The infamous Australian export is here to claim her second chance. (Her sophomore full-length studio album, In My Defense, dropped this summer.) She knows what you’re thinking. And she doesn’t care. It’s called growth.
Iggy Azalea won’t leave the room until she’s shattered everything inside. The rapper is wearing big construction gloves and a hard hat with a protective plastic shield across her face, standing inside a space that looks like a Law & Order interrogation room gone bad. Along the wall rest a sledgehammer, two baseball bats, and two crowbars. She requests Outkast’s Bombs Over Baghdad to blast over the speakers – “That’s a good smash song.”
She warms up by hurling some glasses (shot, pint, mason jar), one by one, against a diamond-plated steel wall – until, apparently over it, she just chucks a whole bunch at once. She attacks a clunky office printer, picking it up and unceremoniously dumping it onto the floor. Then there’s a big flat-screen TV. Turns out, breaking a television into ittybitty pieces is way harder than it looks. Iggy hits it with a crowbar several times before she realises it’s not going to happen. But it is going to happen. She wedges the pointy end of the crowbar into a crack on the screen, separating thin black layers of glass until the display is totally, definitely gone.
Dress, Michael Cinco, Sungalsses, Mercura NYC, Earrings, Ninon
From the neck down, Iggy’s wearing what she calls her “airport outfit”: an oversize tie-dye hoodie in baby pastels from Korean streetwear brand 99%IS over a vintage Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt, light-gray joggers, and clean white sneakers. Somehow this totally works with her glamorous head, which is topped with a sky-blue wig tucked inside her hoodie. Her make-up has an airbrushed Barbie Instagram dream-girl effect – Kardashian lashes and extrapouty, nude-coloured lips. In other words, she’s not exactly blending into our surroundings, a tidy, faux-gritty bar near New York City’s actually gritty Penn Station.The place has a room in the back, The Wrecking Club, where you can, ahem, work out all your issues.
Iggy isn’t angry, by the way. She smashed all that stuff to make a point. “I’d have been so annoyed if we had just left it lying there because we’re girls,” she says over prosciutto and margherita pizzas in a private room usually used for (what else?) throwing your glass against the wall after you’re done with your drink. “Like, sorry, couldn’t do it, that’s too hard for us to break.” Speaking of seemingly indestructible stuff, remember when Iggy herself was untouchable? Five years ago, Fancy was the Grammy-nominated song of the summer you couldn’t get out of your head. She was in a high- profile relationship with NBA player Nick Young, himself famous enough to get away with the nickname Swaggy P. She starred in a Super Bowl commercial, fashion campaigns for Levi’s, Forever 21, and Steve Madden, and one of the year’s most-watched music videos on YouTube. Iggy was getting ready to headline a huge North American tour. She was being readied for the level of stardom reached by other pop-music blondes who go by first names. And then suddenly, she wasn’t. She lost at the Grammys.
Her engagement ended after a cheating scandal that played out like reality TV. (Nick was reportedly caught bragging about being with other women in a leaked video. Iggy later said she also caught him on their home security cameras.) The tour was “rescheduled” and later canceled. She told fans there’d been a “creative change of heart,” the sort of phrase that invites internet conspiracy theories. There was talk of a second studio album – and not surprisingly, record-label drama – but that got put off indefinitely too. Her Twitter feuds (Azealia Banks, Q-Tip, Papa John’s) left her perpetually playing one of two roles: the villain or the punch line. Iggy eventually released some new singles, music videos, and an EP, but it just wasn’t the same.
Dress, Chinti & Parker, Hat, Marimekko Sunglasses, Mercura NYC, Earrings, Jennifer Fisher
Now, though, she’s *really* back – whether you want her or not – and it’s on her own terms this time. In My Defense, out now and full of humour, raunch, and bops that make you want to embarrass yourself at the club, is her first album since leaving the big-name record labels to become an independent artist. “I guess I’m sort of my own boss – well, I am my own boss,” she says. “I should say that with authority: I am my own boss.” Iggy sees this as her second chance, and so what if this isn’t her first second chance? “You get as many shots as you are able to persevere for in life, no matter what you do,” she says. “You get as many chances as you’re willing to sit there and really fight for tooth and nail. And I’m not going to stop fighting for a second chance until somebody gives me one, and then I’m not going to mess it up.” Iggy’s been going this hard since before she was Iggy, when she was Amethyst Kelly from Mullumbimby, Australia, a town that is impossible to pronounce correctly. At age 16, she got on a plane, alone, to Miami. It was just a vacation with a girlfriend, she told her mom, but in reality, the friend bailed and Iggy never planned on coming back. She was going to be a rapper. There was no backup plan. She networked the hell out of Myspace Music. She dropped mixtapes, got a record deal, and opened for Beyoncé.
Today, it’s a fact that if you say “Iggy Azalea” three times in a mirror, a think piece will appear behind you waxing philosophical on the definition of “cultural appropriation” and authenticity. And not without reason. She is, after all, a white woman profiting off black culture. She raps with a “blaccent,” which, in her case, is an exaggerated Southern drawl that can’t be found in Australia. When asked about the issues surrounding “speaking black” in a 2013 interview with Complex, Iggy responded, “If you’re mad about it and you’re a black person, then start a rap career and give it a go too.” A few months before that, Iggy faced backlash from fans who’d uncovered some old racist tweets she claimed were jokes. And before that, she had to write an apology for using the phrase “runaway slave-master” in a lyric.
If you’ve been reading this waiting to get to the part where Iggy apologizes for all the above – sorry, she’s not sorry. (The most sing-along-able lyric off one of her new songs is “I started to say sorry...,” so yeah.) But listen, she does get it now. Sort of. She thinks cultural appropriation is subjective, even though she knows that sounds like a messed up thing to say. “You could ask one person of the same race, ‘Does this affect you?’ and they will say yes,” she explains. “But another person will say no. They could be from the same place, same everything, but have different perspectives about it.” Then again, can you really say sorry and then keep doing the same stuff? (Her question.) “I’m still going to make the same type of music and still be ridiculous and larger than life,” she says. “So I can’t be that sorry about it.” The way she sees it, the reason some people hate her is the same reason a lot of other people love her, so what’s she supposed to do? In fact, she describes her fans as “free thinkers.” As she puts it, “They have to be because if you thought what everybody else thought, you probably wouldn’t be a fan of mine.”
Iggy used to feel really defensive about this stuff. “I would hit back and say, ‘What about this that I had to go through?’ because I wanted to talk so much about my experiences of things I didn’t have, and I think it felt like I wasn’t acknowledging that there is white privilege and there is institutionalised racism,” she says. “It seemed to a lot of people like I was living in this bubble or unaware of all these things that people have to experience.” The charitable interpretation is that Iggy understands that the criticism stems from America’s relationship with race and that that history is messed up. And hey, if that’s how you feel or what you believe, she’s not taking away the fact that it’s real for you. The less charitable one is that she doesn’t care. Either way, she’s going to stop rage-tweeting about it.
Dress, Michael Cinco, Sunglasses, Mercura NYC, Earrings, Ninon
That growth is courtesy of what she describes as a mental-health retreat in Arizona that her management team insisted she attend two years ago. She resisted at first but eventually acquiesced. (“They just didn’t want me to screw up my own life, basically,” she says.) For about two weeks, Iggy sat with a therapist to unpack everything: her childhood and what had made her feel out of control as a kid; her control issues as an adult; resisting criticism, specifically “not being able to separate well-intended criticism from trolling.” She identified the forms of sabotage she was inflicting on herself. Mentally, she needed a break. “I just couldn’t get out of functioning at this insanity level,” she says. “Where you’re like, Whoa, hold on, don’t operate the vehicle.”
Looking back now, her chaotic ascent lasted forever and not at all. “The whole thing was very overwhelming,” Iggy says. It’s not hard to imagine what it must have felt like – how thrilling and disorienting and wonderful and awful to be so young you could still be on your parents’ health-insurance plan and then, like that, “you’re suddenly mega famous within a few months.” And almost immediately, people make headlines by criticising you (or in Snoop Dogg’s case, calling you a B*&$%), lawsuits suddenly appear (one for roughly a casual Dhs5.5 million by a disgruntled producer), and your own body becomes a weapon used against you (the hacker group Anonymous threatened to release stills from an alleged Iggy s*@ tape). This stuff hasn’t really let up either: More recently, nude outtakes from Iggy’s GQ Australia shoot were allegedly stolen and posted on the internet without her consent. When the photos leaked, Iggy wrote a statement on Instagram that she felt “blindsided, embarrassed, violated, angry, sad, and a million other things.” She knows there are people who don’t understand why she’d be so upset. It’s not like she hasn’t done such shoots before. “That’s the problem with you understanding consent,” she says. “When somebody else chooses for me, that’s not consensual.” Old Iggy would’ve lost her cool.
Dress, Michelle Mason, The Outnet, Earrings, Shourouk earrings
Her lightbulb moment was realising that maybe she’d been wrong – blowing up on critics and other stars, being difficult to work with, screaming out all her feelings on Twitter. “You want to be right so bad because you feel like you’re justified, your emotions are so real,” she says matter-of-factly, like someone who’s learned to talk about these things in therapy. “It’s hard to say, ‘Okay, I handled that in a bad way.’”
Iggy has left Los Angeles for Atlanta, where she recorded in her mixtape days, to live with her boyfriend, rapper Playboi Carti. Fast-forward 10 years and she hopes she and Playboi are still together, still living in Atlanta. She doesn’t care if they get married – she was never one of those little girls who fantasises about her wedding – but she’d love to be a mom. Just thinking about her early 20s makes her cringe. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t necessarily dispute everything I’ve said,” Iggy says. “But I definitely feel like, Who is that person? It’s that time in your life when you think, I’m a real grown-up and I know everything, and you can’t tell me s$&!.”
Now she knows the truth: The more stuff you break, the harder it is to put it all back together. “The older I get, the less I know about anything,” she says. With that, Iggy stands up and throws her now-empty water glass across the room. It makes a loud clang. She doesn’t flinch.