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Friday, September 7, 2012

Iggy Azalea 'low-key be doing shit’: An in-depth interview with the Atlanta-by-way-of Australia rapper

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Iggy Azalea onstage at Atlantas Terminal West
With the most graceful stride, Iggy Azalea made her subtle 7 p.m. entrance into Atlanta music venue Terminal West two weeks ago. Immediately, she greeted Kevin, Alana, and Meg — a group of three dedicated Azaleans who drove a combined 14 hours to make the show — with friendly hugs and kisses. The clicks of her heeled BCBG boots against the venue floor resonated loudly within the arena as she and her fans cackled on their way to the bar.

She threw down her purse, pulled up a chair, and engaged in some quality “kiki” with the clique. It was as if they’d known each other for years.

Who’d think the woman behind all the “PU$$Y”-ness and Bizness Murda-ing could be so round-the-way? At least that’s how it seems until you peel back some of her layers.

From what’s been told of it, Iggy’s life story can be summed up by her delight in taking risks. Whereas the idea of fleeing Australia at the age of 16 for an American rap career may not appeal to the least rational of people, Iggy took on a world filled with qualm and made it her (for lack of a better word) biotch.

Now 22, Iggy’s burgeoning empire has expanded well beyond its archetypal limits. Not only can she claim two buzz worthy projects to her name, she’s also juggling a modeling contract with the Wilhelmina Agency as well as an upcoming tour with YMCMB’s Tyga.

Before her guest-packed set, CL had a few moments to catch up with Ms. Iggy and discuss her latest and forthcoming projects (Glory and Trap Gold, respectively), her collaboration with will.i.am, the artistic influence of her absentee father, and her dues-paying days with members of Atlanta’s own Oomp Camp and Dungeon Family.

I want to jump right into Glory. Listening to it, I could almost taste the Grand Hustle-ness of the record. How has the oversight of the Grand Hustle family affected your perception of your past music and work ethic?

That is a very interesting question. I think before I never really looked at what I created in retrospect or thought too hard about it, what it was, and what it wasn’t. I never really sat down and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of my music until I went to Grand Hustle and saw that they were really making records. I thought to myself, “Am I making records or am I just rapping over beats?” You know what I mean?

It made me reevaluate that and that’s how we got to Glory, where I was really with them all. You’ve got Tip, and Trae [the Truth], and all of these people who really know how to craft a record. I felt like craft[ing] these records, and that’s why it feels so different than Ignorant Art. It’s very structured. I don’t think I was ever the critique of my music — running a red pen through it — until I met Tip.

Aside from collaborating with Diplo, you’ve worked with Steve Aoki and Angger Dimas on “Beat Down.” Meanwhile, Glory boasts an extremely hip-hop flavor. And then out of the blue comes “Burgundy Shit.” It’s very waxy, full of piano, a lot like “Last Song.”

It’s so funny because “Burgundy Shit” is about the same person that “The Last Song” is about. It was somebody I had a crush on. We’d never actually gotten together. People kind of think, “Yeah right, bitch. You’re too old to have a schoolgirl crush.” But that’s really what it was. It was a friend who I was very fascinated by. His whole life of gang-banging and Pirus and all of this shit. I was like, what the hell? I had a crush on him because he’s the bad boy and he’s my friend and it’s exciting ... but we never even made out.

Now you’re hinting at Trap Gold, an electronic-trap-rap fusion effort. Now that you’ve tried out all of these sounds, which do you feel has best exuded the message you aim to get across?

Trap Gold. TRAP GOLD! I’m telling you! I loved the records like “Burgundy Shit” and “Last Song” because I feel I specialize in those records. Those are the kind of records where I can really talk and I feel that once you hear my music, it’s not very introspective a lot of the time. I don’t know how much of my personal life you get to know, but there’s a sense of vulnerability in those records. I didn’t know if I would be able to have those moments with Trap Gold, being [that] it’s electro-trap, but I figured it out last night. So I know that this is it! This is the sound.

You recently did an interview where you referenced your friend will.i.am quite a bit. I’m going to assume that this relationship spurred as a result of some quality time in the studio, but for inquiring minds can you confirm this?

It did.

Wow. Look at you!

People try to downplay me like I don’t be doing shit. I low-key be doing shit. Will knows how to make great electronic music; he has the formula together. And he’s a genius. I just happened to be in the studio with B.O.B and he was in the other room and he was like, “What the fuck are y’all doing in here?”

I ran into him a year ago at Best Buy, actually. When I was living in Australia he used to come by at an underground hip-hop club. It was like if Jessie J came to Broke $ Bougie back when Broke $ Bougie was popping. It’s like, “What the fuck is will.i.am doing here?”

We know a lot of the same people from Australia. He was like, “We should work on a record.” It was so funny because he told me that he was trying to sign me, but Interscope wasn’t trying to let him fuck with me. We had this big conversation and put all of the pieces together about a lot of shit that was happening. I hope to get something from him for Trap Gold and have [someone] “trap” it out so it’s kind of grimy. That’s what I’ve been doing with a lot of music, getting the shiny stuff and making it real dirty.

There’s Iggy the rapper, then there’s Iggy the artist — in case you didn’t know you were two different people. You’re noticeably well invested in your visual brand, from your apparel to album packaging. What influence did your father, as a comic artist, have on crafting your aesthetic?

Like 100 percent everything. My father was actually someone that wasn’t around. You probably don’t realize that because I talk about him so much. Sometimes it’s the people that just kind of pop in momentarily at these pivotal moments in your life that have the biggest effect on you. He definitely had the biggest influence on me.

I really wouldn’t see him a lot. But when I would see him he would always give me something and I would leave after seeing him with some new piece of information. Or some film I should watch. Or he’d give me a book and say “read this,” and ask, “What did you think about it?” Books on art, novels, fictional shit, all kinds of things.

Although I would only see him here and there, he would leave something with me that would carry me through to the next time I saw him. It felt like he was always with me, teaching me things. My family, the rest of them, they’re really not an art family.

So you do visual art?

Mhmm. Yep. I don’t wanna big myself up, but I’m actually a really good sketch artist. My aunt does photorealism and she taught me a lot. I never thought I’d be a rapper; I always thought I’d be a visual artist or go into film. I really liked doing stop-motion animation.

Did that inspiration lead to modeling?

I think it made me interested in it, but I lost interest in it. My mom would always say “You can’t be a model because your mouth’s too big,” and models have to shut their mouth. I’d want to be a part of the creative process. I don’t think a lot of models get to have that. Now that I’m coming back and having a persona that everyone knows and them appreciating that, it’s sort of like the best of both worlds. It’s on my own terms a little bit more.

Outside of female rappers, you’ve also cited Gwen Stefani, Grace Kelly, and Andre 3000 as inspirations. In what way have these people had an impact on you?

Where to start with Andre 3000? Man, he’s a genius. How do I count the ways? The thing I really love about Andre — and I don’t think anybody really notices it — but I thought about how Andre would make a record when I was making “Burgundy Shit” and “The Last Song,” because he talks to you. He’s telling you a story. This is rap and he’s rapping, but I feel like he’s telling you a story. It’s so funny because it seems like I only tell stories when it’s a love story. It’s like, “Let me tell you this love story, girl. Let me give you tea.” The way he’s so conversational with it, that’s what I really love.

With Gwen Stefani, it’s never been so much the music; I really just liked the style. She’s like this rebel girl and she had her own shit. She had pink hair and braces... .

You took it back to the pink hair, huh? The Return Of Saturn days?

It’s like, “That’s the bitch! Okay!” I like her for her style. She’s kind of iconic in a way. She has her own brand. She’s doing the L’Oreal shit. She’s branched out into other things, but never oversaturated herself. She kind of flies under the radar, but she’s always on her shit.

On “Runway,” you open up about your departure from Australia and how you felt as though you were a misfit. How receptive was your family to this idea, initially, and how has that affected your relationship with them?

I think it’s actually made it better because I’m happy here. I was so unhappy there. I would always want to escape and my mom would always cry. She’d say, “Why aren’t we good enough for you to want to be here? Don’t you love us? Don’t we make you happy?” I would be so mad that she’d always try to make it about them. It’s not that I didn’t love them, I just wasn’t happy there. I couldn’t be in my bones there. Me coming here and being able to be happy and do what I want to do and have people around me who like the same thing as me, it made me a happier person and it made our relationship a lot better.

On the same song, the chorus includes a line stating, “Home’s wherever I lay my heart,” which illustrates the countless number of cities you’ve lived in while here.

And I’m about to move to New York!

You were practically a nomad — and underage. What was the most challenging aspect of that lifestyle?

Moving. That was the most challenging. You’ve got to find a home and it’s like, uggh! How am I going to wing it? Even now going to New York, I’m like shit, how am I going to take all of my stuff? I’ve got to sell a lot of my stuff. But that’s what I like about it as well. It’s the hardest part, but it’s the most fun when you can get it right.

Iggy (far left) onstage with T.I., B.o.B, and Gucci Mane
  • Perry Julien
  • Iggy (far left) onstage with T.I., B.o.B, and Gucci Mane

So what about Atlanta has become “home” to you?

Mannnnn. Atlanta is like the thread that pulls the whole thing together. People hear my story and they’re like, “Oh, she just hops from city to city.” But Atlanta’s always been the one. Ever since I was in Miami, I’ve been coming to Atlanta. I would always come here and go fuck with Oomp Camp and fuck with DJ Unk and [Dungeon Family emcee] Backbone. I would always come here and visit and come fuck with them for maybe like a week or a few days and record a few songs before going back to wherever I was living. Even when I moved to L.A., I’d always come here.

It’s something about this city that reminds me of my home. I don’t know if it’s the trees. My mother came here and visited and was like, “I love Atlanta at nighttime. It reminds me of home.” It’s just been woven in the story the whole time; I always come back here. Even moving to New York, we were like, “At least it’s close to Atlanta.” It’s something about this city that I really love. I don’t know what it is, but it’s true.

So what are you most excited about with the upcoming Tyga tour?

I don’t know, the bus! It’s so cool actually because MAC is giving me a make-up artist and paying her to come with me and do my make-up every night. This is going to be really cool. I feel so legitly set up. I have Laquan Smith in New York doing all of my show outfits. We have a bit more of a staged show than we usually have. Usually when I’m doing spot dates every show is different and it’s kind of like, “Shit, I’ve got to get this together.” It’s a lot of who’s doing this and who’s doing that. Mainly I think the idea of being on this adventure — Coco will be there and Tyga will be there — and we’re all on this bus. It’s like we’re all at camp or something. It’s like, “Do you want to go on a road trip to six cities?” Hell yeah!

With everything from Wilhelmina to “PU$$Y” going viral and meeting T.I. — you know everything that’s happened in the past six years — which moment of your career do you feel has been the most validating?

Shit. That’s a hard question. There’s so many moments.

I feel like when I got off the plane in June in London and there’s fans at the airport wearing Superior Pussy shirts and holding signs and crying — that was a moment for me where I was like, “Ok. This shit is all over the world.” That’s fucking crazy. To think you can touch someone deep enough to make them actually cry and they write you a letter and say “I felt alone” and ... actually, speaking of letters, I can tell you right now what the most validating point was.

I was in New York, and I cried. And that was the only time I’ve ever cried about this shit, it was a happy cry. I came to a show at SOB’s. I did the CMJ festival and felt like I’d damn near gotten booed. Nobody was fuckin’ with me. So I came back to that venue and I felt I had to conquer this venue since it’d gotten the best of me last time. So to come back and see that it was sold out and I saw everybody in the line. This girl ran up to me to give me a letter and I read it downstairs and I just felt like I identified with her story so much that it made me cry. She’s from a very small town in American and everybody looked at her weird for loving rap music. But she loved it. And she heard my music and it inspired her to move to New York and pursue her dreams. She didn’t want to be a rapper or anything like that, but she felt she could point to me and say, “Well if Iggy can do it, I can do it too.” This is so validating to me because growing up I never had that person that I could point to and say that person was like me. I would look at those people and ask myself, “Am I even welcome to this?”

So to be able to have a misfit — or someone who doesn’t really fit the box — to be succeeding, and to have that someone they can look up to be me? It’s so cool that I can be that person for other people. When that girl gave me that letter, that shit made me cry. I still have it in my drawer and when I have a bad day I look at it and tell myself to keep doing this shit. If I stop doing it, she stops having that person.

See full photo gallery from Iggy Azalea's Terminal West performance, featuring appearances from T.I., Gucci Mane, and B.o.B.

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