disassemble such institutionalized oppression.
As for her music, we can let time tell it. A generational du jour of her brand of music to aficionados of a fickle market will determine if her artistry can be authentic enough to be placed in the annals of legendary status. For now its only worthwhile to gawk at the looting in hip hop taking place in this transracial experiment to restore and defend a nocuous privilege.