While living in Australia I had the pleasure of meeting rising star Amethyst Kelly. We worked together for
her mother’s cleaning company in Byron Bay while I was replenishing my travel fund. Fast forward eight years and she is better known today as rap artist Iggy Azalea. At the age of 15 Iggy knew she wanted to be a professional rapper. The fact that she was white, blonde and Australian seemed irrelevant to her. This was her calling. I remember people laughing at her and the idea that she would make it in the industry. When she entered a battle of the bands competition, her mother and I watched as she was
booed by the crowd.
None of this ever swayed her from the dream she was destined to make come true. She knew what she wanted, knew she was going to make it, and kept her eye on the prize. There was always something that drew me towards Iggy. She was fascinating – her confidence and belief in her dreams. We would mop floors while playing her mixed tapes with her Mom rapping along as her biggest fan.
Now 23, Iggy is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams. She is signed with both Mercury Records and Island Def Jam, and is currently opening for Beyoncé on her Australian tour. She is also signed with Wilhelmina models and was the face of Levi’s for 2012. She is opinionated, unapologetic and just as driven as she was back in Australia scrubbing toilets.
1. Describe your hometown in your own words?
IGGY AZALEA: There’s one of everything: one hairdresser, one supermarket, one florist, one bakery. You know everybody that’s owned the stores and they’ve owned them for generations. The population’s 3,000 but it seems smaller because most people live in the hills. They’ll come down to the supermarket to get food and that’s the only time you’re hanging around or seeing people. My dad’s a surfer. My mother had me when she and my dad were 19. They were hippies and built their own house. They wanted to do self-sustained living. My parents split up when I was 8 or 9 and my mom got a teaching degree and would clean houses and substitute teach. That made her a bit more straight up and down.
2. What do kids do for fun in Mullumbimby?
If you don’t play sport, you probably get stoned all the time. In elementary, we called the kids that liked rap and smoked “The Homies” or “FUBUs” and the surfers “The Surfies.” They had brawls that the police would break up, and that was the biggest thing in my town at the time, to fight with kids from other towns.
3. What sort of trouble did you get into as a kid?
When I was 13 I got a fake ID. I’d go out, get hammered off my face in nightclubs because I thought that made me an adult, meet older guys who thought I was older, and go fuck them. I’d do that all the time. Hitchhiking was something I would do all the time as a kid. When I was 14 I used to go to the red light district called Kings Cross and go to strip clubs.
We would hang out there so late that the train would stop working, and then we would walk back into the city on the sides of the road, three or four drunk 14-year-old girls with fake IDs. One time, after going to a nightclub with my friend, a guy followed us through all the carriages. Every station, we’d get out and switch a carriage and he would find the carriage we were in. When we got to the station in Sydney he started to chase us and was like, “Come here, you little sluts!” We ran and locked ourselves in the disabled bathroom and we stayed in there for like four hours until the sun came up and people were out for work again. That’s the only time I’ve ever felt scared doing something dumb.
4. You’ve described the people of Mullumbimby as ignorant. How so?
My friend Roland, a breakdancer from Sydney who is black and had cornrows, was walking down the street with me and one of the kids around my age screamed out the car, “What up, nigga! Yo! Yo! Rap music!” They thought it was hilarious. I was like, “I’m so embarrassed that I’m from here.”
5. What was the racial makeup of Mullumbimby?
One of my best friends growing up was half Aboriginal, and I’d be around them a lot, but there was not a lot of diversity. It’s very white—a few Aboriginal kids, a few Asian kids, some Indian kids, and that’s it. The neighboring town Lismore was much more diverse because they had a refugee program where all the Sudanese refugees went, but it’s a much bigger city. They probably have 10,000 people. When I got into rap music and wanted to go do cyphers or open mics, that’s where I would take the bus. There were a lot of African kids who wanted to rap and breakdance and shit.
6. Race has been an issue since you first got noticed as the tall blonde who rapped. Did you understand that some people in the U.S. would think you were fake?
Yeah, but it’s retarded. The Rolling Stones go to America, play “black” blues music, and nobody has a fucking issue with it or thinks it’s weird. But here we are, 50 years later, in the 21st century, and people are like, “This is so weird that you’re white, from another country, and you like black music.” Why is it not weird for Keith Richards or Mick Jagger, but it’s so weird and taboo for me? Do you think a kid liking my music is gonna make rap music some other thing, or that all of a sudden nobody’s gonna like Scarface?
7. In a country where “speaking black” has been a hindrance in almost every profession but rap, do you see how a white person making money in rap by adopting this accent could ruffle feathers?
If you’re mad about it and you’re a black person then start a rap career and give it a go, too. I’m not taking anyone’s spot, so make yourself a mixtape. Or maybe if you’re black, start singing like a country singer and be a white person. I don’t know. Why is it such a big deal? This is the entertainment industry. It’s not politics. You should be more concerned about the message, not the voices saying it.
8. Have you ever rapped with your Australian accent?
Never. It feels weird to me. It’s the inflection at the end of a sentence when I take a breath. Obviously there are people who rap in all kinds of accents. But for me, rapping is like singing: The breath patterns aren’t the same as when I’m talking, so it’s easier to change into whatever I want. I couldn’t talk in an American accent—I could, but it would sound very fake—but I can rap in one with no problem.
9. You were asked on Hot 97 if you’re an imposter, and you said, “Maybe I am.” Your friend and mentor T.I. immediately chimed in, “Nah. We don’t do those. She’s certified.”
Tip doesn’t ever get asked about it or have to think about it. What’s real? What’s fake? Of course I’ve asked myself, “Does that make me fake?” I don’t think the voice makes me fake; it makes me an artist. Voice is my medium. I should have creative rein to do whatever the fuck I want with it. For Tip, the word imposter seems like “she’s a mole, she’s a snake.” I look at words for what they mean. You seem to feel I’m imposing on you with what I’m doing, so maybe I am essentially an imposter. I don’t know, I think about things in a different way. A lot of people in the industry like to have any excuse in the world to throw a grenade at me.
10. Why do you say that?
Because I know it. Some people are supposed to be on your side and they’re not. Sometimes it’s not even that they’re against you, it’s that they don’t give a fuck about you and they just want a promotion. I can’t ever say to anyone, “You’re doing a shit job” because then they’ll tell everyone I’m crazy. I don’t go into detail or name names because it doesn’t help my cause. I know stuff is going on but I have to bite my tongue and keep pushing. I have a mental “fuck you” list of so many people that I know want to see me fail. I’m not going to say “fuck you” now but please believe if I ever get very successful, I will come to your house and come through your window. I wish I could suffocate them with a pillow, slowly.
11. What’s the biggest fight you’ve had since signing to a major label?
I have to fight about visuals all the time because they don’t understand why I would be sexual in some contexts but not in others. They’ll say, “But you twerked in ‘Work’ and had your ass out, so why won’t you show your butt in this magazine?” I went topless in my new video for “Change Your Life.” I painted my nipples red and I know that will fuck them up. I don’t consider it exploiting myself because everything I do is conceptual. It’s not just tits out for tits out. I consider it art. I’m only ever in a state of undress if it’s for my own project.
12. What was the most challenging point in your career thus far?
The lowest point was the day I didn’t take my deal with Interscope. I’d broken up with my boyfriend the day before. Because I’m a sicko, I was still at his house, in his bed. He wasn’t there, and I was on the phone, saying I’m not taking the deal. Everybody thinks I’m a lunatic and I’m sitting there crying, like, What the fuck am I going to do? I have no deal. My management’s not on my side, and I have no boyfriend.
13. Having been in a public relationship with Rocky, would you ever date someone publicly again?
No. I’d date somebody in the industry again, but the number one thing I regret saying publicly is that I fucking loved Rakim [A$AP Rocky]. These are the things that happen when you say you love somebody in the media: Every person that person’s ever had sex with, who would still like to have sex with them, will say what a lame bitch you are. Every person who’s ever had sex with me, who wants to have sex with me still, will say how wack the guy is. Then, everybody who has an ulterior motive business-wise is gonna come at us and tell us every reason why we shouldn’t fuck with each other. Little seeds get planted. “Does she really love you? Did she say that because she’s using you for attention? You should be dating a black girl.” Blogs do voting polls: “Do you think they’re a good couple or not?” I fucking hated that. It’s not a song. It’s a relationship, and you’re not in it, by the way. It’s so sick to me. Also, you can never go out because people will take pictures of you or talk about what you’re doing, or if you’re having a fight. You’ll never be able to enjoy yourself in the capacity of a normal fucking human being ever again
14. How badly did things end with you and Rocky?
I definitely hated his guts and he hated my guts for a few months. [Laughs.] It was a legit “Fuck you!” “Fuck you!” peace out. But once you’ve had a few months to look at things in retrospect you realize maybe you don’t hate that person, you hate whatever caused the breakup, and you both failed in the relationship. I don’t call him up and have conversations and I wouldn’t say Rocky is my friend, but there are times I’ve congratulated him on things he’s achieved and he occasionally congratulates me on shit that he’s proud of. We’re cordial and I respect him, but there’s a separation.
15. Have you ever regretted getting your A$AP tattoo?
I’ve never regretted it. I fucking loved him. I know he loved me, too. I felt like he was somebody I could count on who loved me for being me, and I don’t want to forget that. I would sacrifice a quarter of a pinky for those memories. That’s why I didn’t cross it out all the way, because if I’d covered it up all the way, that says I’m embarrassed. You shouldn’t be ashamed of the trials of becoming an adult. I wanted people to know I’m free for more possible love interests, but also not ashamed.
16. Do people have the same affinity for your curvaceous body type in Australia as they do here?
I feel more adored in this country, for sure. In Australia they’re big on having a tan and an athletic body type. I used to have a tan, but my family always had skin cancer. When I hit 15, and my grandfather started to get a lot of shit chopped off his face and scooped out of his body, I was like, “Oh, shit, everyone in my family older than 50 has skin cancer! Maybe I should stop rubbing baby oil all over myself and laying in the sun after school.” It was beaten in my head since I was a kid: “You should be as brown as you can be; it’s healthy to look brown.” When I moved to Miami, I wanted to look like a Spanish girl so bad because guys would only talk to you if you were tan and had curly brown hair.
17. Seriously? Guys wouldn’t talk to you in Miami?
Well, they did once I started to have a fake tan. But then I realized that shit sucks. It makes your bed sheets brown, you can’t buy any nice clothes because the underarms will be ruined forever, and when you’re having sex and get sweaty, you smell like fake tan, which stinks like shit.
18. You’ve been fortunate to be around veterans like T.I. at Grand Hustle Records and Nas, who you toured with. What are the greatest lessons they’ve taught you?
Nas encourages me to take risks. He’s made me be less afraid and even more unapologetic. Even with “Bounce,” I was like, “It’s a pop record. I don’t know.” He was like, “Just fucking do it. It’s something different. It’s one song, what’s the big deal?” I couldn’t believe Nas was telling me to do a hip-pop record. The thing that I learned from both of them is to be unaffected by everything. There were a lot of sad days in that studio, and T.I. would be like, “Look, shawty…” and give me a spiel about how he went to prison and if something’s not going to send you to prison or kill you, you shouldn’t worry about it. Career-wise, I used to compete with certain other people I had issues with. He sat me down and said, “You run your own race, like you’re a horse and you have blinders on. Don’t look at who’s on either side of you or who’s coming up.” That’s helped me a lot because even last year a lot of people would have chalked me up and said I was a wrap. I sometimes feel like I’m the turtle and other people are the hare. They win their race and finish or burn out and I just slowly run my own race. It works out in the end.