What seemed as just a simple “beef” in hip-hop has actually brought race issues to the forefront of entertainment media.
This week, in an interview with Elle Canada, Australian pop-star Iggy Azalea was asked how she felt about certain entertainers in the R&B and Hip-Hop community accusing her of cultural appropriation.
Her response was, “I think the Azealia Banks ‘thing’ is what really started it all. We don’t like each other on a personal level, and that has gone on for many years – before the Black Lives Matter incident happened. So when I dismissed her, people started to think that I dismissed the whole movement, but I wasn’t trying to dismiss Black Lives Matter – I was trying to dismiss her because it’s our personal s**t”
For those who don’t know, Iggy is referring to a feud she had with rapper Azealia Banks about a year ago. Banks said on air in an interview with Hot 97 radio station, “That Iggy Azalea s**t isn’t better than any black girl that’s rapping today…The Grammys are supposed to be accolades of artistic excellence, Iggy Azalea is not excellent…
“I have a problem with that fact that you’re trying to put that music up against Hip-Hop, it’s cultural smudging of what black people have created for themselves…. Put her in the pop category, with Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Lady GaGa. Just because she’s not singing doesn’t mean it’s rap music.”
Banks also commented on Iggy Azalea’s freestyle titled “D.R.U.G.S.,” where Azalea refers to herself as a “runaway slave master.” In the video for this song, Azalea simulates a whipping motion while saying this lyric. Banks accused Azalea of perpetuating slave culture in a genre of music that has fought so hard to create a space for African Americans in our society.
Banks fired back with a freestyle song called “Used To Being Alone” over the beat of Iggy’s freestyle “D.R.U.G.S.” After releasing the song, she referred to the fight as “petty,” and said that music is the “sweetest revenge.” However, this fight is the furthest thing from petty.
Following the news coverage of this feud, I noticed a lot of issues with how the media framed the stories. Most entertainment news outlets have used photoshopped, clean images of Azalea, but used unfiltered, candid and aggressive-looking pictures of Banks.
The news outlets eventually changed their photos of Banks, after she called them out for making her seem like “a bitter black b***h.”
The media framed the stories as if Banks had attacked Iggy for no reason other than Banks being the “queen of Twitter beefs,” yet they are choosing to ignore the fact that Banks brings up a very good point.
Iggy, being a person of color is not a mask you can take on and off as you please. You cannot go on stage and accept an award in your “proper,” Australian accent and then “rap” in the voice of the most stereotypical and characterized voice of an African American person.
I cannot empathize with the experience of a person of color, but I can imagine it being very hard for them to see one of the very few things they have created for themselves in American culture being slandered and almost made into a joke, and then to have the music industry capitalize on that slander.
How can you say you identify with hip-hop culture, but not speak out about issues in black culture, and you can’t address any of the issues hip-hop artists address in their music regularly?
I encourage everyone to listen to what Banks is saying. She is addressing the serious issue of cultural appropriation.
We cannot steal something from one culture, claim it as our own and make money off of it.
It takes someone like Kylie Jenner, Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus to make big lips, braids, hip-hop and “twerking” a trend, when African American women and men have had these things for years. Why are these “trends” only cool when a white person starts them?
Yes, mainstream media, Azealia Banks, and other black women and men are angry, upset and “bitter,” and they have every right to be.
Matt Pereira can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org