Okay, so first off, I know I’m a little late on this. The video for Iggy Azalea’s 2013 single “Work” came out in March. That being said, I saw the video for the first time today, and at first I wasn’t that impressed. All I saw at first was a pretty white girl with double time flow and a keen sense of fashion. “Good sell, T.I.”, I thought, remembering that Miss Azalea was recently signed to T.I.’s Grand Hustle conglomerate. “A brilliant marketing strategy”, I thought, nothing more.
It wasn’t until I watched the video again and read up on Iggy’s past that I realized the true genius of this Aussie pixie. Don’t be deceived by her high fashion airbrushed look. According to a direct quote from the song, although she may “walk a mile in these Louboutins” now, she was born and raised in a dirt-poor Australian backcountry town, and spent years saving up meager wages cleaning hotels and houses as a young girl to be able to afford a plane ticket to America.
People can be quick to dismiss a pretty white girl in the rap game. In Clark Kent’s recent article on the female MC Stori, he made the observation that Stori’s strength came from her ability to reverse her role from the arrogant, judgmental bystander to the involved and conscious poet. But despite the fiery and expressive artistry behind the polished and airbrushed exteriors in both the cases of Iggy Azalea and Stori, the current hip-hop culture still holds female MCs to a higher aesthetic standard of superficial physical perfection than their male counterparts.
While there may be an empowered feminist sentiment behind Iggy’s music, and while she may have overcome all odds to become the first international female artist nominated as an XXL Freshman, the nature of her overtly sexual music videos perpetuates a pattern of sexist typecasting in today’s misogynistic rap game, whether she intends them to or not.
Iggy Azalea isn’t necessarily the next Big L or Lauryn Hill, but she’s a solid lyricist that shouldn’t have to resort to skimpy outfits and on-camera exhibitionism in order to sell records. Although her message of perseverance and independence is clear in the song, there is an inherent contradiction in talking about overcoming struggles as a talented and artistically elegant female rapper while simultaneously giving a lapdance.
Iggy’s booty twerkin’ feminism symbolizes the double standard that female rappers still face in this game. No matter how humble their beginnings, difficult their struggle, or obvious their talent, the majority of mainstream female rappers must still make themselves into a manifestation of male sexual fantasy in order to be successful.
Still, it’s pretty savvy of her to flaunt both her intelligence and beauty in the fashion that she has, and it has certainly brought her a large amount of success in the industry. I just think that in achieving fame with her sexually themed videos, she may attract the same one-dimensional, misogynistic demographic that prevents pretty white girls from becoming “serious” rappers, but at the cost of her own intelligence and artistry being downplayed and discounted as just another “Girl Rapper”.
The time has come for all artists to be held accountable for not only the lyrical messages of their music, but also their visual messages. Female artists like Lauryn Hill and Rah Digga are great examples of what can happen when a strong willed female rapper voices her opinion without compromise, but I haven’t seen them on the charts in a long while. Peep the videos for “Work” below and decide for yourself whether or not Iggy Azalea’s sexually provocative entertainment is justified by its message.