Iggy Azalea has become one of the more polarizing figures in hip-hop over the last two or so years. One might point out that rarely is a white rapper not polarizing, but Azalea’s critics aren’t necessarily dismissive of her for the same reasons some people despise, say, Macklemore. An Australian with a pretty sizable following as a fashion model, Azalea raps with a faux Southern American drawl that echoes the popular trap-rappers of the past several years. She made some pretty glaring missteps regarding race (that infamous “I’m the runaway slave master” lyric on her 2012 single “D.R.U.G.S.” certainly warranted criticism) and her highly-publicized personal life (she’s dated A$AP Rocky and L.A. Laker guard Nick Young) have made her seem like more of a tabloid fixture than a serious artist.
Cultural appropriation and controversy baiting have been a couple of heavy criticisms hurled at T.I.’s protege from Down Under.
On The New Classic, Azelea’s wit is evident — she knows her way around a punchline or two. The best tracks, “Change Your Life” and the excellent “Walk the Line,” are memorable enough. But ultimately, it falls short of its lofty title by far. She just doesn’t take very many musical risks, and she seems to spend far too much time on empty boasts. T.I. shows up on the strong “Change Your Life,” which showcases Azalea at her best — aggressive and confident. But she repeats the themes of her unique hip-hop aspirations and her belief in herself far too often, and it all starts to run together before long. Rita Ora assists on “Black Widow,” but it sounds like a retread of her earlier track “Dark Horse;” while “New B—h” could likely be a single, but it fails to say anything new lyrically or sonically.
Ultimately a party album, The New Classic has an underlying cynicism that’s slightly off-putting for a debut. Azalea’s jaded fairly early in her career; further evidence of the current blog and gossip driven climate in hip-hop media and culture. She’s already had Internet beefs, already had relationships picked apart, already been embroiled in PR disasters and controversies — and this is her debut album. So songs with titles like “F— Love” and “Don’t Need Y’all” aren’t all that surprising; but she needs more emotional weight to pull off the kind of pathos for which she’s aiming. Here, it just sounds entitled and bratty.