It was the 1970’s that gave birth to Hip Hop‑a cul­ture that emerged and rap­idly became a move­ment. It was cre­ated and inspired by a DJ from South Bronx, New York City. Going by the name DJ Kool Herc- Clive Camp­bell has been widely recog­nized and strongly cred­ited for intro­du­cing an altern­at­ive cul­ture to the pre­dom­in­ant viol­ent cul­ture asso­ci­ated with the Bronx- typ­i­fied by gangs, guns, and drugs. “I star­ted in the ghetto and still in the ghetto, the best part of it I gave kids a cul­ture, the money part is all good but it’s giv­ing kids some­thing to hold on to and say that’s theirs.” I want to draw atten­tion to Kool Herc’s words regard­ing ‘giv­ing kids a cul­ture’ by cor­rel­at­ing and focus­ing on one spe­cif­ic white female rap­per whose image mak­ing and brand­ing has indeed presen­ted a cul­ture. I want to high­light what cul­ture she has in fact ‘giv­en back’ to the youth.

          From down under, Aus­trali­an female rap­per Iggy Aza­lea has indeed claimed her space in the music industry. With a daunt­ing fan-base, she is known for hav­ing first come and caused the con­tro­ver­sial rap song titled ‘Drugs’, which was a re-enact­ment of Kendrick Lamar’s song ‘Look out for the detox’.  Hav­ing sampled his lyr­ics, which were ori­gin­ally “when the relay starts I’m a run­away slave”, Aza­lea gave it a dis­taste­ful spin by adding: “when the relay starts I’m a run­away slave… Mas­ter, shit­ting on the past gotta spit it like a pas­tor”. Her obvi­ously offens­ive and bru­tally ignor­ant lyr­ics caused fric­tion with rap­per Azealia Banks- ori­gin­ally her­self from Har­lem, New York. Banks called out Aza­lea on her racist lyr­ics which led to “twit­ter beef” online.

Iggy then wrote an apo­logy, quoted here:

“Some­times we get so caught up in our art and cre­at­ing or try­ing to push bound­ar­ies, we don’t stop to think how oth­ers may be hurt by it. In this situ­ation, I am guilty of doing that and I regret not think­ing things through more, I don’t hate any race of people, and it pains me to wake up to oth­er young people being misled to believe I do. I am for unity and equal­ity. People should get a fair shot at whatever they want to do no mat­ter what col­or they are; rap and hip hop as a cul­ture is not exempt from this. It is unfair to say oth­er races who also grew up listen­ing to rap don’t get a place too.”

          My inter­pret­a­tion of her apo­logy is quite frankly slim for pity. It is at best, a main­stream “apo­logy” amongst whites who deny racism, and at worst, a poor cry for sym­pathy without any sin­cere feel­ings of remorse.  In essence, she lacks the acknow­ledg­ment of her obvi­ous and inher­ent white priv­ilege. Had she men­tioned it, I feel she would have recog­nized that the end­ing of her state­ment is deeply prob­lem­at­ic. But that’s the prob­lem, isn’t it? She is not even aware of the depths of her own ignor­ance and priv­ilege, or per­haps she is, which is even worse, and makes this sub­ject all the more frus­trat­ing. Although her state­ment sounds “sym­path­et­ic”, it deeply lacks self-reflec­tion and humil­ity in a world where she has indeed gained from the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers. That is priv­ilege, the priv­ilege to feel free enough to say whatever you want, as hurt­ful as you want it to be and cause a neg­at­ive effect in soci­ety without any real con­sequences from the estab­lish­ment. This is because Iggy like many oth­ers, serves the interests of the estab­lish­ment, who are wholly bent upon main­tain­ing the status quo- that is insti­tu­tion­al and soci­et­al racism against the black community.

          I felt she diver­ted the atten­tion away from her racist lyr­ics by claim­ing that the racism was jus­ti­fied based on all people of race deserving a place in hip hop. Someone should have told her that while unity and equal­ity sound like pretty words writ­ten down on paper, it takes far more to truly make it a real­ity. If one wishes to be a part of a cul­ture, then it is import­ant to pay homage to those that not only came before, but also recog­niz­ing the strong sense of black com­munity, which it rep­res­ents. She does live in Aus­tralia after all, where the land is wit­ness to his­tor­ic injustice (colo­ni­al­ism) and mod­ern day oppress­ive insti­tu­tion­al racism (the after­math). Brush­ing off racism is far too per­vas­ive in West­ern cul­ture- hence why Aza­lea is exactly the product of her own envir­on­ment. It’s a deep seeded sub­ject that fil­ters into all aspects of our upbring­ing, from ignor­ant tele­vi­sion shows; Hol­ly­wood movies; watered down ver­sions of his­tor­ic­al events taught at schools; to the deaths in police cus­tody, and last but not least, the mil­it­ary indus­tri­al com­plex- where racism is a per­fect tool for the dehu­man­iz­a­tion and killing of “the other”.

          Today’s music is widely cap­it­al­ized, and char­ac­ter­ized by selling sex, brand names, cor­por­ate endeavors, glam­or­iz­ing viol­ence and is lyr­ic­ally dumbed down. Selling your­self as a sexy ‘bad bitch’ is one thing, but using small chil­dren in your music videos is anoth­er- Yes she has gone there! In her music video “Pussy”- not only does Iggy-cringe-worthy-Aza­lea sell her­self to cap­it­al­ist pres­sure as a sexy “bad bitch” but she has indeed gone to fur­ther extents. She uses chil­dren in her music videos in a very pro­voc­at­ive, sexu­al man­ner. In the music video, Aza­lea has a young boy rid­ing a rock­ing horse. Visu­ally I found this dis­turb­ing with the accom­pa­ny­ing lyr­ics, “lick this fil­lin’, mold em ah ‘soak em ah”. Cor­rel­at­ing the image of a child rock­ing on a horse with the extremely vul­gar lyr­ics can only be a dream or field day for those into illeg­al child por­no­graphy- or of course pedo­phil­ia. Want more examples? In her song “Murda Biz­ness” she is again seen using overly sexu­al con­tent with young beauty pageant girls, wear­ing excess­ive amounts of makeup and short dresses. Rein­for­cing sexu­al lyr­ics with chil­dren only serves over sexu­al­ized cul­ture from a young age.

          Insert­ing her repug­nant image in the already prob­lem­at­ic aren­as with­in present day hip-hop cul­ture (some­thing quite vis­ibly due to the whims and fan­cies of white cor­por­ate Amer­ica), Aza­lea has devised altern­at­ive roots to ignite con­tro­versy. In her song titled “Work” she plays the role of vic­tim, shar­ing her “struggles”, using rap as her easy tick­et to fame and selling sex. See­ing a blonde over-sexu­al­ized white woman strut her “thang” in a shame­less man­ner gained very little sym­pathy on my end. Not once does she dif­fer­en­ti­ate white priv­ilege from the struggle that col­oured people have and con­tin­ue to face in a racist insti­tu­tion­al­ized Amer­ica (or Aus­tralia- remem­ber she’s from “down under”) that has for hun­dreds of years milked black blood for white power. Her use of black people as extras in her videos is in my view an effort to nor­mal­ize the so-called need for val­id­a­tion in the black community.

          In a nut­shell, Aza­lea sells the idea that if you did not have a sil­ver spoon upbring­ing, along with the rest of the fine bone china set grow­ing up, then any­one, and most cer­tainly white women selling sex vis-à-vis rap and hip hop, from a work­ing class back­ground, are jus­ti­fied to booty shake their way up the hip hop charts, and claim some­thing to be their own. Hip Hop is a cul­ture, and like any cul­ture, it has an embed­ded need for pre­ser­va­tion, not destruction.

          I couldn’t fig­ure out what is more obnox­ious about her image- her fake south­ern accent or the swinging of her pony­tail while she recites her raunchy lyr­ics. Iggy would do well to watch the efforts of true res­ist­ance to white cap­it­al­ist hijack­ing of hip hop by view­ing Lupe Fiasco’s music video titled “bitch bad”. It is a per­fect example that describes what our youth watch and imit­ate, and how what they see devel­ops into an unhealthy per­cep­tion of both men and women. In this instance, women being called ‘bitch’ and ‘ho’ is visu­ally rep­res­en­ted as some­thing that has dan­ger­ously become nor­mal­ized (some­thing falsely desired), and has actu­ally led to destruct­ive rela­tion­ships, where by love and respect are unre­cog­niz­able. Nev­er before have our youth been so self-con­scious, full of image insec­ur­it­ies, as they are today and the reas­on is clear: high intakes of media consumerism.

          Iggy Aza­lea is the night­mare, not the dream and cer­tainly not the vis­ion that Kool Herc spoke of. She is the prob­lem with hip hop- the hijack­ing and milk­ing off of white priv­ilege to sell sex and enter­tain­ment at the behest of cor­por­ate demands, which res­ults in more busi­ness and less real music. She is the per­fect recipe for dis­aster, and the per­fect pawn to serve the white god­fath­ers who have made hip hop into a man­u­fac­tured white man’s enter­tain­ment industry-tak­ing out the very heart and soul from the music. Not only should there be a stronger demand to con­demn people such as Aza­lea, but to also demand they under­stand that their false state­ments will not be accep­ted as sin­cere, until true effort is presen­ted to pre­serve the struggle that brought birth to hip hop cul­ture in the first place.

By Aimee Valinski

Edited by : Sad­i­ah Waziri

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