It’s been nearly 18 months since a white, female, Australian rapper named Iggy Azalea stormed onto the US hip hop scene, dropping her mixtape “Ignorant Art”, which quickly became a cult classic. Two more mixtapes, and millions of YouTube hits later, Iggy is finally set to release her first UK single, “Work”, which is a taster of her highly anticipated debut album, “The New Classic”, produced by The Invisible Men, and 1st Down of FKi. Speaking with Iggy was one of those great moments when someone you admire surpasses expectations. Funny, articulate, and totally genuine, she chatted away about boys, dramas and insecurities, as though to one of her girl friends. She will release her debut studio album, “The New Classic” this spring.
You were born with the name Amethyst Kelly, which is a very unique name in itself. Why did you change it to Iggy Azalea?
Just because i think that when you’re an artist people talk loads of shit about you. They say things that aren’t true or aren’t fair. You don’t get to have a lot of things that are special anymore… That are just your own. Everything gets butchered. Relationships do, your family members do. I really like my name, amethyst kelly, and people say it’s such a great name, but because it’s such a great name, that’s why i’ve changed it. It’s one thing that no one can take from me, that is special, that my mum gave to me when i was born. I don’t want people to be able to take it away from me.
You’ve mentioned the difficulties that all artists face in terms of their personal life. Is there anything in particular that you have in mind that’s happened recently?
Actually recently i’ve been having a good trip! Things have been going really good. Last year i had a bit of a frustrating year. It was hard for me because it was a growth period and people were interested in everything about me – not just music. They wanted to know who i’m wearing, who i’m dating, what i think about things that aren’t music-related and anything i would do. I wasn’t really prepared. It made me feel a bit imbalanced and sad as a person. Now i’ve gotten used to it and i know how to deal with it.
Do you think you just needed time to get accustomed to the attention?
Yeah, i mean artists always say “i don’t care” and to a degree you don’t. But it can also still affect you. With time it doesn’t affect your day and you just keep going. I don’t go to bed thinking about it or wake up thinking about it like i used to. There was a time last year where i would honestly wake up in the middle of the night – i couldn’t sleep more than three hours – and i’d look on twitter just to make sure somebody wasn’t writing bullshit about me. And if they weren’t then i could go back to sleep. Now, i can have a good long sleep.
You’ve taken the DIY journey to success by releasing mixtapes and uploading your videos onto YouTube. Were there times when you thought, i just want a major label to sign me already?
No, because i could have been signed to a major label at any point. I just didn’t want to. When i was talking to labels it was fairly evident to me that i wasn’t at a point with my fanbase where they trusted me enough to make the kind of music i wanted to make and not have to really compromise with my vision for what i would like for myself. And i’ve always believed that is the way i need to do it. It was important for me to maintain my integrity as a person as well as an artist.
Do you think the hype helped or hindered you, then?
It was definitely frustrating because even though i wasn’t signed to a major label, people put me on the same playing field as artists who were. People were like “why doesn’t her music video look like that?” and i was like, they have a $200,000 budget and i have $10,000! I have to pay rent this month too. Other artists had pr teams, and i didn’t have any of that – i just had myself. It was flattering to get compared to those other artists but also frustrating in some respects, because it was like fighting a losing battle.
I guess people were also seeing that you were working with a who’s who of producers. Speaking of which, which of those collaborations has been most memorable would you say?
I guess fki. He’s the most memorable because we’ve been together since we were 17, and kids. We wrote together and he produced my first single alongside the invisible men. It’s really cool to see something like that come full circle when it was both our dreams. We’ve shared our experience together.
The most fun i’ve probably had with a producer is steve aioki. He always does crazy stuff! He makes crazy videos, goes to electronic dance music festivals and throws cakes in peoples’ faces. It’s really cool getting to work with a dj/producer because you get to have all these extra perks – these wild adventures that you don’t necessarily get with other producers.
Your new single “work” mentions how you ran away from your home in australia at a very young age, and moved alone to miami, florida. What do your family make of your success now?
They’ve always been happy for me and have always wanted it for me. I guess technically i did run away, but it didn’t feel like that for me or my family because they let me go. In a way it was me rebelling, but in a way it wasn’t – my mother never fought the feeling, she just let me go. She’s always wanted to see me be successful at the thing i love, which is this, and i think she’s really proud of me. She actually emailed me this morning because my bank statements still get sent to my house in australia! She opened it and was like, “i’m very, very proud of you!”
Where is home to you now?
It hasn’t been australia in my head for a very long time. I’ve lived in america for almost eight years now. When i miss home, or i want to go home, i think of LA.
Why is your accent not more australian when you rap though? Your speaking voice is totally australian?
I think because i listened to so many american rap artists. I’ve been in america since i was 16 and all the people that really showed me how to rap were from the south and they were all american. People overlook this but if you look at keith urban, and other australian country singers, they all sing in american country accents.
Who were the people that you were listening to at that time?
People i loved… Ludacris, ugk, busta rhymes, missy elliot. I really loved tupac but he wasn’t someone that i ever tried to mimic because i idolised him too much. He was too awesome to me. Method man and red man i loved. Outkast…
I assume that some of these people you will be working with in the not so distant future?
Yes, it’s funny! I mentioned ugk who is a big supporter and friend of mine now. I’ve never unfortunately met andre 3000 but i’ve met big boi a few times and he’s been so cool. I wish i could have a song with missy. I’m kind of scared to ask her. It’s cool to see people who you look up to become your peers.
You’re lucky because you get to interview artists and you get to ask them all the questions that you’ve always wanted to ask. For me growing up as a kid i’d listen to all these people and i never thought i’d get to have personal conversations with them, or ask them for advice. So getting to meet these people never gets old to me.
Photography by Louie Banks
Of all the tracks that you’ve put out from the very beginning until now, which are you most proud of?
“work”, easily. No question. A lot of my friends cried when they heard it. They were like, “this is your story”.
Is it the most personal of all of your songs?
Yes, definitely my most personal. But i’ve purposely never made my songs personal because it was mixtape stuff, and i was experimenting with my music and seeing how i wanted it to sound. I wasn’t going to put all the juicy good stuff on mixtape. I was waiting for the right time.
So is all the juicy good stuff coming up on the new classic?
Definitely. Like with “work”, it is biographical about my life, but parts of “work” are relatable to anybody. I tried to make the rest of my album a bit broader in terms of subject matter. I might talk about being hurt about something, but not explain who, or why, or what the hell happened, so it’s not as deep as “work”. I wanted to make sure that it was still relatable. My album is only about 70% finished at the moment. All the uptempo fun records are out of the way. And then all the songs about me being completely heartbroken and hating guys. I want to do some more about my life and different stories but i really want to sit down and take the time to write those.
Tell me about the “hating guys” tracks.
I did this song called “just asking”, for example. It’s about somebody who you used to date – and i feel like everybody experiences this – but you date somebody and they’re such a jerk to you, they have all these rules and standards, like “i would never date a girl who wears those shoes, i hate those shoes” and you find yourself changing yourself to be so great for this person. Then when you break up with them and they get a new girlfriend and they seem like such a downgrade! And i’m like, “what happened to all those standards that i had to uphold! Why are you with this busted ass girl! What the hell!” so i have this song called “just asking” that i wrote which is just asking, what the hell? What happened to all those rules you had, you liar. It’s like a conversation with the person in my head, but that i’d never actually have with the person.
Is this based on a particular recent high profile relationship experience?
(pauses) i feel like any person feels like that – don’t you? I do. With everyone i’ve ever dated in the history of dating. It’s just a recurring thing. So the themes on the album are broad like that but relatable to my life.
You’ve said you’re not a singer yourself, so are there going to be guest vocalists on your tracks?
Actually, it’s funny because i’m gonna sing – i sing on my third single with t.i. i can’t sing sing, i just sing the hook.
What would you say your career highlight has been so far?
I think touring with nas has been a pretty big highlight for me because nas has always been someone who is in my top 5 rappers. To be honest with you, i never really thought someone like nas would support me – i don’t know why, i just didn’t imagine him being up for me rapping. And the fact that he asked me to come on tour and has become such a good friend has really been a career highlight.
And finally, who are your idols?
David lachappelle is a really big inspiration to me. And andy warhol. People who make unconventional art which people don’t necessarily understand. They are my absolute heroes.
Interviewed by holly rubenstein
Iggy’s new single “work” can be purchased on itunes here: