Amethyst Kelly (1990- ), better known as Iggy Azalea, is a White Australian rapper. She is best known for the song “Fancy” (2014), which went to #1 in the US, Canada and New Zealand and to #5 in Britain and Australia.
Azalea came to the US in 2006. She got fake breasts, a fake nose and a fake booty and rapped in a fake Black American accent. Her song “Fancy” went to number one in the US and stayed there for seven weeks in a row – outdoing both Lil Kim and Lauryn Hill, much less Nicki Minaj.
In the US, a bad imitation of a Black female rapper does better than the real thing.
And then came the award nominations, even from BET. She received four Grammy nominations, the top music awards in the US.
Azealia Banks, a Black female rapper from Harlem, was brought almost to tears:
“When they give these Grammys out, all it says to White kids is, ‘Oh yeah, you’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And what it says to Black kids is, ‘You don’t have shit, you don’t own shit, not even the shit you created for yourself.’ ….
“They’re trying to erase us, all of our books and scriptures and everything. Everything we are supposed to know about ourselves have gone, completely fucking gone, never to be seen again.”
Iggy Azalea dismissed this as envy and bigotry.
Q-Tip, who was rapping even before hip hop reached the suburbs of New York, much less Australia, patiently told Iggy Azalea, tweet by tweet, the history of hip hop, of why it matters to Black Americans, who have lost so much and have so little, yet have created a thing of “depth, fire, and brilliance”. Hip hop was for everyone, but its roots and history should be understood and respected.
Iggy Azalea dismissed that too, as patronizing and irrelevant:
Im also not going to sit on twitter & play hip hop squares with strangers to somehow prove i deserve to be a fan of or influenced by hiphop.
She did not care. She did not have to.
Sure, Black Americans started hip hop, it grew out of their experience in “the disparate ghettos of NY”, blah blah blah, but they were no longer the main audience. White people were. Whites have most of the music-buying dollars. They run the Grammys. White people determine what hip hop is. Welcome to cultural appropriation.
That process did not begin with Iggy Azalea or Macklemore or even Eminem. It goes all the way back to at least “Yo! MTV Raps” (1988-1995), created by and for White people in the disparate suburbs of America. In a broader sense, it goes back to Elvis in the 1950s, to minstrel shows in the 1800s, to blackface in the 1700s.
Iggy Azalea’s “verbal blackface” did not come out of thin air. Nor do her racist tweets. Nor does her belief that she is not racist because she “loves” other cultures and has family and friends of other races.
Thanks to Pumpkin for requesting this post.
– Abagond, 2015.
- hip hop
- cultural appropriation
- The disparate ghettos of NY
- Lauryn Hill
- “Some of my best friends are Black”
- Compare and contrast: Teena Marie
- Mock Ebonics