Earlier this year when I first downloaded Iggy Azalea’s “Ignorant Art,” I thought to myself that this had to be a parody of some sort. From her doorknocker earrings, over the top costumes, bubble gum lyrics and the grassroots video production, I swore this was a practical joke. However, this act was something I started playing and listening to often.
Unfortunately for Iggy Azalea, she’s white. I would never say white people could not be apart of the hip-hop culture because that would be counter to what we already know about the history. White DJs, emcees, b-boys, and graffiti artists have played an important role within the culture since the beginning. Besides, good music is good music. But music is a business, and like any other business, trying to find the balance isn’t always simple. Everyone has the right to consume music any way they please. It would be unfair to discriminate against race, lifestyle and gender roles when extending the token of who can participate and who cannot. So I can roll with a white girl rapper or group selling me some weird fantasy.
Then enters Azealia Banks with her “212” and YouTube videos popping up. I soon began thinking, wait she’s from Harlem? How can she be so eclectic? She has so much style outside of what I’ve seen in a female rapper. She’s hardcore but still remains to have a certain intellect about the way she spits her lyrics.
Also regrettably for Azealia Banks, she’s black. Up and coming black female artists like Azealia Banks offer something totally different. If you go into your archives and listen to one of your favorite CDs where underappreciated rappers like Remy Ma,Foxy Brown, and Rah Digga barely dominated the charts or airwaves, you see there is a huge disparity in the types of music artists present today. Back then lyrics discussed taking up the anal, having the illest ‘na na’ and being next in line to make a Sprite can disappear to garner some recognition. Now artists are very much emerged in pop culture and lifestyle librettos. Not to say Banks doesn’t come with grit because most of her lyrics would definitely be censored. Even though Azealia Banks had one of the largest sets at Coachella this weekend, she still goes unnoticed in mainstream in the shadows of her white competitor Iggy Azalea.
During a recent interview with The Women of Hip-Hop, rapper Eve was asked for her opinion on some current female emcees and she stated, “I like Azealia Banks. I think her style is dope. If you listen to her lyrics, she knows how to wordplay and I think that’s cute. I’m not really into the Iggy Azalea chick. I can’t really fuck with her music, but her look is crazy. I just can’t believe it.”
Female rappers will always penned against each other as if they can’t share the spotlight, especially with blacks. Like Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks, many artists get lumped into the same category but offer so much more different than the next person- aside from his or her skin tone. If we want to talk basic economics, the supply and demand contextually applies here. The market is oversaturated with artists, and artists over-saturate the industry. Companies understand that many consumers of rap music tend to be white and even non-black. So being able to leave audiences with a strong visual and point of view is crucial.
It’s no surprise that these two women find themselves at this point with their promising careers. The roles and expectations of female rappers has become the standard new artists choose to either embrace or deviate from. Either way, we have to wonder how hip-hop plans to make room for two fresh rappers. Rap and hip-hop has always been divided along gender and racial lines. Even so, being charged with exploiting hip-hop culture or not exploiting enough is more often attributed to race that both artists will deal with.