Female rappers are a hot commodity right now: Angel Haze, Dominique Young Unique, Gita, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, Pink Dollaz... the list is growing day-by-day, and the calibre is astounding – in an age where Weezy is flailing, Pitbull exists and Kanye is deifying himself, it's up to the women of the rap world to further the genre and produce good music rather than just sell merchandise/pander to themselves. Azealia and Angel are even bringing back proper feuding. Sort of. Obviously there are male up-and-comers, but frankly they've been eclipsed. Australian rapper Amethyst Amelia Kelly, AKA Iggy Azalea, is a fierce contender in this new breed, storming the charts this past week with her electric brand of Southern hip-hop.
'Work' is anthemic, pure and simple; encroaching upon the Top 40 it's clear that she has mainstream chops. Her flow is impeccable, and instead of just opting for the done-to-death spiels of braggadocio and capitalist bluster, she has woven a tale of her humble beginnings where she found herself alone in Miami aged 16 after pretending to go on holiday with a friend. It's all very 8 Mile, and her rags-to-riches background only serves to enlarge her appeal – she's not some poor little rich girl from the suburbs, she's genuinely clawed her way up from near homelessness to a Nas-mentored face of Levi Jeans and worldwide phenomenon. Even the Daily Mail likes her. All by the ripe old age of 22 and without a proper LP.
One of the best facts about her past is how she got her rap handle: Iggy was the name of her childhood dog, Azalea was the street she grew up on. It's her high-school 'pornstar' name. She's well-versed in classic hip-hop and rap: she cites Tupac, Andre 3000 and Missy Elliot as inspirations, and has said that from 11 that she knew she wanted to live in the USA, knowing she “felt like an outsider” down under. When she finally managed to make the move, she surrounded herself in Southern hip-hop staying around Texas, Florida and Georgia to hone her craft. She has a distinctly deep-south drawl when rapping, and it would be easy to mistake her for a native... until she speaks. That Aussie twang ain't goin' nowhere.
Her critically lauded trilogy of mixtapes/EPs: Trap Gold, Glory and Ignorant Art have lured a cult following behind her. They're a loyal band of stans keyboard warrioring in her name on Tumblr and ensuring her success. She's been likened to Lana Del Rey in terms of appeal and razor-sharp style, and like a chiseled Portia De Rossi, she's snapped necks by merely walking by. She's even on the Wilhelmina modelling roster, alongside, erm, Fergie and Natasha Bedingfield. With her striking features, every photoshoot and PR stunt looks like a montage from Paris Fashion Week. The callipygian starlet is even poised to usurp the Minaj/Kardashian booty crown. Iggy Azalea is the complete package, taking on all comers by attacking every angle of the zeitgeist.
A$AP Rocky must've noticed some of that glimmer, as the pair made headlines with their cloak-and-dagger tryst many times in 2011/2012 – Azalea finally put the rumours to rest when she tweeted her Long Live A$AP finger tattoos (a plan which, as with basically all relationship-based ink, turned out to be a bit of a mistake). However, while that Pretty Mother Fucker was out doing his thing, the pair split acrimoniously and she leapfrogged him to stardom; while he dropped a wholly mediocre debut, she was propelled into the hype machine.
Of course, she's bound to accrue some haters. One gung-ho critic even had a few pops. After Azalea featured on the cover of XXL's yearly Freshman cover, and they snubbed Azealia Banks, Banks went on the offensive lambasting Azalea with arguably racist statements. Azalea defended Perez Hilton during the Azealia/Perez spat, and fairly eloquently to boot: “[Banks] says shit about fucking anything. She called Perez Hilton a faggot. I think she trivialised gay culture... I don't think anything about that girl man, she fucking talks shit out of her arse and that's her business.” The swift fingers of Banks followed and she started firing potshots via Twitter, clamouring for a shred of attention. Other rumours include a supposed fling with Kanye West: “I didn’t know we were having an affair until I was like in the grocery sure, buying chicken...” As Azalea has lurched into the public eye, the mill has inevitably begun circulating.
Mercury have recently snapped her up (Azalea's third label, after Wine-O and Grand Hustle), beating down Interscope and Def Jam. After the plaudits rolled in for her Glory EP, it was only a matter of time before she went major label. From her opening gambit, 'Pu$$y', towards 'Work', her latest effort, Azalea's style has been unique. T.I. has been a fan from the start. She's collaborated with Pusha T, Steve Aoki and Mike Posner. She blends hip-pop/hipster-hop with the territorial LA/Atlanta styles that she's been influenced by since traversing the Gulf states. Her brand of music is still gratuitously Southern, but injected with samples of Sleigh Bells, Niki & The Dove and Foster The People, hacked'n'slashed synths and post-dubstep percussion. Her tracks are as much about melody as the rhyme – even if she has something to get off her chest, which she usually does, she can craft a blimmin' great chart-stormer with it.
It's becoming abundantly clear with each subsequent release that we've got an icon in the making on our hands. Her scrapped/forthcoming album title is staggeringly apt: The New Classic. If 'Work' and her current endeavours are signifiers of anything, it's that Iggy Azalea, far from falling victim to the rap game, will become a household name, a fairytale beacon for dejected runaways, and a dominant force within the realms of fashion and music.