Australian hip-hop artist Iggy Azalea's "Pu$$y" has made her famous (calm down, it's just a song, guys). But if you take the striking blonde's raunchy subject matter at face value, then you've got it all wrong. At just 21 years old, the eager artist is surprisingly self-aware amidst the hip-hop game, and has fostered enough ambition to get herself out of small town Australia and into the favor of T.I.'s label, Grand Hustle.
Whether it's rumors of a romance with A$AP Rocky, racial contention with Azaelia Banks, or hype for her upcoming full-length debut, The New Classic, on Interscope Records, Iggy Azalea's platinum ponytail is one we've come to recognize and--on the eve of her Minneapolis show at the Fine Line--Gimme Noise took some time to chat with the outspoken Aussie.[jump]
Gimme Noise: The last couple of years have been a whirlwind for you. How has the success affected you personally or changed the creative outlook you have on your music?
Iggy Azalea: I personally think it's a double-edged sword. I always wanted to have this but there are a lot of things and sacrifices that come with it that I've had to make. A lot of sacrifices you have to make you know you have to, but it hard when you actually have to do it. But I'm just really glad to be doing it, you know? It's a dream come true so I'm happy every day that I get to wake up and record music and know that that's my job.
Sure. From what I understand even at a young age you were fairly confident that you would eventually have an established rap career. At what moment in your young life did you come upon that realization?
That's funny because I used to write raps by myself and wouldn't tell anybody but I remember the first times I showed my friends and they said they liked my raps. We made a group together and we went to a music festival that was actually at a public swimming pool. We stood up on the open mic and did a song a capella because we didn't know how to be instrumental. I started writing music and writing raps that were developed from poetry so I didn't understand how to use beats. But, we got up together and did a song and a few people came up to us and said that they liked it and that it was 'dope' and it was then that I thought "ahhh I'm gonna do this forever."
I like the image of this all going down at a public swimming pool...
Haha! You know it just really connected with me. When you have something that you're passionate about it can be instantaneous. I don't think that there's necessarily a lot of logical sense behind it in terms of actually being good at it. Maybe that's why you see so many people on American Idol who really, really think they are the next Beyonce and they suck, but it's because they're passionate about it and I think that blinds you to the reality of how plausible it is. I just decided I was going to be this, even if it was seemingly improbable at the time.
It seems also--in your case particularly--that you grew up in a place that sort of demanded blind ambition. You didn't have the scene necessary to cultivate the career you wanted. You had to think outside of your own country.
Right. I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Where I'm from doesn't really have a scene for cultivating much of anything. Anything you want to be seems pretty impossible, you know? Being president of a humongous company or being a big bank broker or being a rapper, they all seem equally impossible when you are from a small town.
Your early involvement and fascination with rap was tied to hanging out at Sudanese refugee villages just outside of where you grew up. How did you seek out that community?
Everybody who's from Australia kind of knows about it. There's no scene in Australia involving hip-hop or rap music that doesn't involve Sudanese refugees. They make up a large percentage of the people in the country who like hip-hop. Most people in Australia like dance music. The Sudanese took hold of hip-hop. They were the ones creating events and they had such a strong sense of community. If you like it, it's sort of the only place to go and it's very much alive.
Now, inevitably, public attention has its pros and cons. The media have fixated upon the recent "tiff" between you and rapper Azaelia Banks. What's your response to the people branding you a racist? Note: the song "D.R.U.G.S." opens with Iggy rapping the line: 'I'm a runaway slave...master'
People who think that probably will never be receptive to anything I do, whether I said that line or not. I like satire and I like to use it as a social commentary in the same way that I use sex as a way to comment on social things. I don't know, I don't really think too much about it. Everything isn't for everyone and I can't tell you if you're wrong or right for feeling a certain way about that but I'm definitely not racist. I can't spend all day proving a point to someone who probably isn't interested in what I make or supporting my music. I've just got to let those people live, you know? They've got to let me live too--I'm sure they hate to--but they've got to.
So, some people just don't get you or the satire of your attitude?
Yeah, certain people can't separate art from real life and I understand that maybe it's harder to do that with hip-hop because it's more of a straight-handed view of your life. It's not so metaphorical. There's a big emphasis on 'this is what happened; this is real life!' So, when you do say things that are metaphorical or say things that didn't really happen it just seems to be more of a problem because I don't think that there's that separation. I like pop art which often uses objects as social commentary. That's what I was trying to do with "D.R.U.G.S." but I don't think people think too much in depth about why you're saying it. They heard it and jumped to conclusions. Sometimes there's an underlying theme.
Sometimes the plight to be overly socially conscious gives us blinders.
Right! And it's like: uhh, I don't know. I just think life is ignorant and media is ignorant and they try so hard to be politically and socially correct or conscious but in doing that it somehow ends up still tainted or ignorant. Perception isn't broad enough to be a true mirror of actual reality. I find that to be so funny, which is why I'll say ignorant shit to poke fun at the whole situation. Even in me throwing money at my shows--I think there's something entirely ignorant about that--but in the same way there is something so hilarious and ironic about it. Not everybody will understand it I guess.
I think also that you simply haven't been around long enough. They don't understand that you're more self-aware than you're given credit for.
I just like kitschy things! I like things that are so bad that they're good. Life is so sad it's funny and I'm just interested in that and I like rap music and art and using rap music as a new form of pop art. In "PU$$Y" I'm poking fun at sexuality with the ice creams and the dog with the hard-on, things like that. I think that women and sexuality and the media's concept of what's okay for that is so funny to me, which is why I did that video. A lot of people don't realize that. They just think 'oh, she's really nasty!' I still like to make things palatable on a surface level too so it doesn't matter if you get it or if you don't
Controversy aside, how are you feeling on the brink of your full-length debut on a major label?
I don't know! My album's not done yet so I can't really say. On surface level I'm just excited to have a project that's done. I don't think I'll ever feel like a real artist until I have an album out so I'm just waiting for that day. I truly do think that everything is all hype and perfection and opinion until you have an album out and you can show something for it, some actual numbers to show success.
It's like you said earlier this year: you need that floor length fur coat and a bunch of small dogs...THEN you'll feel like a rap artist.
Yeah! I'm gonna walk in fur coat with a bunch of dogs in a video. I love stuff like that. I was just saying yesterday I want to have a video where I get spanked by Elvis. It'd be so funny. When I was young there would always be these old movies that would come on TV on Sundays and I remember for some reason this movie where Elvis goes to Hawaii (1961's Blue Hawaii). I don't know if it's true but it's in my memory. He has a girlfriend or a girl and she does something he doesn't like and there on the beach and he puts her over his knee and gives her a spank! I think the change from women being sexually repressed to the way they are sexualized now is so different. I want to recreate that in the video.
I hope that becomes a reality.
It so will, but it has to be in a tiki room. That stuff was popular around that time and It makes me think of Elvis. It has to be really kitschy and tacky. I have to get spanked by Elvis in a tiki room.
It's good to have dreams.
I know! I think I have the greatest dreams. We'll see how people react to that, though...
Iggy Azalea plays the Fine Line Music Cafe tonight with BDotCroc, The Lioness & The Chalice at 8:00 p.m. 18+ $20.