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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Album review: Iggy Azalea – The New Classic

Azalea is willing to work hard to succeed, but she's presently going about it to the loss of her identity, which is what hip-hop is ultimately not about.
Iggy Azalea performs at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Amsterdam last year. Sven Hoogerhuis / AFP
Iggy Azalea performs at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Amsterdam last year. Sven Hoogerhuis / AFP

Iggy Azalea

The New Classic

(Island)

⋆⋆

As well as possessing a certain modicum of talent, another much touted rule of pop stardom is that you sometimes have to fake it to make it.

Such is the case with the young rapper of the moment, Iggy Azalea. The 23-year-old may hail from the Australian country town of Mullumbimby, but judging by her thick-as-grits drawl, you would have thought she’s from America’s South.

That is precisely the point. For those catching on to the rapper now, her bio reads like a typical Hollywood tale. Stifled by the artistic limitations of her hometown, she fled to the United States to pursue her dream of becoming a hip-hop artist. Influenced by the rise of Southern hip-hop, she adopted the accent to her talented nimble flow and generated street buzz through a string of racy singles.

It seemed inevitable that she got the attention of the Southern rap king T.I., who mentored her to basically sound like him: all big clattering beats, an elastic flow deftly moving from syrupy to snarl and the obligatory references to private jets and jewellery.

Her debut album, The New Classic, is the culmination of the transformation.

Through 15 tracks, Azalea makes her claim in a male-dominated field.

She dedicates the first salvo of tracks to the critics: over a foreboding choir and minimal guitar riffs in the arresting Walk the Line, Azalea states that success is the best revenge: “I just hopped off that Lear, my life on another tier / Lifting glasses for cheers, keep that hating out my ear.”

Don’t Need Y’all continues the confidence; Azalea switches it up by slowing the beat and quickening her flow as she warns there’s no room for hanger-ons as her star rises. The flow seems overdramatic, her studied accent stretching inconsequential words to their nth degree, but there is no denying the subdued chorus is an equal mix of sugar and menace.

It is the mixture of these two elements that is responsible for The New Classic’s lack of focus. With Azalea inexplicably deciding not to draw upon her interesting background for lyrical inspiration, she instead swings from being a raunchy party queen in 100 and Fancy before returning to remind us that she is all street and determined in Goddess and Work.

There are a few tracks that stand out, out of pure will: her Rita Ora collaboration, Black Widow, excites with its strong chorus and slithering beats, while Impossible Is Nothing is a moody ode to “keep on climbing, keep on reaching”.

The New Classic is capable of producing a summer hit or two, but despite its grand title, it is a wasted opportunity. Kudos to Azalea – she is willing to work hard to succeed, but she’s presently going at the expense of her identity, which is what hip-hop is ultimately not about.

sasaeed@thenational.ae