iggy azalea, azaleans, the new classic

Respect

Ever since “Pussy,” Iggy Azalea’s infamous ode to the female sex organ, went viral on YouTube in 2011, fans and haters alike have been clamoring for more from the young artist. But The New Classic, her oft-delayed, debut album, has been a long time coming.

Buzz for The New Classic traces back to December 2011 when the rapper revealed the title of her album during an interview. In early 2012, she hinted at a June release date, but due to record label conflicts, had to postpone the drop until 2013. By June of 2013, The New Classic, though reputedly “almost finished,” had still not been released. She told MTV that it would be out in September, pushed it back to October, and then changed it to March of 2014.   In February, she announced a new release date in April, though there were conflicting rumors as to the exact day it would come out. Some heard it would be the 14th, others the 15th, and still others thought maybe the 18th. Finally, after over two and a half years of misinformation and false hype, The New Classic was released on Monday, April 21st.

Even without an official album, Iggy has managed to achieve a lot in the last few years. She’s gone on tour with TygaKirko BangzNAS and Rita Ora and appeared in a cypher alongside T.I. and B.o.B. at the 2012 B.E.T. Hip Hop Awards. She performed “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke at the MTV EMA’s last year and became the first female, non-American rapper to make XXL’s annual Top 10 Freshman list. She dated rapper A$AP Rockyand is currently seeing Lakers’ basketball player, Nick Young. She’s had a very public, often fraught friendship with T.I. who played a role in one of her music videos and performed with her on 106 & Park. She got signed to Wilhelmina Models and became “the new face” ofLevi’s Jeans. She’s already toured Europe and has become known for her extravagant, big-budget music videos that have involved elephant rides in Mumbai and a full rendition of the 90’s cult classic, Clueless. She even opened for Beyonce during the singer’s recent Mrs. Carter Show world tour in Australia.

During this time, Iggy also managed to churn out a few mixtapes. Following the 2011 release ofIgnorant Art, her first full-length mixtape, she dropped an EP in 2012 called Glory, followed that same year by her starkly different, Diplo-produced mixtape, Trap Gold. WhereasIgnorant Art is all trap and synth, with appearances by Y.G., Problem and Joe Moses,Trap Gold is undeniably Electronic and has only a tenuous hint of its former hip-hop origins. By expanding her repertoire to include genres outside of rap and hip-hop, Iggy was foreshadowing a shift in her musical direction. Yet despite this subtle forewarning, her debut still comes as a bit of a surprise.

The New Classic is not a hip-hop album. It’s a fusion of pop and trap, with club-friendly beats and loads of energy. With its wide range of sounds and fast tempos, The New Classic is like Christmas come early for DJs and is well suited for the club, even without remixes. Guest artists, like Charli XCXRita Ora and Mavado, play a vital role because more often than not, Iggyhas left the choruses to them, which makes one wonder, is this her album or theirs?

The lead single, “Work,” is easily the best song on the album (and not just because of the lap dance scene in the music video or the twerkability of the beat). Iggy has said that one of her main goals for the album was to use it as a springboard for sharing her story and revealing more about herself and, with “Work,” she did exactly that. We hear about how she juggled multiple jobs and saved money for years so that she could move to the United States at the age of 16. We learn that she was swindled and taken advantage of in her first record deal and get insight into the events that have toughened her up and made her the person she is today. “Work” is a musical autobiography about the Aussie’s life and everything about it—the voice, the lyrics, and the music video—revolves around her.

Though she manages to tell bits and pieces of her story in some of the songs, the rest of the album has little to do with her. The voices that stand out the most tend to be those of the featured artists’, which gives the album a joint effort feel, rather than solo. It’s obvious that Iggywas trying to appeal to a wider audience by making her music more pop and mainstream, but she diluted her own voice in doing so. There are a lot of reasons why her fans love her and her bizarre, hybrid accent is one of them. It’s one of the things that makes her so unique and it’s why her sound is so different from others.

But this is not the case with The New Classic. At times, it’s a musical mess. The transitions from one genre to the next are rough. The choruses don’t complement her raps. The tempo shifts are disruptive and far from seamless. Case in point: “Fancy,” in which singer Charli XCX handles the chorus. It’s actually a pretty good song, but it could have been better. On December 5, 2013, the original, unfinished version of the song, then titled “Leave It,” got leaked online. It’s almost exactly the same as the version that made it on the album (it has the same DJ Mustard beat and Iggy’s lyrics are unchanged), there’s just one difference: the chorus. Iggy is the only singer on “Leave It” and it is she who raps the chorus. But in “Fancy,” the task of covering the chorus is left to Charli XCX, who adds her distinctive ’80s, goth sound to the previously simple, measured beat. In this case, the merging of musical styles works, but the chorus change is still puzzling. “Leave It” is a great song, even without input from other artists, and one in which Iggy really shows off her lyrical talents.  So why change it and ruin a good thing when you have it?

It’s disappointing that Iggy relied so heavily on others—be it their voices or their sound—when making this album. She’s got talent (just listen to her previous work), but sadly there are only glimmers of it here.