I’ve held my tongue for quite some time about the big blonde elephant in the room–Iggy Azalea. Mostly because I am closeted fan, (I mean, have you heard “Fancy”?) but also because I just found out a few months ago, that she’s not a cornbread-fed Atlanta-bred rapstress. Iggy is from New South Wales and made her move to the States when she was 16. Where the heck is her accent? I realize that often in music, accents are not super apparent, but while Iggy’s ignoring her Australian tongue, she seems to be taking on a very thick southern accent, which has become her signature sound. To that, I say, do you–you being the operative word here.
I am a fan of music and often do not see color when listening to my favorite artists from around the world. I love genre-blurring artists like Quadron, Sam Smith, Aloe Blacc and VV Brown. None of these artists sound like what they look like or even what society tells us they should sound like based on their skin tone. Iggy falls right along into this generalization, but she takes it further by borrowing her sound from southern and Black Hip Hop culture. There is a thin line between borrowing and influence. White singers like Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake and Adele are obviously all heavily influenced by the greatest soul artists of our time, but no one is up in arms when they open their mouths to sing something that sounds a lot like R&B or soul music.
Let’s just pretend, for a moment that Iggy is simply influenced by Black Hip Hop culture. You can hear it in the way she raps, you can see it in the way she dresses and how she behaves, especially on stage and in her videos. I’m not upset that Iggy’s rap flow sounds a lot like molasses. I like it. Would her critics rather her rap about kangaroos in a thick Australian accent? In her defense, Iggy spent several years moving around the south–from Miami to Texas and Atlanta. People are influenced by what’s around them all the time. Are we really going to crucify her because she’s taking bits and pieces of her experience in the south and using it in her music?
In order to be effected by the way Iggy Azalea sounds, you would have to believe in the blanketed notion of “sounding Black.” When I was little, growing up in the hickory-sweet southern state of North Carolina, I was often accused of “talking White.” My -ing words would end with a “g,” “the” was never “da” and “like” was sprinkled throughout each sentence. “You talk like a White girl,” I’ve heard it from everyone from frenemies to my own mother’s lips. I took offense to that accusatory statement, often changing my annunciation to reflect a lazier tongue, leaving out syllables or endings of words, simply to stop being the butt of the jokes. Some would even call it “talking Black.” This is the diction that Iggy Azalea uses in rap. As a matter of fact, this is the diction that most, if not all rappers use when they’re stringing their words together.
Culture appropriation comes into play when singers like Miley Cyrus say out loud that she wants to make Black music. Iggy Azalea has been known to make a few questionably racist moves on social media. While expressing herself like everyone else on Twitter, she’d sometimes throw out tweets like, “Just saw 5 Black men get arrested out the front of popeyes. #damn #stereotypes” or “Owww studio. Me chief. You Indian. I speak…You listen.” While these tweets can certainly be deemed racist, they’re not malicious in intent. But this is precisely the fuel needed to light the fire of hate towards Iggy.
And before anyone gets any clever ideas–I am not acting as an advocate for Iggy Azalea. I am simply wondering what’s so wrong about a girl with Australian roots, who uses her southern influence in her rap career? And since when did we get offended when people are influenced by our powerful culture, Black folks? Isn’t imitation the sincerest form or flattery?