Did we go too far? Did she deserve this? Was it her fault? Somehow, I feel that me and people like me had a hand in all of this. Iggy Azalea was blackballed at last night’s GRAMMYs, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t coincidental.
Okay, so not exactly blackballed in the true definition of the word. I don't believe there was a massive, coordinated, conscious conspiracy against her, but you get it. If you watched last night, aside from a zoom in on her frizzy braid crown, the Aussie superstar, who had the breakout year in hip-hop and pop, received absolutely no love. And let's be clear, there's no debate that Iggy had a massive year. Regardless of your personal feelings about Iggy Azalea she was rap's new star in 2014. Much like Macklemore the previous year, Iggy was everywhere. You couldn't get away from her smash single “Fancy.” She was doing all the award shows, and everyone who doesn’t have a clue about hip-hop music was hailing her rap music’s newest and brightest (pun intended) best thing. All that success meant a lot of people were expecting her to cruise through this year's GRAMMYs without batting an eye, picking up awards left and right, but it didn’t work out that way. Here’s why.
Hip-hop may have grabbed their pitchforks once Macklemore beat Kendrick, but before then people didn’t really have a major problem with him or his music. To some, it may have been corny, but there wasn’t much talk about the Seattle native being a fraud, or belittling hip-hop, until he cleaned up at the GRAMMYs. Why? I feel it was his authenticity. He was a multi-year veteran with underground and industry rap respect that also had pop appeal because of some great hook writing. He was America’s new safe white rapper and never really did anything to directly ruffle feathers. He was just himself, and you either hated who he was or you loved him. It really wasn't until after the GRAMMYs that people started shouting their concerns that his white privilege was fueling the hype machine. Macklemore made some missteps, but on the whole intelligently stayed relatively quiet after the Kendrick text fiasco. The one thing he didn’t do is get defensive. He understood what was happening and respected what all came with the situation he was in. When the time was right, he gave a long and extensive interview about what all went down, and his understanding of his white privilege and place in hip-hop.
But apparently Iggy took no notes and had zero fucks to give in understanding how to handle her place in race and hip-hop, and she paid for it.
It seems like the end of 2014 was when everything came to a head. There was talk about Iggy's authenticity, as well as her place in the middle of a very racially charged climate. It was not sitting well with people that she was being hailed as the front runner of modern rap in the eyes of mainstream media, but what was worse was her attitude. Azealia Banks was at the forefront of the opposition, and in her most sincere, heartfelt interview to date, she made some highly valid points about how black music seemed to be getting diluted by white artists performing black styles, with less and less homage being paid. Considering their already long and contentious history, when Banks decided to pick up the “Black Awareness” torch, I'm assuming it really looked more like the “Boycott Iggy Club” again to Azalea. This is where Iggy dropped the ball. She began shouting about reverse racism (a horrible decision and completely off the mark) and used this as an opportunity to throw shots at Banks, while conveniently disregarding the central issue. Her popularity and success in hip-hop is undeniably connected with her privilege as a white artist. Whether it was intentional or not didn’t really matter. What mattered was the reality of what we were dealing with and how Iggy would respond to it next.
Her attitude was just so arrogant and ignorant. Maybe it’s because she’s from another country so she's not well-versed in dealing with America's incredibly complex and deep racial history. It didn’t help that her mentor T.I. wasn’t necessarily sitting her down and explaining why the uproar was happening. No. Instead, they chose to take the “Y’all are just hating” route, and she decided that she was too good to have to respond or entertain any of it.
That continued to fuel the fire and infuriate people who were even semi-riding with Azalea. Couple that with a lack of compassion for not commenting on the Ferguson and Eric Garner issues, which she chose to approach in true Young Thug fashion, and the popularity of Iggy began to decline. In those moments, those crucial moments, her PR failed her, and this time people were watching. This time, the GRAMMYs were watching. This time they had their ear to the streets, after being called out on the Macklemore issue and the nominations Iggy received. So last night, when the GRAMMYs rolled around, they simply made a decision. “We’re not fucking with Iggy tonight.”
Iggy Azalea was the winner of zero awards during music's most important night of the year. Granted, I think we were pretty aware the overseas Golden Child of the night was going to be Sam Smith, but I do believe that Iggy would have shined last night had it not been for the months leading up to the awards. Even though Macklemore was also controversial, he took home two GRAMMY awards and had his moment. They didn’t give Iggy those moments, even in her breakout year. No Best New Artist. No Album of the Year. No Record of the Year. Nothing. I thought at least “Fancy” would garner something, you can’t deny that it was a song you couldn’t escape in 2014. That should count for something, right? I guess not.
I’m thoroughly convinced that if her response(s) and the way she approached the controversy had been different, her GRAMMY fate would have also been different. The GRAMMYs didn’t want those problems this year. No sir. Not on the night when three of the world’s biggest black acts showed “Hands Up” awareness and closed the show out with a cut from Selma. Not after the Macklemore and Kendrick controversy of last year. Not when Kanye West was in the building. (You saw what he ALMOST did to Beck.) They did not want those problems, and Iggy paid for her ignorance and stubborness in touchy times. Iggy blackballed at the GRAMMYs? There’s got to be a joke somewhere in there, but I won't make it.
Let's just say that J. Cole didn’t have to worry about cracking any fake crooked smiles last night.