As you may have noticed, I’m borderline obsessed with finding the next great female rapper. Hip-hop is just so much more interesting when women’s voices are getting heard. And the greatest women in rap mix sick-ass beats with boundary-pushing lyrics, so that we’re dancing and thinking at the same time. Whether it is Lauryn Hill rhyming about the dangers of gender stereotypes or Queen Latifah asking for u.n.i.t.y or even Salt ‘n Pepa saying it’s none of our business if they wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekend, it is refreshing to hear from a powerful woman in a male-dominated game.
Right now, of course, female rap is basically synonymous with Nicki Minaj, but since she’s ruining herself with dance music, who knows if she’ll be interesting in six months? Meanwhile, Azealia Banks has dropped some great songs, but since she’ll apparently never stop saying “faggot,” I don’t need to hear “212” again. And while I still think Awkwafina is witty and cool enough to make it big and Rye Rye deserves more love, it doesn’t seem like either of them are going to have a breakthrough hit any time soon.
So what about Iggy Azalea? Last year, she got attention after XXL magazine put her on their “Freshman Class” cover, and some of her underground songs found a following. Now she’s got an actual hit. Over in the U.K., her song “Work” is in the top 20, which means people will pay attention when her album The New Classic arrives in June.
Of course, one British hit doesn’t make you a superstar, but at least she has a hit, you know? Plus, Iggy Azalea stands out: She’s a tall, white, blond Australian woman, and there are no other rappers like her. Possibly anywhere. She’s hard to forget, and if her music is good, that’ll help her have a serious career.
As for her music? Well… “Work” is pretty damn good. Over a minimal, Lil Wayne-ish beat that has occasional piano loops and synth bleeps, she tells her life story: She came to America when she was a teenager, she scrubbed floors, and she eventually made it. Lots of rappers tell us how they made it big, but Azalea keeps it interesting by constantly mixing up her flow. Sometimes, she’s rapping fast and making intricate rhymes, and sometimes she’s slowing it down, stretching one word out for a ridiculously long time. That makes her rapping interesting and surprising, which is what you want in an MC. Plus, her voice has this scratchy, vocal fry quality that I like. She’s like the woman from Karmin, but without the tongue-in-cheek jokes.
On the other hand, there’s the video. If the song is about how Iggy Azalea did it her damn self, then the video is about how she’s making herself a generic sex object. I mean… she spends half the video doing a lap dance for some anonymous dude. Because no female rapper has ever acted like a stripper to get attention. Yawn.
And yes, yes… a lot of her her underground songs were about sex, but there’s “sex for her benefit” and then there’s “sex for his benefit.” And in the “Work” video, it seems like it’s all about him.
Still, I’m willing to give her a shot. It seems like Iggy Azalea’s got something to say, and maybe in six months, she’ll be a total superstar.
Previously: There’s a Robyn robot!
Mark Blankenship went to Australia last year, but he didn’t meet any rappers. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship