Iggy Azalea...Rap Music and the New Minstrel Show. . . August 25 2014

Is "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea a breakthrough in music or just the same old "minstrel show?"

When I first heard the song "Fancy" a friend had downloaded it on her IPod as her "workout" jam.  I loved it, the words made you want to work out harder for that elusive goal of a perfectly toned body and people falling at your feet as you stepped out into the club/office/world looking F-I-E-R-C-E!  I couldn't tell who the rapper was on the song, I imagined Missy Elliot or Nikki Minaj.

So, imagine my concern when I turned on a televised awards show to see this new rapper, Iggy Azalea, and could NOT find her on the stage.  I mean, I heard her rapping, but I could NOT find her!  I just didn't SEE Iggy!  Perhaps, she was off to the side, assuming a typical position for a "hype man" in a rap production.  Maybe she was by the DJ rapping as he was dropping the beat for her.

Then, I saw this blond woman rapping like a sister from the "dirty south" sounding every bit the part of someone who I would have thought was an African American urban rap artist.

I felt foolish.  I felt deceived.  But then I REALLY thought about it . . .

and I got PISSED!

I found out that Iggy Azalea was breaking all of the Billboard hit lists (only the second act - SINCE THE BEATLES).  She held BOTH the Number 1 AND the Number 2 positions on the chart!  

Serious stuff.

But I could never get past the fact that I somehow resented her success.  Did I resent the fact that her popularity was based upon her novelty as an artist?  How many women rappers, much less, white women rappers from Australia are there?  Was the hype about her due to the fact that she sounded so "black" when she rapped?  No, it wasn't because she was a white rapper taking on this genre, but more because she rapped in a different voice and tone than was her native Australian accent.  Why?  Why would she take on this accent when she rapped.  It reminded me of Amos and Andy from the radio.  Two white guys taking on an "affected" tone and speaking style when they spoke in the voices of their radio personas.  Clearly, there are white rappers who do not assume such a tone, Eminem comes to mind.  Tina Marie, the protege of Rick James, did not seem to take on an affectation when she sang, although many confused her as being a black singer when she first hit the scene. I don't resent Tina Marie.  I do not resent the success of either Eminem or Tina Marie (or Hall and Oates, Bobbi Caldwell and other "blue-eyed soul" singers) but the difference between them and Iggy Azalea is that Iggy Azalea seems very much to be a "manufactured" product of the rap industry.  Very much like the "boy bands" of the 90's which continue on to this day, she seemed to be the product of a "formula" for success orchestrated by her mentors.

Consider the actual rap verses that she "spits" out in her song "Fancy":

You should want a bad bitch like this (huh?)
Drop it low and pick it up just like this (yeah)
Cup of Ace, cup of Goose, cup of Cris . . .

and this
So get my money on time, if they not money, decline
I just can’t worry ‘bout no haters, gotta stay on my grind
Now tell me, who that, who that? That do that, do that?
Put the paper over all, I thought you know that, knew that
I be the I-G-G-Y, but my name in bold
I been working, I’m up here with some change to throw. . .

The verses seem pretty much like a formula.  A series of "catch phrases" strung together to create a catchy and popular tune.  A far cry from the origins of rap music as a socio-political statement, street

But then another voice resonated in my head.  How would I feel about a black or brown actor taking on the affected voice tone of an English aristocrat in a Shakespearean production?  Wouldn't I applaud the casting of an actor based merely upon his or her ability to transport us to another place and time through their acting talent.  If I believed it was OK for others to take on an affectation in furtherance of their art, how could I deny this to Iggy Azalea?

I'm still pondering whether acts like Iggy Azalea are just a modern "minstrel show" or the next step towards a more color blind society that applauds diversity and the breaking down of stereotypes in pursuit of art.

. . .in the meantime, I would love to hear her in a "free flow" session where she raps without the benefit of prior preparation. . .

Just sayin'