I have a confession to make. I’ve never heard an Iggy Azalea song, and I don’t plan to*.
Not just because she’s the latest White girl du jour the media is trying its hardest to make happen, but because I’ve pretty much deserted mainstream rap in favor of my own blend of golden era classics (circa 1990-2003), NPR, jazz, and (real) R&B. Despite this, I’m fairly confident that Forbes’ latest predication proves they should refrain from writing about hip-hop until they hire writers who know a little something about the culture.
Recently, the financial mag came under fire for declaring rapper Iggy Azalea “runs” hip-hop.
Move over Jay, Yeezy, Drake, Nicki, Kendrick, et al., Iggy got this. Or something.
In the provocatively titled article, “Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman” (which they’ve since changed to: “Hip-Hop’s Unlikely New Star: A White, Blonde, Australian Woman”), Hugh McIntyre writes:
Iggy Azalea is one of hip hop’s most exciting new artists, as well as one of the genre’s most unexpected success stories. Her rise to prominence is notable not only for what seems like its immediacy, but for how infrequently someone like her makes it to the top. If you’re not keeping up to date on your rap culture or much into top 40 radio, you should know that she is not your typical hip hop star.
Just a few weeks ago, her album “The New Classic”became the highest charting debut album by a female rapper since Nicki Minaj back in 2010, starting at number three. The position is impressive considering she is a brand new name in this country, and she had only achieved her first top 40 hit a few weeks prior.
In addition to her album’s success, just this past charting week she also became the first woman in hip hop to have two simultaneous hits in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. Her single “Fancy (ft. Charli XCX)” has quickly risen the ranks to number three, and she is featured on the new Ariana Grande cut “Problem”, which debuted at the same ranking last week and is presently sitting at number four. It is rare for any artist to achieve such a feat, let alone a female rapper.
McIntyre is correct, being a mainstream femcee is hard. While Eve, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, Da Brat, and Missy Elliot used to all share the airwaves, for the last few years Nicki Minaj has reigned supreme, fueled by her pop hits and her ability to get gutter and hang with the big boys (see: how she killed Kanye’s ‘Monster’). But to prematurely assert Azalea is somehow “running” rap because she’s had the highest-selling debut week of any female rapper since Minaj dropped Pink Friday is not only laughable, it’s also extremely naïve.
Firstly, Azalea’s The New Classic sold 52,000 copies in its opening week. Nothing to sneeze at, but compared to Minaj’s Pink Friday, which sold 375,000 in its debut week, it looks like child’s play (And next to Lauryn Hill’s 1998 juggernaut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her numbers look even more unimpressive). Moreover, trying to glean some sort of meaning from Azalea having the highest opening week for a female rapper since Minaj in a time when there have been few (or zero) mainstream rap albums by female rappers released renders McIntyre’s assertion even more problematic.
Next, to hold up Azalea’s current chart position as spectacular is, again, extremely misguided. While Azalea may have two songs in the top five of Billboard’s Hot 100, as Nicole Bitchie pointed out, before Minaj’s album even dropped she had seven songs charting—simultaneously—on Billboard’s Hot 100, and by April 2013 she became the most charted female rapper in history.
But never mind all that; we’ve seen this level of misguided adulation before. When Kreayshawn’s song “Gucci, Gucci” blew up YouTube, clocking nearly three million views in three weeks, folks were falling all over themselves to anoint her as the best new female rapper in the game. Blogs, radio stations, and mainstream publications like USA Today, Complex, the Village Voice, and Rolling Stone all tried to make Kreayshawn happen because she was a cute, quirky looking White girl in a world dominated by Black men. When the hype wore off, however, Kreayshawn sold a whopping 3,900 copies and folks forgot all about her.
While it’s unclear if Iggy Azalea, who’s songs can only be described as vocal blackface (uh, what’s with her “Black” accent?), will also fizzle out like the rest of the upstart White female rappers who were allegedly the next big thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if folks are asking, “Iggy, who?” this time next year.
*Note: I figured I couldn’t actually write this without listening to a few of her songs, so I broke down and listened.