Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Iggy Azalea/ Azaelia Banks and Me (part 2)

She accused Banks of playing the race card - and, by branding her a bigot, she actually wandered into reverse racism territory. Her response didn’t take into account Banks’ political points. Instead, it was shaped to make Banks look like the angry black woman - jealous, bitter and obsessive.
This retort comes from a blonde, Australian woman who raps in a voice imitating a black American. Watching one of her music videos is like watching a modern day version of the blackface minstrel show.

Strong words here from Renni Edo Lodge, in her breakdown of the Iggy Azalea/ Azaelia Banks feud. It might be worth doing a close reading of this article: the use of names gives a clue as to where Lodge's sympathies lie (as if accusing Iggy of being a minstrel didn't).

I am still following this, via its media representation (the reality behind it might just be two rappers having a chuckle as they establish their respective identities through a performed dialectic of difference, natch). It brings up all sorts of questions that I can't answer, about race, culture difference, aesthetics and that. Let's dive back in.

Black face is a serious accusation: like those actors who think having a straggling beard and rubbing their hands together is acting Jewish, doing blackface is mocking an entire culture (unless done by Molly Dancers). How does Lodge back this up?

In his post White Rapper FAQ, comedian Aamer Rahman writes: “Blackface was all about white people acting out caricatured, fetishized depictions of black people for the entertainment of white audiences. Iggy Azalea, Kreashawn etc. are all about… well, you get the picture. Their entire careers rely on them perpetually acting, talking and behaving like college students at an ironic-not-racist-but-actually-racist ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ themed frat party.”
He continues: “A white rapper like Iggy Azalea acts out signifiers which the white majority associates with black culture - hyper sexuality, senseless materialism, an obsession with drugs, money and alcohol – as well as adopting clothing, speech and music – as a costume that they can put on and discard at will. It’s a cheap circus act.” Quite.
I get it: she apes the surface behaviours of hip hop artists, but fails to recognise the broader context. Rahman's definition is not entirely historically accurate, though: there were African American performers who did blackface, and the minstrel song was often performed by black artists. That does not make it okay (Frederick Douglass commented on its racism early on), but it does mean that not only white performers can be accused of it. Anyone who performs a caricature of blackness (and probably for the amusement of a white audience) is doing blackface.

Rahman then freaks me out: 'signifiers which the white majority associates with black culture - hyper sexuality, senseless materialism, an obsession with drugs, money and alcohol.' Er - I guess I am not this notional white majority. I associate hyper-sexuality with pop starlets (Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus), rock musicians (Robert Plant before his face transplant, him off Kiss) and Russell Brand. I guess there is a narrative somewhere that associates black culture with hyper-sexuality, but even those artists who do bang on about banging (R Kelly? Does Kanye? Sir Mix-a-Lot?), I tend to see it as being about them rather than the culture they come from.

'Senseless materialism': that's interesting. I read an article that criticised Lorde for complaining about conspicuous consumption in pop - the gist was that, as a white woman, Lorde did not have the authority to question hip hop's aesthetics. This area is really complicated... I am making Veronica Bayetti Flores' argument a bit simplistic, but she suggests that there is a reason for the celebration of meaningless materialism in hip hop, rooted in the culture's history of poverty. But, yeah, I see how that's an element that can be caricatured.

'An obsession with drugs, money and alcohol' sums up most of my friends, one way or another. And I do see all of these things in Iggy's videos. I'd add that they have shit acting and a very dubious exploitation of sexual stereotypes. Although I haven't managed to get through a whole one, because I cum in the first two minutes.

That was a joke. I am trying to get to the bottom of this...

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