April 17th, 2012
12:15 PM ET
Before sitting down with us for an interview, Australia-born rapper Iggy Azalea had a few concerns.
“As long as it’s not about fighting, who I am having sex with or if I’m racist,” Azalea, who recently inked a deal with Interscope and is also signed with T.I.’s Grand Hustle label, told us before the first question was raised.
Listen to Iggy Azalea's interview:
Iggy did eventually open up about everything except the fighting, despite her early apprehensions, but such cautions are commonplace for the 21-year-old.
Six years ago, the girl who developed her stage moniker by combining the name of the family dog and the name of her street, landed in the States with hopes of finding a career in rap music and the hip-hop culture she so loved.
With a healthy dose of Tupac, OutKast and Missy Elliot, the girl from small-town New South Wales was ready for the big stage.
In the years since arriving in Miami and sharing a love of rap with her Jamaican neighbors, Iggy has been busy. She has released a well-received mix tape, “Ignorant Art”; made XXL magazine’s coveted Freshmen cover; is said to be dating “it” rapper ASAP Rocky; and has been in a war of words with Harlem rapper Azealia Banks over her alleged racist opening line for the single, “D.R.U.G.S.”
Not to mention that before the T.I.–assisted “Murda Bizness,” her most popular song was the blatantly titled “P***y.”
Both hailed and praised for her sexual audacity and a look that seems to combine elements of Britney Spears, Kid Sister and Nicole Kidman, Iggy seems to be that new artist everyone loves to hate.
CNN: When I think Australia, I think Kylie Minogue and Keith Urban. Where does rap come into play?
Iggy Azalea: There’s a small culture, and there are other Australian artists that rap that are popular in Australia, but they don’t make it over here - yet (laughs).
Growing up nobody liked the style of music [I liked]. I always felt really alone because no one wanted to talk about the things that I enjoyed, and that was really rap music and hip-hop as a culture. You know, having the shoes, using the words, buying the magazines, seeing the videos. And I had nobody to share it with, so I feel like I lived a lot online.
CNN: You started rapping at 15 in Australia, and people weren’t immediately feeling it…
Azalea: Yea, throwing the boos!
CNN: So what was it that kept you going?
Azalea: The boos – to be honest – didn’t really throw me off as much as they would have if maybe they came from [the United States] or somewhere where it was actually a popular thing, because I always thought to myself, “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t even like this stuff! I’m great!” (Laughs)
I wasn’t great – I was terrible! I think you’ve just got to have a belief in yourself and try to believe that you can do better and change minds. There’s a billion crazy people that can’t sing or dance out there jiggling around – you see them all the time on those TV shows, and I was definitely one of them.
CNN: A lot of people when you signed with T.I.’s Grand Hustle were like, “Really?!”
Azalea: Because people think of T.I. as T.I. the artist, they don’t think of T.I. as T.I. the producer or the person getting it done.
When you think of T.I., you think of his brand, not my brand, and you try to associate his brand with mine – [but] that’s not what I have him for. He’s not there to make my songs for me, he’s there to help me make my music and help me with what I want to create and connect the dots because I don’t have the same outreach as him.
He has so much great advice, I’m a hothead and he’ll be like, “Listen!”
CNN: What makes you a hothead?
Azalea: I’m an impulsive person and sometimes I get so worked up so quick, and he’ll say, “Hey, that stuff does not matter! Let’s go eat steaks.”
I just think it’s really good having somebody like T.I. around, because, you know, obviously he was incarcerated and he’s been through so much stuff and he’s really such a calm, well thought out man now. He says to me the other day, “Unless it’s worth having gunfights, somebody dying over [it] – I just don’t care. And there’s not a lot of things that are worth that anymore.”
CNN: Some argue that in your lyrics you use sex as a weapon, while others argue it’s a gimmick. Your response?
Azalea: I think you can say anybody uses anything as a gimmick. Is Adele’s not having gimmicks her gimmick? It’s hard to say, isn’t it?
Really, I think that everybody has something that people like or that’s great about them. Is [the fact] that Chris Brown can dance his gimmick? I like to talk about sex. I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry, and this really big part of my life is having to deal with all those types of things. What’s sexy, what’s demeaning, what they want you to be, what the media wants you to be, what’s OK, what’s not, what people think you owe them to be sexy. It’s something that I think about a lot.
I don’t think, “Oh I want to put my vagina on a plate so I can sell you something.” It’s a big part of everybody’s existence, but especially in this industry. It’s hard to ignore it.
CNN: How have you seen race handled here as an artist as opposed to home?
Azalea: People get … emotional much more than they do in my country. And I’m not saying it’s to a fault because it’s your culture and it’s different. You have a different history. I think you guys love to label things with race, and I’m not used to that being where I’m from.
It’s different, it’s weird to say, “She’s a white rapper or she can’t do this because she’s this color – this color does THIS thing. These are the boxes we have, this is what it is, don’t try to change it.” And it’s crazy to me because I’m just not from that world, so I can’t really rock with it all the way. I said on Twitter the other day, “I’m cotton, you’re cashmere.” And they’re like “Don’t say cotton!” I was like, “Whoa! Cotton is a racist plant?!”
CNN: Do your parents listen to your music?
Azalea: Yeah! My dad says “P***y” is my best work to date!
CNN: If you met someone for the first time and they asked what you do…
Azalea: Usually they’ll Google me and there will be a big picture of my butt. I hate it!
CNN: Why do you think people obsess over whom you’re dating, your body and everything outside of your music? Is American celebrity hard to deal with?
Azalea: I like celebrities and artists, too, and I like more than just their music – there’s a whole package. There are a lot of people out there with good music but they’re missing other elements, so I don’t get mad. Some of the personal stuff is a little bit weird, because you start to think, “What do I get to keep for me?”
In terms of my butt, it comes with it. If you like those things more than you like my music, I don’t mind as long as you look at it actively.
CNN: What’s that tattoo on your arm say?
Azalea: “Trust your struggle.”
CNN: What’s the significance of that? What’s your struggle?
Azalea: I got that tattoo maybe a year and a half ago now. It just means that you’ve got to kind of have faith in all the roadblocks that you come up against while you’re trying to reach your goal because there’s so many, and sometimes it just feels like it’s never-ending, and that’s how I felt when I got that tattoo.
I just felt like I wanted to pack it in and give up but you’ve just got to keep persevering and trust that all the little things are just going to make you better. And that’s what it’s for, just to remind me when I’m having a bad day, “Don’t give up!”
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