IGGY AZALEA – “The New Classic”
By Patrick Stein for NathanHaleWill.com
From Mullumbimby to Miami (and eventually L.A. by way of Atlanta), Iggy Azalea’s road to hip-hop stardom hasn’t been an easy one. Born Amethyst Amelia Kelly in Australia, she moved to the U.S. in 2006, just shy of her 16th birthday, to live and breathe in the birthplace of hip-hop. For the next five years, Azalea paid her dues and honed her craft, all the while desperate to break into a musical world not entirely welcoming of a beautiful and seemingly privileged white female emcee. Following the release of 2011’s Ignorant Art (featuring her viral breakout hit “Pu$$y”) and 2012’s Glory and TrapGold, the last two of which were released on T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records under the tutelage of the big man himself, the online music world was buzzing; and yet some hip-hop purists were still wondering: Where was the street cred? What tale could this chick possibly have to tell? Two years and a few delays later, we finally have the answer in the shape of her Def Jam debut The New Classic.
The album opens with what might very well be the emcee’s magnum opus, “Walk The Line.” Rolling thunder and a somber choir give way to soaring strings as she sings (yes, sings) the hook: “Not where I wanna be, but I’m far from home / Just trynna make it on my own / And unless destiny calls, I don’t answer phones / Ain’t no goin’ back now / This is the line and I walk alone.” The song not only chronicles her trials and tribulations (“I’ve been counted out, I’ve been stepped on / I was wide awake and got slept on / I had everything and then lost it / Worked my ass off, I’m exhausted”), but serves to set the tone for the rest of the album: it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the rapper. She’s gotten this far, and although the struggle might not be over just yet, she’ll prove to be the last one standing.
What becomes apparent just a few tracks into The New Classic is that Azalea, together with UK production collectives The Invisible Men and The Arcade, has created a pretty diverse soundscape to spit her verses over. This is a chick who obviously made the most out of continued album delays and label politics by taking the time to grow and get to know herself, both as a young woman and as an artist. From the Frank Ocean-esque “Don’t Need Y’all,” to the chopped-and-screwed, guitar-tinged “100,” to the dancehall banger “Lady Patra,” and the album’s closer, “F**K Love,” a quick lesson in self-reliance laced over a fresh go-hard-or-go-home dance beat, it all seems to come to her so effortlessly. It’s also clear that, like her contemporary Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea is a hip-hop artist who doesn’t underestimate the importance of a great hook (and, moreover, being able to take the reins and shine on that hook without any featured copilots).
On the T.I.-assisted “Change Your Life,” she encourages her beau, amidst a throbbing bassline, to upgrade his status and let her take him along with her on this wild ride of fame, fortune, and everything-in-excess. The album’s current breakout hit, “Fancy,” showcases a self-assured Azalea rapping double-time over a minimalistic synth track, which has garnered almost 17 million YouTube views with its music video homage to the 1995 cult teen comedy Clueless. And then there’s the album’s 2013 single “Work,” in which she chronicles, with a newly-acquired Dirty South drawl, her solo journey from Down Under and the following years spent on her hustle.
One of the album’s highlights, no doubt, is the moombahton-infused “Goddess.” Steel drums and island chants suddenly give way to a blaring chorus of female empowerment with enough sound effects to rival a sci-fi blockbuster. Kanye West’s influence on this cut is clear. It’s big and sweeping, and as the electric guitar hits during the epic bridge, it almost sounds as if it could have been featured on his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The second half of the album’s climax is “Black Widow,” featuring labelmate Rita Ora on the Katy Perry-penned chorus. It serves as the project’s next single, and with an uncanny similarity to Perry’s “Dark Horse,” one would hope it’ll have the same level of success at radio.
Having had this album on heavy rotation these last few days, it’s virtually impossible to pick just a handful of standout songs. If her label goes about it the right way (and invest in her the way a burgeoning artist of her caliber should be invested in), this project could be milked for many more singles. To all of Iggy’s mixtape enthusiasts: have no fear, that bravado of “Pu$$y” is still there, albeit a lot more polished and self-assured. And to the aforementioned hip-hop purists, the doubters and naysayers that still wonder what tale this white chick from Oz could possibly have to tell: her’s is a story of broken dreams, broken deals, and broken hearts; A tale of self-perseverance, of never giving up when the odds are stacked against you, and of emerging victorious. And that is a universal tale in and of itself.