By Francesca Lewis
Hold onto your hats, dear humans! Just when you thought the line-up for the 2014 Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend couldn’t get any more exciting, they announce that hip-hop revelation Iggy Azalea will be performing.
Raised in Mullumbimby, New South Wales, the Australian rapper, whose real name is Amethyst Amelia Kelly, discovered hip hop when she was twelve, having a particular love for Tupac Shakur. At sixteen she dropped out of school, cleaned hotels to save up money and headed for Miami.
She struggled for many years, firstly as an illegal minor, which made it hard to get work, and later starting a hair company to fund her music. She told Gawker, “I ate a lot of Ramen noodles for this shit.”
Through it all, she never lost sight of her dream of being a hip-hop artist and surrounded herself with influential people, including established rappers like Backbone and Pusha-T. Still, her eventual explosion onto the scene was all her own and took the form of the provocative video for her song “PU$$Y.” It was an instant viral hit, making her one of the many new artists in the last few years to become overnight sensations without a record label.
Over the last three years Azalea has had the proverbial rollercoaster ride that tends to come along with becoming very famous very quickly. The highlights of this included three singles, signing to a modeling agency, becoming the first female MC added to XXL Magazine’s prestigious “Freshmen List” and collaborating with many respected artists, including T.I, sometimes referred to as her mentor.
The lowlights included being accused of racism and inauthenticity, beefing with name-twin Azealea Banks, management and label tensions and affiliating herself with creepazoid du jour, Robin Thicke. Yet, to her credit, she has managed to jump from controversy to success to controversy almost effortlessly, and neither seem to stick – she is neither universally hated nor hailed as the next big thing. Iggy Azalea is more like a big question mark, and now, as she stands poised to drop her first full length album in 2014, the world is watching and wondering, “Was she worth the hype?”
Despite not yet releasing an album, Azalea has given us more than a handful of singles. Her mixtapes (not the kind you make for your gf on Valentine’s – in the hip-hop world a mixtape is a collection of music released for free, generally with freestyling, remixes and guest artists) Ignorant Art and TrapGold, have been well-received – the former more electronic, the latter more classic hip-hop. In 2012, she released Glory, her first EP, and made the unconventional decision to also release this for free. “When it’s free, I get a pass to do whatever I like” she told allhiphop.com, explaining that this release was intentionally more “pure rap” than her other releases, in part inspired by the company she was keeping at the time. It seems likely, then, that her album, The New Classic, which will be her first commercial release (excluding singles), will be more accessible and closer to her smash single, “Work,” in style.
There has been much discussion of Azalea’s style – her flow, her dance moves, her accent, her clothes. Cries of “cultural appropriation” and “phony” have been thrown her way. Despite speaking in a high, Australian accent with a slight Southern twang picked up in her eight years in the US, she raps with a deep Atlanta drawl. While this may strike some as fake, disingenuous and calculated, I see it a different way.
Here, at The Human Experience, we are all about embracing who you authentically are, but, as we know, that is not always who you were born as. Iggy Azalea did not want to be, did not feel she belonged as, Amethyst Amelia Kelly, small town Aussie girl. She describes in an interview with Hard Knock TV that she was depressed and isolated as a teen, partly due to her obsessive love for a style of music that was not embraced by her peers. She made the decision to leave that life behind while still basically a child, because she was so sure who she needed to be. When I hear songs like “Murda Bizness” and “Work,” I hear a woman embodying what she was born to be.
Iggy Azalea will be joining the likes of Hunter Valentine and Mary Lambert at what is shaping up to be a very eclectic, diverse 2014 Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, CA, the official host city of The Dinah, headlining the Friday night White Party (iggyazalea.com)