Interview: Iggy Azalea

I’d be lying if I said my friends have never twerked to “My World”, or that “working on my shit” isn’t a stock phrase in my daily vocabulary, but looking beyond the catchy hooks and twerk-able beats, it’s hard to ignore IGGY AZALEA’s strenuous climb to household fame. Since freestylin’ to Yeezy’s “Hell Of A Life” in 2011, the 22-year-old Australian native has been plagued by shit-talkers, gossip stalkers and her infamous assets, but she’s always found a way to bear her teeth with her enviable confidence that stings as much as it glows. For Iggy, it’s almost second nature.

From “Pu$$y” to “Bounce”, she’s clicked with an immovable sense of bravado, channeling the statute of a formidable MC who can rep La Bella Mafia and drop collabs with B.o.B., Diplo and Pusha T. Some may see that as the making of another faux international pop star with little hope of long-term success, but Island Def Jam see it as the coming-out party for a “white chick on that Pac shit”. Well aware of her year ahead, we caught up with Iggy Azalea before a flight to London, and she gave a breakdown of her experience with failure, why Twitter has become her crystal ball, and how T.I., Nas, and even an MC named Rocky have played a part in influencing her to become “the new classic”.

What would you define as personal success?

I think if you can go to sleep and wake up happy then that’s personal success. I think anybody that’s motivated and really driven to reach goals knows that until you’ve finally reached them, you’ll always find yourself going to sleep and pulling your hair out about it when you wake up (laughs).

Do you feel like a lot of artist’s latch onto the idea of fame more than success?

Yeah I do, because I think that it’s addictive to people who think that it’s love, when it’s not love; it’s people being obsessed with you. It’s hard to be a balanced person when there are people who spend their whole lives trying to find enough love to be okay, and sometimes when you don’t have that yet and you have a platform and people who obsess over you and “love” you, you can get really addicted to it. I think that’s why some artists start out towards one thing and get directed towards fame, you know?

Well, you’re really interactive with fans on Twitter and have even had recent requests for others to direct questions to you on YouTube. How important is it to connect with fans?

So important, I mean… I couldn’t put a number on it (laughs). It’s important business-wise, and it’s important on a personal level too because those are the people that keep me going and they keep me motivated. They say I motivate them too but they motivate me more than I motivate them (laughs). It’s also good to have a medium where I get to see what people think and what they’re into. It’s very easy when you’re working all the time to have a disconnect in all areas of your life, and I suppose in a way Twitter is like my little window into the real world again so I can see what’s going on and not feel like I’m always in such a bubble. Even though I can’t always get out physically, at least I can have a bit of a crystal ball with Twitter. I mean I love tweets, they crack me up (laughs).

Are you glad, in a way, that you were able to experience the music business and life on the road before signing to a major label?

Yeah, definitely, because the thing with business is that it’s really important to keep the ball rolling and keep people motivated, and sometimes that doesn’t allow you to make mistakes, or fail, or develop yourself. Just witnessing the landscape of how artists that are just being promoted now, I think we get less of a chance to develop than we used to, and we kind of just go viral and then it amounts to an album. For me, as a person and an artist, I need to feel like I’m developing. That includes on stage, going out, going on tour and making mixtapes. I’m just really glad I got to do those things by myself and I got to fail by myself without doing it in front of the whole world, and without having to answer to a higher power of a label and de-motivating them by making bad decisions (laughs).

So as you were recently signed to Def Jam, who are infamous with artists like Rihanna and Frank Ocean, is there any pressure to release comparable, grand-scale material?

I don’t know… I don’t ever feel pressure from them. They make me feel confident in my work, and thankfully for me by the time I was done that deal with Island Def Jam, my record was about 95 per cent complete and I only had two songs to fill. I came to them with a body of work and they loved it and that’s really why they signed me. I didn’t really feel the pressure to compete or sell because I believe I’m going to sell and I believe in the record. For me as an artist, my mission is never to “sell” but instead to connect, connect and connect (laughs).

Does that make sense? To just connect with as many people as I can. My mission is to have a thought or an idea and create a body of work, and as long as I’m not mad at the end of the day and I feel like I’ve explored my feelings or whatever it was that I was trying to get out, then that’s really the only mission. If it connects with as many people as it can, then fuck! That’s fucking awesome! And I mean hopefully that ends up translating into sales but if it doesn’t, I still know I released what I needed to.

With The New Classic being both your Instagram name and the title of your debut album, what does that phrase mean to you?

It’s funny because yesterday when I saw the album artwork, I said I might want my album to be called Iggy Azalea’s New Classic because maybe it might make more sense to people. Classic to me is just something you can kind of think of in a time capsule. Like, Grace Kelly is a classic beauty, you know what I mean? For me, I also compare it to what embodies classic rap music. It has a certain sound or looks a certain way, and when I think of what a rapper is or supposed to be, you would tell me a couple of black men who wear baggy pants or their music sounds like this or whatever the fuck. Now I just kind of feel like I’m from a generation who grew up listening to rap music.

Even touring with Nas, I realized it’s just this integrated mix of people. I’m not even just talking about me, even though I am a white rapper, but even seeing people like A$AP Rocky or anybody, there’s all these different characters now in hip hop. We’ve changed it so much and I’ve just wanted to make an album that represents what I think are the new elements and sounds of rap music.

How have artists like Tupac and Missy Elliot impacted the process of finding your voice?

You know what, I don’t know if they’ve influenced me sonically. I mean, of course some artists have. I used to love Ludacris, and I’d always be like, “I wanna’ rap like him!”, but it was because he tells jokes and makes people laugh, and that is one of the hardest things to do. Missy Elliot has definitely influenced the material I’ve done, but I still like Lil’ Kim and Trina – female artists that were overtly sexual. They influenced me with their confidence and the way they’re like, “Fuck that!”. They influenced my ideas and what’s okay for a woman to do or say and what’s appropriate to rap about, and that’s not necessarily in regards to their flow or the way they sound. I just pictured Lil’ Kim wearing lingerie and fur and owning it, and I just wanted to be that and be cool and powerful. I want to be that girl.

With the amount of newcomers in today’s hip-hop industry, do you feel a need to constantly be creating something new and innovative?

No, although obviously I’m competitive. I don’t think watching what one person’s doing will dictate how I move or when I move or what I do. That’s something that T.I. really taught me, because I used to look a lot more at the landscape of what other artists were doing, and I felt like I was sort of in a rat race, you know what I’m saying? Over time, I began to learn not to let somebody else’s move dictate when you go or stop because that’s just not how it works. I definitely think I learned that from T.I. and now I move when I want to move, and I’m on my own timeline. The thing about it is you can hear a song and try to make it better, but like I said earlier, it’s just about making connections with people, and that’s how I get across whatever is inside. Whatever story is inside yourself at that time and whatever story is the right story to tell, and only you can know that.

That can’t come from what somebody else is doing. For me, it’s all about just trying to better my own shit, or trying to develop my own story or things that I’m doing. I think that as long as the quality is good and consistent, you’ll always have a place and nobody can take it. There’s room for everybody. I was talking to Angel Haze about that the other day and we were laughing like, I could never be you and you could never be me (laughs) because we all have a place, and people will connect to what they want to connect to. It’s important that there are different characters, because I mean, there can’t be one character that the whole fucking world identifies with. We’re all different right?

Do you ever feel overlooked or underestimated in the hip hop world?

I don’t know if I’m ever overlooked because I feel like people talk about every part of me and even question if my body parts are fake (laughs). I suppose I do feel underestimated. That used to be something that frustrated me but it’s now become a nice thing. Even with the single “Work”, I think people kind of expected me to do something that wasn’t quite as good. Everything that I make that’s great seems to be a pleasant surprise to the world. I’m cool with that, and you can either let it frustrate you or you can see the good and positive in it. So yeah, I’m certainly underestimated. But I’d rather be underestimated than over-hyped, right?

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