Iggy Azalea had a bad 2015. She feuded with Azealia Banks, canceled her tour, earned scrutiny from members of the hip-hop community (and most people in general) for her appropriation and disrespect of Black culture — and then Anonymous threatened to leak nudes if she didn’t apologize for it. So, the 25-year-old used her recent cover feature in Elle Canada to address these controversies head-on — including her exchange with Q-Tip back in December, when he took to Twitter to very reasonably explain hip-hop and its history. “So many people think that I don’t care about rap music and the community, but I absolutely care about it, to the core of my being,” she tells the magazine. “That’s why the Q-Tip incident annoyed me so much: Why do you think I need a history lesson? Because surely if I did know anything about hip-hop, I wouldn’t mix pop and rap together? Or I wouldn’t rap in an American accent if I truly understood?”
Her manifesto of regret feels more like a PR-sanctioned about-face than proof she's legitimately learned a life lesson.
“I just have a different perspective about rap music,” she continues. “I love learning about hip-hop, I love reading about it, and I actually love having debates with other people about it.” And therein lies the problem. While Azalea goes on to acknowledge that some of the criticisms against her are valid (and even admits she didn’t understand America’s racism problem until she found herself being confronted with her ignorance of it), she still doesn’t seem to see the big picture. She argues that she has more in common with the hip-hop community than we may think, simply because she knows about it. She claims to respect hip-hop and Black culture because she’s marrying a Black man. And then she says that, just because she chooses not to be political, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. Her understanding of why 2015 went awry seems to be surface-level — as if addressing every criticism we’ve had of her will help usher in her comeback a little more smoothly. But all of this happened within the past 365 days — it’s recent, and the wounds haven’t healed. Which means her manifesto of regret feels more like a PR-sanctioned about-face than proof she's legitimately learned a life lesson.
Although she’s right about one thing: If she’s not a political person or inspired to be political, she most definitely should stay away from making political music (please and thank you). Kind of like Katy Perry, whom she cites by asking, “Does Katy Perry have to start making songs about politics?” But unlike Perry, Azalea is still engaging with and capitalizing on Black culture without respecting it. (Meanwhile, Perry is still singing pop jams about last Friday night.) No one’s asking Azalea to begin rapping about systemic racism, but her choice to continue making the music she admits she got into after hearing and (ultimately) copying attests to a lack of true understanding. You can’t just say, “Yeah, I made some mistakes,” keep making them, and then defending each by saying, “Well, I know about hip-hop, and I love it, so...” A lot of people know about and love hip-hop. It doesn’t mean they can (or should) be rappers.
So at what point do we welcome a comeback? Or should we ever? Here’s the thing: Like all of us, Iggy Azalea is a person, and as a person, she will inevitably say and do stupid things. But that’s also no excuse if she doesn’t plan on changing. On top of that, she also tells Elle Canada that she wishes she could erase 2015 entirely, which tells me she’s nowhere close to processing the effects of her backlash. And if she’s so quick to want a year to disappear, it arguably means she’s also been unable to evaluate what went wrong and why. Right now, she seems to be in a reactionary place. Last year was a gong show, so she’d like to show everybody why they were wrong and why she was wrong and why she should rap — and she wants to do it now. But to turn around so quickly without taking time to really educate herself or engage on a real level with the community to which she’s trying to belong, she can’t possibly push past the issues that have aligned themselves with her.
Copying a genre-specific sound simply because she wanted to do so is cultural appropriation.
And you can tell by her reaction to Q-Tip’s more than compassionate tweets that she’s still embarrassed, which is fair (it’s embarrassing to be called out by an authority on a subject you claim to understand). But she’s still failing to see the real issue at hand: Copying a genre-specific sound simply because she wanted to do so is cultural appropriation. She is a white woman from Australia. It would be different if she were rapping that way. Which she isn’t. Via her follow-up, Iggy Azalea seems to be vying for approval without changing her approach, and that means that regardless of how many apologies she makes or truths she acknowledges, she’s perpetuating the appropriation cycle. And I’m sure Azalea isn’t a bad person, or a malicious person, and she doesn’t deserve death threats or anything criminal and terrible and scary. But I do think she is a person who is reacting to an inconvenient (for her) reality by keeping the blinders on and believing that acknowledgement is enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t. And until she takes some time to reflect on her choices and why it is she keeps defending her tendency to appropriate, she’ll never understand why she’s become such a polarizing figure, or how she can really change. And until she does, a comeback isn’t going to happen.