iggyazalea

Why Does Australia Hate Iggy Azalea?

Iggy Azalea, a born-and-raised rural Australian from Mullumbimby, is arguably the hottest pop-culture commodity in the world right now. Her hit single ‘Fancy’ has been #1 on the Billboard Singles Chart for six weeks, longer than any single by any female rapper in history. She’s smashed records and expectations, and not just records and expectations that have to be prefaced with ‘the first white/female rapper to do X’; she recently held the #1 and #2 positions on the Billboard Chart, a record equalled only by the gosh-darn Beatles.

So why don’t we, as Australians, really like her very much?

Tall Poppy Syndrome And The Cultural Cringe

Usually we love it when Aussie artists succeed in the U.S. — it’s such a source of pride that we’re even willing to pretend that successful New Zealanders are Australians so we can feel proud of ourselves when they succeed too.

Well, we feel proud to a point. At some stage, after years of loving and nurturing support from the Australian people, the poppy gets a bit too tall and we begin hacking our international stars back down to size. Barry Humphries, INXS, Germaine Greer, Steve Irwin — our nation’s schizophrenic relationship with stardom gets them all eventually.

Azalea hasn’t followed this course. She left Australia at 16 and found success in America before we as a nation even knew who she was; effectively, she’s skipped the stage in which we’re surprised by and chuffed with her success, and moved straight on to being eviscerated by our press. Take, for instance, this article in the Guardian Australia which makes the case that she’s “the least important thing to happen to Aussie hip-hop” before claiming that Azalea is a “truly rubbish rapper” and that “any one of a dozen artists could have made ‘Fancy’”.

If that’s not enough, check this Sydney Morning Herald piece that lists a series of attacks the press has made upon Azalea, and sort of defends her — though it’s also worth noting a quick search through the SMH‘s website reveals that the stories they’ve chosen to publish regarding Azalea have been overwhelmingly negative or critical.

The press isn’t disconnected from the word on the street; as a culturally aware, Coopers-drinking, flanny-wearing, twenty-something Australian, actually liking Iggy Azalea is simply not the done thing. Merely mentioning her name to one’s fellow culturally aware, Coopers-drinking, etc. peers is enough to make said peers wince, as though her nomenclature were a bad smell.

So why don’t we like her?

Cultural Appropriation And The White Girl Problem

Maybe it’s because we take umbrage with how she’s changed her accent to succeed overseas; we think this is culturally insensitive, and shows that she isn’t a credible artist. Maybe we believe that, because she’s made some insensitive remarks in the past, she really is a racist, and a sexist, and that she’s homophobic.

Those are all quite good reasons not to like somebody, but they’re almost certainly not the real reason we don’t like Iggy Azalea. As a nation, we still express tremendous warmth and enthusiasm for people who’ve said bigoted things. Also, changing your accent when you sing isn’t something we’re willing to actively condemn other Australian artists for (we like Sia, for Christ’s sake).

Maybe we genuinely don’t believe it’s appropriate for Iggy, a white woman, to shamelessly appropriate African-American culture. However, it’d be the first time since before Elvis that a whitey stealing from black culture had genuinely lessened this nation’s affection for an artist. Eminem? Macklemore? Vampire Weekend? Paul Simon? Ring any bells?

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Triple J And The Australian Indie Hype Machine

So what really, really, is the underlying reason that we’ve not warmed to Iggy Azalea?

My theory is that we’ve rejected her because she rejected us first, and our feelings are still hurt.

Azalea left Australia at 16, and moved to Miami to become a rapper. Why? Because, and she’s on the record about this, she didn’t like Australian rap music, and didn’t believe it was worth staying in Australia to pursue that dream; according to her, “a lot of the rappers in Australia…were so stereotypically Australiana that even I couldn’t identify with it. I think a lot of people thought that. It was trying so hard to be Australian that I can’t actually fucking take it.”

Ouch.

That was her original sin, for which she has not been forgiven.

According to JPlay.com.au, a website that documents Triple J playlists, Iggy Azalea has almost never been played on the station. While Iggy sometimes does get a run during House Party mixes and Mix Up Exclusives on Friday and Saturday nights, one would expect a female rapper with no record label push behind her, with a brand new viral, organic YouTube hit, rapping over dubstep when dubstep was a big Triple J thing, to get a bit more love from one of the biggest vehicles for Australian hip-hop in the last two decades.

All of this makes Iggy Azalea’s rise that much more interesting — as has been covered before,  gaining indie cred in Australia without Triple J’s approval is virtually impossible. She’s breaking ethnic, cultural and gendered barriers not with the support of cultivated opinion, but in spite of it, and with its active detraction. She’s not received any advantage from the progressive press on behalf of personality-politics warriors, because personality-politics warriors and the progressive press really, really don’t like her.

And yet she’s still succeeding. Even when Azalea has been handicapped in Australia because the critical mass of ‘trendy’ opinion is monopolised against her, she’s still doing better, even strictly within this country, than virtually any Australian rapper before her. She’s not only the first Australian rapper to achieve any real success in America; she’s the first Australian rapper to achieve any real success in Australia without the active support of a taxpayer funded broadcaster.

Maybe that’s why, because of as well as in spite of all her gaucheness, I, a Coopers-Drinking, Junkee-reading Australian twenty-something really, really like her.

Iggy Azalea has no indie cred at all, which means she has far, far more indie cred than anybody else.

James McCann is a a stand up comedian, and is the cowriter and composer of the multi-award winning ‘Wolf Creek the Musical’. His debut comedy album is available here.

  • Scarlett Harris

    I know what she said about Australia has apparently been her kiss of death, but I can actually empathise with where she’s coming from. I can’t relate to stereotypical “Australiana” either, and while Australia on the whole is an incredibly lucky place to live (let’s face it, be born into, as we’re certainly not trying to let anyone unluckier than us reap our rewards), it does have its downfalls, some of which are tall poppy syndrome and isolation, which Azalea has experienced.

    • Sooky Das

      Let’s face it. Her comments re “Australiana” appears she was only trying to project her difficulty with ambitions/dreams of being a ‘Rapper’ around “Australiana” small town like Mullumbimbi. Not meaning to offend. It’s just a fact. I “Get” Her. Although she mentions praise on her High School teacher who fortunately for her, in the right place at the right time – (Mullumbimbi), taught her students “Rap”. So nothing was ‘affected’ by “Australiana” there.

  • Marcus Whale

    I don’t think anyone rocks quite such an outrageously fake blaccent. Her popularity is a grotesque and perverse indictment of how the world prefers white versions of black culture.

  • Kritten

    How does Vampire Weekend fit into that list? Asking that as someone who can only reference two of their songs.

    And I like Iggy’s music, in spite of the artist. Don’t care about her opinion of Australia, or shameless appropriations, but at every given opportunity she comes off as overwhelmingly ignorant. Though the shameless appropriation does add a level of ick to that.

  • mcfly

    I don’t know if this article is a joke or is written by some 13yr old teeny bopper that classifies Azalea as a person who makes good music. The fact that fancy has been at the top of the charts for 6 weeks is actually sad and that the Beatles even got mention in a reference with Azalea makes me fucking sick, “i said, Baby, I do this, I thought that you knew this.” Can’t stand no haters and honest, the truth is And my flow retarded, each beat did depart it Swagger on stupid, I can’t shop in no department.”
    wow… lyrical genious, azalea is really taking it up another notch compared to every other ‘pop rapper’ i really enjoy the change.
    The aussie rap game is looking for more then a fake voice, swag, and another person just following a trend. When we are older and listen back on our music will you be saying that fancy is a classic? i doubt it!
    raps not pop if you call it that just stop.
    mcfly.

  • rhymeandreason

    Iggy has not been “handicapped” by the unfavourable press because her fan-base consists largely of an audience too young to notice negative opinions published by media outlets geared towards 20-somethings.

    Iggy is an okay rapper whose surprise success has been facilitated by her physical appearance, a catchy Charlie XCX hook and an Ariana Grande piggy-back-ride.

    To compare her Billboard chart feat to that of The Beatles’ is misleading. The Beatles achieved the #1 and #2 spot as a stand-alone act who wrote, produced and performed both hit songs. Azalea had no creative input in the production of “Fancy”, nor did she write or perform its chorus, while she only makes a 16-bar guest appearance on Ariana Grande’s “Problem”.

    Furthermore, her placement on the Ariana record was more than likely a synergetic marketing move by Universal Music (the recording home of both performers) than an artistic pairing.

    Iggy must offer up a record whose success is dependent on her own contribution to it before discerning listeners will celebrate her as an artist. A cute music video, hollow accolades and a catchy hook – which she had nothing to do with – will only endear her to so many.

    • Daria

      All the excuses, yikes.

  • Rennie Foster

    I’m not Australian, and I also think she is awful. It’s just really bad taste. The only thing endearing about it, is that it’s very popular. Her lyrics, presentation, appropriated accent, etc. are so blatant and superficial, it actually scares me that it is “accepted” by society. It is proof to me that N.America really loves black culture, when it has a pretty white face, and a good amount of parody and disrespect involved. As for her “record breaking” charting, it is only shameful really, as it is very obvious that it would not be possible if she was an authentic, black, American hip-hop artist. That says A LOT about our society, and nothing good IMO.

    • Lee

      People are just sheep they like everything new that comes out. These days, doesn’t matter what it is

    • Paige Anderson

      Unfortunately, I’m from America and this is very true :(
      I like bands with a real style and meaning behind their lyrics (Bastille, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons) rather than the typical lyrics about being trashy (white, black, or frankly any trash) and having sex/smoking drugs. It’s such a shame that because of the ‘industry’ making this happen, that many teenagers today are doing the same things as they are because they think that people like Iggy are role models

  • katie

    I just simply think her songs are shit.

    • Lee

      Total shit

  • Jonesy

    Maybe because the sound she makes (I think it was meant to be music) is as bad as having glass shards shoved in your ears?

  • daniel dewar

    My favourite moment of hers was when she said that Aboriginal people destroy government housing because they prefer to sleep outside and don’t want to live like ‘us’.

  • Daria

    Great article, props for saying what’s not “cool” these days. Iggy worked hard to get to where she is and deserves all the success.

  • melanielaw35

    Mr McCann,

    Did it ever cross your mind that Australians don’t like Iggy because she just doesn’t appeal to us? Or that her music really isn’t that great? Or that she’s just annoying and fake? To be honest I had no idea she was Australian, or of the comments she made on Australian Rap music.

    I did not base my dislike for her on any of the reasons you mentioned above. I had my own reasons and most of it came down to personal taste.

  • Laylah Lauree

    Anyone who truly loves the hip-hop culture would never support iggy azalea. She is duplicating what she has seen and NOTHING about her is authentic. TI should be ashamed for not owning up to ghost writing for her when several repeatable sources know he did. See let me brake it down. White people and many other cultures, but especially whites envy Black people to the core of their very being. It wouldn’t matter what iggy azalea sounds like the fact that she is white and gives white people a white face to connect with in hip-hop will give her fans, why because people especially white people DO see color. Black people as a whole did not except Elvis because they saw he was fake and was stealing black style and music at a time where Blacks had very few rights. Blacks tend to respect Eminen because although he is performing a style they have created he doesnt try to sound Black and he respects the game and gives credit where credit is due, which is something elvis never did. Iggy is just plane disrespectful and is not at all talented. He persona, style, sound, and lyrics are anything but authentic. If we as lovers of the hip hop culture embrace this mockery, we will have taken ourselves back 60 years. Keep true hip hop alive and call this imposter out.

  • Jane

    Can Vampire Weekend be classified as “stealing from black culture”? I think they’re brilliant, I’m just misunderstanding the classification I guess…

  • Sooky Das

    As Australian myself, I’m tired of this ‘tall poppy’ ‘cultural cringe’ crap that the media love to drive so much, just to fill ‘copy’. Afterall, they created it. So they continue it. It doesn’t even exist! It’s such a terrible image that our O/S artists may see us as feeling bitter & twisted about them. It’s just not true. We love that they are succeeding. Power to Them!

  • Sooky Das

    And, James McCann (author of this article). “Hate” is a pretty strong word. Maybe those in circles boozing around in a pub don’t mind being included as a “Hater” by your “bad” Self, but don’t assume licence to paint us all with your filthy brush thankyou.

  • Jay

    As an Aussie and huge fan of Australian hip hop, I think the reason we don’t like Shitty Azalea is because her sound is awful and our hip hop scene has developed well past anything she’s putting out. Australian hip hop has come a long way in the past 15 years; there are so many artists creating good music with intelligent rhymes and incredible beats. Iggy Azalea is just a hybrid of Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani (pretty blonde girl making aggressive and vapid rap noise). I like to think Australians as music fans have simply gotten too old and cultured for this kind of shit. Her music assaults the senses and is only appreciated by those too young to know better or Americans. That’s not a poke at the US, but having been a fan of hip hop since childhood, I can say quite comfortably that Aussie hip hop has continued to grow and develop while the American scene has really stagnated (just look at Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye, etc.) There are some good US rappers still making hits, but most of them are established veterans. I haven’t been excited about a new American artist in years whereas the Aussie hip hop scene is thriving (Remi, One Day, the Big Village crew, the Golden Era crew, the Elefant Trax family). Iggy Azalea has adopted the most commercial sound around, appropriating the shit she hears on the radio and getting TI (a rapper who was once worth respecting) to ghostwrite lyrics for her. There’s nothing behind her as an emcee; her lyrics are awful and show no skill or intellect, her beats are borderline annoying, and her image has been used and abused by countless video hoes before her. I can’t speak for all Aussies, but I know real hip hop heads hate Iggy because she’s an insult to our culture.
    Peace

    • technoreaper

      Australian hip-hop? I hope to god that I never hear this shit.

      • Jay

        No one asked to you listen to Aussie hip hop and yet here you are reading a story about the Aussie rapper this country is trying to disassociate itself from