Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Azaelia, Azalea and Me (part 1)

I am really getting into this beef between Iggy and Azealia. Even the frickin' Daily Telegraph is getting in on the action - although they put the article in the 'women's life section' for reasons I can't understand.

Being a minor media pundit, I am more interested in the way that the issue is being handled than any 'truth' in the accusations that Iggy A is appropriating hip hop. And I seem to find myself siding against an artist I admire to protect a cookie-cutter pop chick. The Telegraph article is a pretty good survey, though. My notes in italics.

...rapper Azealia Banks had a viral hit with 212,(which was a storming track)... she’s also known for her long-standing feud with the Australian rapper Iggy Azalea... Last week, Banks gave an interview to New York based radio station Hot 97. When questioned about her feud with Iggy, she burst into tears at the cultural appropriation of blackness, calling it a "cultural smudging".

She seemed particularly upset that Iggy Azalea was nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammys. “The Grammys are supposed to be awards for artistic excellence… Iggy Azalea’s not excellent,” Banks said. 

I did watch a bit of Iggy and, while I am not ready to define excellence, I don't think she is as good as Azaelia. But let's have a look at the Grammys' past winners to check whether they are about 'artistic excellence.'

Records of the year have included Phil Collins, Coldplay, Eric Clapton (in the 1990s when he has that revival), U2, and The Captain and Tennille. The most striking consistency is that artists get this award long after their music might have been exciting or relevant (Sinatra in the 1960s, Carlos Santana in the 1990s). When Eddie Veder won an award, he questioned its value in his acceptance speech, and Sinead O'Connor boycotted the event. Even the wikipedia page notes that it tends to go for commercially rather than critically notable artists.

I am concerned that Azaelia gives a shit about The Grammys. Her viral hit had a chorus about 'that cunt's getting eaten.' She is not making commercial music. In fact, the pleasure of her songs comes in the disregard she has for the niceties of conventional pop: the sexuality she celebrates is rough and tough and determined, and is a long way from Iggy's white-bread fantasy persona. 

“When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is, ‘You're great. You're amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don't have s***. You don’t own s***, not even the s*** you created yourself.’ And it makes me upset.”

So, I did check the rap awards at The Grammys, and it is a mixed bunch of artists. It isn't as redundant as I'd expected (although no Public Enemy, Tribe or De La Soul and P Diddy has won twice). The racial profile (hmm) of the awards does not suggest that it either favours or ignores black or white artists. Given that Iggy and Azaelia have had beef for a while, I wonder whether she is picking out The Grammys to continue the ruckus. 

Reni Eddo Lodge's article is better than most of the clickbait about this beef, because she gives Iggy's response. It's not impressive. 

“You created your own unfortunate situation by being a bigot and don't have the mental capacity to realize yet,” she wrote. “Probably never will. Now! rant, Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won't make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio. Enjoy continuing to bang your head against that metaphoric brick wall & Savor this attention. I'm the only way you get ANY.”

Up to now, I have been on Iggy's side - for the reasons that will come clearer later. But this is some bullshit. It's rude. It makes it personal (Azaelia was making a point about The Grammys, and using Iggy's aesthetic quality as an example. She might be wrong or right, but saying that someone's art is not excellent is fair critique. Saying that they are a bigot and stupid is not). 

And to quote Skin off Skunk Anansie: of course it's fucking political. 

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