Iggy Azalea is already girding her loins preparing for Grammys backlash. The 24-yaer old Australian rapper has been nominated for Best Rap Album for The New Classic, and she talked to MTV about the backlash she might face should she win: "I think backlash comes no matter what skin color you are," she said. Azalea is also nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Fancy" with Charlie XCX, and for Best New Artist. Azalea's statement about the possibly imminent backlash should she win Best Rap album is referring, of course, to the controversy that followed Macklemore's win of the Best Rap Album in 2014 with The Heist, beating out most notably Kendrick Lamar for good kid m.a.a.d. city.
Azalea went on to say:
Success is polarizing and you just can’t have one without the other. That’s something that comes with it. It’s the price you pay for having all the amazing things that you’re afforded and if that is the price you pay for a Grammy, I will sign that check.
Azalea has a bad habit of making herself the center of the universe. Yes, many are skeptical and criticize her success, but it's with good reason — Azalea has been called out for her appropriation of Southern black culture. Brittany Cooper wrote an excellent piece at Salon that dissects just how problematic Azalea's appropriation and imitation of Southern black culture is; the vernacular and accent of the South is accepted on Azalea, a white, Australian woman, though black men and women are condemned for the same attributes which are actually inherent to them and representative of their cultures and backgrounds.
But the Grammys don't exist in a vacuum. It is on some level a step forward that Azalea was nominated in the category—the Best Rap category goes back to 1996, and of the 102 nominees, Azalea is only the TK woman nominated. This year, her album The New Classic stands against fellow nominees Childish Gambino, Common, Eminem, Schoolboy Q and Wiz Khalifa.
But just because it's a win for women that Azalea is nominated in the category cannot pardon Azalea for her mishandling of racial issues in the past year. Most glaring is of course her Twitter feud with black rapper Azealia Banks, who called Iggy out for staying silent about Ferguson: "its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen... Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren't huh?," she tweeted at the beginning of December. Banks went on to tweet and later discuss on Hot 97 of the racism inherent to the glorification of white artists emulating black artists while erasing the voices of black artists themselves.
The Grammys are supposed to be awards for artistic excellence… Iggy Azalea’s not excellent. When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is, ‘You’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have s***. You don’t own s***, not even the s*** you created yourself.’ And it makes me upset.
Iggy responded to Banks on Twitter, circumventing the issue of race and her silence about Ferguson and rather firing shots back at Banks for being a "miserable, angry bigot" and capped it all off with her disgusting pièce de résistance: "Now rant! Make it racial! Make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won't make you more likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio." Without even knowing it, Azalea is doing what so many white people have done before her: delegitimizes a black woman's argument by calling it an "angry rant."
Azelea is right about one thing: if she does win Best Rap Album at the Grammy Awards tonight, the backlash will come in full force. But it's not, as she thinks, coming from a place of petty jealousy, but a real concern and anger for the lack of recognition of black artists—especially female black artists—by a music awards show that is regarded as a measure of excellence.
You could feasibly say that Iggy Azelea shouldn't be held responsible for the whiteness of the Grammys. But her nomination is definitely a symptom of a deeper issue, and if she does win, it will be another blow to the hard work and incredible material that comes from black artists in hip hop and rap. How long can Azelea keep skirting these criticisms about race and appropriation before it becomes unacceptable? It's already uncomfortable, and the more she ignores it, the deeper she digs herself into a hole.
Images: Getty (2)