Okay, so I really don’t want this to be my thing like, I myself am bored of talking about race politics and pop culture, but people are still not getting it so, here’s another two pennies on the subject.
Firstly, let’s pretend Azealia Banks has nothing to do with this at all. Azealia’s well documented obnoxious attitude and objectionable personality makes it so easy for everyone to side-step a little personal examination and either ignore Iggy Azalea at best or commend her at worst for her truly beautiful and inspirational “You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To There Are NO Obstacles!” rhetoric. Hashtag: things that only white people say. Let’s ignore Banks, for now. Let’s go in clean.
Eminem, the most successful and prominent white rapper in the world, knows and has always known that though he may have had a hell of a lot to prove, his meteoric rise was because of his whiteness and not despite it. Sometimes he revels in it. Sometimes he is trite, if not apologetic. Eminem has so much talent. He truly is an exceptional rapper. But he knows that it is not his talent that allowed him to surpass his black peers, because he knows he is not The Best.
“let’s do the math / if I was black / I woulda sold half / I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln High School to know that” — taken from ‘White America’, by Eminem
Macklemore, another successful and prominent white rapper, is also pretty aware that he’s sweeping awards and accolades because he is a white man and not a black one. His uncomfortable apology to Kendrick Lamar after he won the Best Rap Album Grammy, while cringeworthy and questionable, at least shows that he has an ability to recognise that something in the water isn’t very clean. “Anyway, you know what it is.” Yep, he sure do. It is that Kendrick looks different to the vast majority of the record buying public in the Western world.
“look at these eyes / baby blue / baby just like yourself / if they were brown / Shady’d lose / Shady sits on the shelf” — taken from ‘White America’, by Eminem
Iggy Azalea, though. Firstly, I just need to sit down and breathe deeply for a second because I know this girl does not think that she is succeeding above Azealia, above Angel Haze, above NICKI MINAJ because she is more talented than they are. She cannot truly believe that. Iggy Azalea is no more of an accomplished rapper than Ke$ha. In fact, given those early videos that leaked of her trying hard to give her best Britney, I’m going to have to assume that, like a lot of girls these days who don’t have the looks or the voice or, perhaps, the skin colour, to succeed in pop, she has used rap to come at it the back way. She’ll be singing Rita Ora cast offs on her next record, mark my words.
Secondly, we need to address some differences between Eminem and Iggy. Eminem grew up “hip hop”. His life experiences, his socio-economic background and his circle of friends were “hip hop”. His experience of the genre (which is more than just rapping) is authentic. Iggy grew up in Australia and thought she liked hip hop because she knew the words to Left-Eye’s raps on TLC songs. Eminem raps in his own voice and rarely do you hear him using AAVE in his lyrics. Iggy adopts a blaccent she has no right to. Eminem used the platform he created to bring up other black talent, including his boys from back home, though of course it could be argued that was a tactical move (you can stay #1 white rapper forever if there are no others!). Iggy thinks black rappers just need to try harder and change their attitudes, because nothing is standing in their way!
“until I met Dre / the only one to look past / gave me a chance and I lit a fire up under his ass / helped him get back to the top / every fan black that I got / was probably his in exchange for every white fan that he’s got” — taken from ‘White America’, by Eminem
Thirdly, we need to talk about why Iggy is the catalyst for this discussion in the first place. Why Iggy and not Asher Roth, or Macklemore, or Mac Miller, or Yelawolf or even Brooke Candy or Kreayshawn? Well, the fault for this lies half with hip hop and half with a relentlessly white media. Hip hop’s fault is that female rappers struggle far more than their male counterparts to begin with. The media’s fault is because, I don’t know, Western society seems to be super unempathetic to anyone with brown skin?
To the point about hip hop and female rappers – the boys do not come for Macklemore the way the girls come for Iggy because a) Macklemore is not as abysmally untalented as Iggy and b) because the boys are doing alright regardless of whether Macklemore is around or not. The girls come for Iggy like this scene in Save The Last Dance. It’s not enough to have everything. Iggy had to come in with less than what they have and take the little that they’ve got.
As to the second point, if you want to do a quick google about the reactions to white people suddenly learning that Rue in The Hunger Games was a little brown girl and how that made them “not as sad” that she died, now would be the time to do it because I just can’t be arsed fishing for links for you right now. Or if you wanna get a little darker, let’s talk about how police mistake a 12-year-old black girl for a prostitute or a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun for a dangerous threat and beat on or kill them because it is proven that white people see black people as older and more unsympathetic. And then let’s apply this to why people are buying what are essentially Katy Perry songs with harder beats and nominating them for rap Grammys. Apply it to why the same people who say they “don’t get rap music” will bop to ‘Fancy’ or ‘Black Widow’ in their car. Why is that? White people, why do you only like things when white people do them?
And then to perfectly marry these two points, let’s allow J Cole to speak.
“I went to the iTunes Jazz page and I was like, ‘Oh!’ It hit me,” he said. “The entire page of iTunes Jazz is 99.7% white people. It’s fine; anybody could do whatever music they want, it’s art. Jazz is a black form of music in its origins. And not only is it a black form of music, it was the hip-hop of its day. It was that much of a rebellious music. It hit me: This is the point in time where you see that switch in hip-hop. It’s not Iggy Azalea’s fault. It’s not Eminem’s fault. And I don’t want to put Eminem in a category with anybody in terms of skill level. What I’m saying is, there comes a time when the system realizes that, I can sell this white person a lot easier — it’s no conscious person. I fast forward 20, 30 years from now, and I see hip-hop being completely white.”
Imagine you’re a black female wanting to make music. It’s still hard, but hip hop is the one area you know your blackness isn’t going to work against you, because hip hop and blackness are, for better or worse, synonymous. You created hip hop. It’s yours. Then imagine the future J Cole predicts.
And that’s why you get a tearful Azealia Banks talking about Iggy like this:
“when they give these Grammys out all it says to white kids is: you’re great, you can do whatever you put your mind to. And it says to black kids: you don’t have shit, you don’t own shit, not even the shit you created for yourself. And it makes me upset.”
So excuse me if Iggy’s refusal to “see race” even within her own fucking self makes my blood and my piss boil. Excuse me if her inability to be even a little bit introspective about her existence and her motivations prompts me to write way too many words on this fucking subject that in a just and right world I wouldn’t have to fucking consider ever. But most of all excuse me for raging because Iggy is walking this shit and not breaking a sweat while Nicki Minaj fights for every speck of recognition and credit she receives and Iggy has the nerve to think it’s because she’s destined for it. Be more fucking white supremacist in your ideology, Slavemaster Iggy. I fucking dare you.