The Problem with Iggy Azalea


Image from thatgrapejuice.net

Image from thatgrapejuice.net

I appreciated Q-Tip’s response to Iggy Azalea, but personally, I thought he was very lenient in his assessment of her. Furthermore,  let me explain why Azealia Banks is not wrong for her attack on Iggy, as well as point out all that is problematic in Iggy’s responses to both Azealia and Q-Tip.

The problem with Iggy Azalea is that not only is she ignorant, but she is committed to her ignorance.

Cultural Appropriation refers to taking aspects of a culture that one deems cool, while not necessarily having an interest in embracing that culture or its people. Commodification takes it one step further and profits off of the stolen aspects of a culture.

Iggy initially responded to Banks’s criticisms by telling her that she is making a race and socio-political issue where there is not. Wait a minute.

First and foremost, hip hop began as, and continues to be (regardless of the negative coverage by White media), as a way for Black people in inner cities to discuss the social ills and realities that they face as a result of the systems within our society. Hip hop was created as an outlet for expression by Black people who are otherwise placed at the bottom of the hierarchy in most other institutions in America, especially the workplaces. Hip hop has served as one of the few places for Black expression. Though Hip Hop itself is now largely controlled by the White masses, it still continues to be a major avenue for Black success. Nonetheless, this lack of control of hip hop by Black people is still frustrating. Furthermore, the attack on rappers and hip hop artists for discussion of the problems in their community by White media in effort to pretend they are creating their social ills by merely illuminating them, as well as paint them as the most derogatory facet of media, was already irritating enough. But now, we get Iggy Azalea walking around in Blackface with zero interest in the advancement of the Black community at large. Yet, she is profiting off the stereotypical aspects she finds cool and helpful to her image and career. But there should be no objections to that?

The problem is not simply that Iggy is a White rapper. She performs in a southern drawl and exaggerated body and persona that are not hers. She has assessed these as aspects of Black culture and then profited off of it in ways that Black musicians do not profit off of their own culture. It is no different from the ways Black women were mocked for larger assets like lips, hips, and everything else. But when Kim Kardashian and other non-Black celebrities adorn them, it becomes something to relish over. Iggy is not a spectacular rapper or musician in any shape or form. As a matter of fact, we cannot even be sure she writes her already mediocre music. Yet, she, like Macklemore and others before them are being nominated for major awards in hip hop. There is nothing about that fact that is a reflection of their talent or mere coincidence. It is a way for the White mainstream media to prevent Black artists from excelling in a genre that they created themselves. Subsequently, Black musicians and the Black listening audience are not wrong in expressing criticism or anger.

My brief explanation of hip hop and its origins above is fact. Fact that Q-Tip showed Iggy the kindness of explaining to her, to which she claims she found patronizing because she is already aware of that information. Word?

When Azealia Banks told her this information (albeit in the form of an attack), Iggy responded as though Banks’s criticisms were untrue. But when Q-Tip then informs her of her ignorance in the most politically correct and respectful manner, she then claims she is offended because she already knew that because she has done all her research on hip hop. Contradiction and evasion of responsibility at its finest.

But let me breakdown Iggy’s response to Azealia Banks to show the similarities between that and conservative White America’s assessment of the Black experience and Black women, which  is what effectively shifted me from feeling indifference towards her to disdain.

Her response: “Special msg for banks: There are many black artists succeeding in all genres. The reason you haven’t is because of your piss poor attitude. Your inability to be responsible for your own mistakes, bullying others, the inability to be humble or have self control. It’s YOU! you created your own unfortunate situation by being a bigot and don’t have the mental capacity to realize yet. Probably never will. Now! rant, Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won’t make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio. Enjoy continuing to bang your head against that metaphoric brick wall & Savor this attention. I’m the only way you get ANY. You’re poisonous and I feel genuinely sorry for you because it’s obvious at this point you are a MISERABLE, angry human being. Regards!”

This is no different from when Black people try to discuss the reality of how the majority of the Black community is unable to afford the same opportunities as White America and how this limits opportunity for success, conservative media responds by naming the few successful Black people, which are exceptions to the plight of the community at large. Black people who are not successful are then blamed for their circumstances and silenced if they mention the unequal access to schools, jobs, housing, and more, because there are a few Black people who found their way around these obstacles. When they are disproportionately targeted by carefully disguised race laws and a racist incarceration system, rather than examine the unequal access to the “American dream” or how constructions of criminality play a role in how Black people are treated by the police and the criminal justice system as a whole, people ignore statistics and logic and tell themselves oh, Black people are doing the worst in society or makeup the majority of prisons because they are simply the least capable, lazy, or committing the most crimes.

She tells Banks she does not have the mental capacity to realize she is responsible for her own situation. Again, word? No different from the commonly seen rhetoric that Black people are unintelligent and unable to see how we are responsible for being at the bottom of a social and institutional hierarchy that was carefully constructed on our oppression. Cool. Though, I do not know what “situation” she is claiming Azealia Banks is responsible for placing herself in because last time I checked, she was a relatively successful rapper in a genre that is not very embracing of female artists. If Iggy is attempting to say Azealia Banks’s attitude is to blame for not being as successful as her, she can attribute that to my previous discussion of White media pushing White artists deliberately. And if I hear one more half-assed defense out of T.I, I will go ahead and purchase him a cabin and call him Tom.

“Make it racial! Make it political!” she says. Like Q-Tip told her, it is. To which she replied, she knows. So… how was Azealia Banks making it anything other than what it was?

Last but not least, she basically purports to characterizing Azealia Banks as this tired stereotype of the angry Black woman. This is probably what annoys me most. Because Azealia Banks does not conform to “women’s speech” or some passive politically correct commentary because she has a valid argument about Iggy, who she feels represents a much larger issue, she is wholly, an angry Black woman responsible for her situation in society? Oh, cool.

If one did not find an issue with Iggy when she was singing songs like “Work” where she discusses her struggle growing up in places like Miami and carefully evaded any mention of Australia, and mimicking Clueless in her “Fancy” video, or felt that the Black listening audience was being unfairly critical by pointing out the issues with Iggy’s understanding or use of Black culture, I hope you can now see how she implicitly uses the very racist notions constantly recycled about the Black culture.

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