Iggy Azalea’s fake Georgia drawl grows heavier by the year. The 23-year-old Australian rapper is the darling of Southern hip-hop-moving to Miami from Australia at age 15 and hopscotching along the Bible Belt, since Azalea emerged from a life of poverty, establishing herself as one of the preeminent female rappers working in a genre dominated by men. Azalea’s studio debut is largely an effort to reclaim that storied past-The New Classic is Azalea’s Cinderella story. Ironically, however, it’s a very materialistic record.
A self-made, amorphous entrant to the Southern hip-hop scene, Azalea perhaps too readily adopted the prevailing attitudes of American hip-hop culture. She carves out her place in the popular music lexicon with gutted messages. The New Classic is Azalea’s how-to on getting rich, and its attitude toward the poor is actually quite ruthless.
In “Impossible is Nothing,” one of the 15-track collection’s preachier moments, Azalea exposes just how comfortable she is with inconsistent ideas. In a single track, she gives a condescending take on the poor (“Success is what separates you from the have-nots / And have all of these haters at your neck like an ascot”), and then criticizes the “sell outs” (“Promise to blaze a path and leave a trial for the next / And never sell out my soul for any number on a check”).
What she lacks in thematic integrity, Azalea could have easily picked up for in wit-she does not. Tactless lines are delivered with misplaced confidence throughout the 52-minute LP. Bland, joyless metaphors are the centerpiece of Azalea’s lyrical style. Azalea trails lines like “Focus, keep eyes open, victory never sleeps” or “I’m a debut / You’re a deja vu” with awkward pauses, as if to suggest something so impressive was just spoken that listeners might need a hot second to cool off. We never do.
Azalea never tries to reject the caricature hip-hop creates of women, and if anything, she does a fair bit to exploit it. In “New B-h,” Azalea talks about entering a relationship with a man for his money, moving into his “big house,” interrupting his life with his family, and taunting his exes. There’s nothing especially liberating about the track, nor does it have anything new to offer on its subject. Azalea’s exhaustive references to wealth distance her from an adverse past that potentially could have made The New Classic a great record. The rags-to-riches story wears thinner with each miscalculated reference, and in time, the frayed fabrics of the artist are exposed.
Put bluntly, Azalea doesn’t seem to be making music on her own terms. The themes of The New Classic are heavily recycled, and while Azalea directly, frequently characterizes herself as doing something different with this album, she never convinces.
Considering all The New Classic‘s glaring flaws, Azalea does remain a likable artist. The album benefits from two standout tracks, “Black Widow” and “Work.” The overwhelming appeal of these couple songs, however, makes the rest of the album suspect.
In part, the shortcomings of The New Classic can be explained by hip-hop’s unrealistic expectations of women. It’s no coincidence that the most successful female rappers are all willing to make music videos about their behinds-it’s an unspoken requirement of the genre, and Rick Ross and other male rappers (of varying physique) are lucky to be on the other end. More than any other mainstream genre, hip-hop is saturated with male artists-to Azalea’s credit, she’s carved out a place for herself in an industry in which there normally would be none.
Handling the long list of expectations keeping women from succeeding in hip-hop is no easy task, and respectively, the women that do make it in the industry are almost inevitably more talented and well rounded than their male contemporaries. Azalea, however, is too quick to pick up that Georgia drawl, and while her presence in the Top 40 has certainly been felt, it’s not clear that presence will ultimately mean anything.