It was the 1970’s that gave birth to Hip Hop-a cul­ture that emerged and rapidly became a move­ment that 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 gang 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, and known for hav­ing first come and caused the con­tro­ver­sial rap song titled ‘Drugs’. It was a 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 slim for pity and is a main­stream “apol­ogy” amongst whites who deny racism. It also lacks acknowl­edg­ment of her obvi­ous white priv­i­lege. Had she men­tioned it, I feel she would have rec­og­nized that the end­ing part of her state­ment is deeply prob­lem­atic– and thus would not have made it. 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, because insti­tu­tional and soci­etal racism is a prod­uct that main­tains the white estab­lish­ment in the West­ern world.

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, than 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 rooted 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– using chil­dren in her music videos in a very provoca­tive, sex­ual mat­ter. In the video, Aza­lea has a young boy rid­ing a rock­ing horse. Visu­ally I found this dis­turb­ing with the 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 oppor­tu­nity 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 rep­re­sen­ta­tion of white peo­ple in a cul­ture that is heav­ily embed­ded with black African Amer­i­can cul­ture and strug­gle in North America.

 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 or have a false right 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.

I couldn’t fig­ure out what is more obnox­ious about her image– her fake south­ern accent or the swing­ing of her pony­tail along with her raunchy lyrics. Iggy would do well to watch the efforts of true resis­tance to white cap­i­tal­ist hijack­ing of hip hop by watch­ing 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, 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.

 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 with 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 that they under­stand their false state­ments will not be tol­er­ated as sin­cere until true effort is pre­sented to pre­serve the strug­gle that brought birth to hip hop cul­ture in the first place.

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