The New Classic (Universal)
Indulge me for a minute. As different as they seem, let’s make a comparison between rising Australian rapper Iggy Azalea and New Zealand singer Lorde. The two performers’ self-mythologizing is remarkably similar: white girl grows up dirt-poor in some far-flung town down under, absorbing the bling-and-yachts imagery of American music videos. Where the narratives diverge is that Lorde, as detailed in her monster hit “Royals”, rejected this ostentatious materialism while Azalea used it as her motivation for getting the fuck out of Mullumbimby.
The 23-year-old rapper moved to the U.S. when she was 16, and released her first mix tape in 2011. The New Classic is Azalea’s first proper studio album, and she spends much of it establishing her “started-from-the-bottom” bona fides, which are least as credible as Drake’s, if not more so. As she declares over the trap-inspired beat of “Work”: “People got a lot to say/But don’t know shit about where I was made/Or how many floors that I had to scrub/Just to make it past where I am from.”
Much of this material comes dangerously close to the “let my brilliance inspire you” vibe of Nicki Minaj’s “Moment 4 Life” and “Fly”. Azalea’s bite-sized motivational seminars bear titles like “Change Your Life” and “Impossible Is Nothing”. On the latter, she declares, “Promise to blaze a path and leave a trail for the next/And never sell out my soul for any number on a cheque.”
That’s all well and good, but aiming high won’t get you a major-label deal any faster than rejecting materialism will land you on-stage with the surviving members of Nirvana for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sing-along. Feel-good lyrics aside, though, what marks Azalea as an artist to watch is that she’s brash and sharp and fully aware that being white, female, and non-American makes her an anomaly in the rap game, for better or worse.
This doesn’t mean The New Classic lives up to its lofty title, mind you. The record is about five songs longer than it really needs to be, and it doesn’t help that it’s front-loaded with the best ones. This is arguably irrelevant in an era when no one under 30 buys albums anyway.