This past week Hip Hop’s latest femme phenom, Iggy Azalea released ‘Reclassified‘, a revamped version of her major label debut ‘The New Classic‘ which debuted back in April of 2014 and about which we wrote back in early May. Looking to capitalize on the immense momentum that Iggy established this past year, ‘Reclassified’ combineds five new songs with seven of the originals from ‘The New Classic’ in what results in a better album, both in terms of sound and feel. Given that the deluxe version of ‘The New Classic’ featured fifteen tracks, eight were ultimately removed from this latest version. It is with the removal of these tracks that we start our album review, as the deleted tracks result in an addition by subtraction effect that works in ‘Reclassified’s’ favor.
Simply put, of the eight tracks left off ‘Reclassified’ (‘Lady Patra’, ‘Walk The Line’, ‘New Bitch’, ‘Impossible Is Nothing’, ‘Goddess, ‘Fuck Love’, ‘Just Askin”, and ‘100 [Watch The Duck]’), six of them are throwaways or damn near throwaways when compared to the others. That’s not to say they’re all completely garbage. Each of these tracks has merit within the context of ‘The New Classic’ which again, as noted above is Iggy’s major label debut. ‘Lady Patra’ for example finds Iggy experimenting with a reggae sound. ‘Walk The line’ and ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ feature lyrics that speak to Iggy’s journey from an impressionable Australian teenager who moved to the United States to pursue a Hip Hop dream to a young woman living it. ‘New Bitch’, ‘Just Asking’ and ‘100 (Watch The Duck)’ are all songs that explore ex and current boyfriend / girlfriend relationships. These are the six ‘throwaways’ in my opinion. In the context of a debut release, the tracks work because they highlight Iggy’s range as an artist capable of delivering over different musical styles and lyrical content. At day’s end however, they pale in comparison to the other tracks on the album, including ‘Goddess’ and ‘Fuck Love’, two very good tracks that didn’t make the cut on ‘Reclassified’.
That said, removing some of the weaker tracks alone doesn’t make for a better album. Of the five new songs on ‘Reclassified’, four of them, namely ‘We In This Bitch’, ‘Beg For It’, ‘Iggy SZN’ (pronounced “Iggy Season”), and ‘Heavy Crown’ are very strong, with ‘Trouble’ being the weakest of the new bunch. All in all from a sonic standpoint, the beats which comprise the new songs are an improvement over the tracks that got nixed, and over the original album’s largely EDM/Electronica based. Though Iggy employed the same core producers from ‘The New Classic’, that being The Invisible Men, for the most part the beats on the new tracks are funkier and feature deeper bass lines than the deleted tracks. The core sound on the new tracks blends well with the seven carryovers from the original album, particularly the smash hit ‘Fancy’. This along with the project being three songs shorter than the original result in a more succinct, cohesive listen that although still largely rooted in overused Hip Hop motifs of materialism and boasting from a content standpoint (one of my criticisms of the original), ends up being a better project.
As for the five new songs, ‘Trouble’, my least favorite of the bunch is an upbeat piano driven throwback R&B/Gospel sounding track that features Jennifer Hudson on the hook and bridge and Iggy waxing poetic on a ‘good girls love bad guys’ theme. ‘Iggy SZN’ and ‘Beg For It’ are dance, sexualized tracks that feature Iggy boasting about her fame, money, and of course, her body, best exemplified by this gem from ‘Iggy SZN’: “Iggy got them pop titties but that ass on that urban.” Can’t argue with you on that one Ms. Azalea. ‘Heavy Crown’ stands as a sonic outlier to the other five, as the track’s tempo is significantly slower and overall feel a lot eerier than its counterparts. The slower tempo facilitates a double time delivery by Iggy at the beginning of the track, allowing her to further flex her lyrical muscles. Content wise, the song is about Iggy dealing with the competition and backlash that comes with being at the top. The queen’s crown that she’s wearing as (arguably) the game’s most prominent femcee at the moment is heavy on her head, or burdensome if you will. She addresses her naysayers with, “to everyone who said I’d never make it. Oh Lord, weren’t you mistaken“, and boldly proclaims that when it’s time to “pass” her crown, she’ll “pass it proud“, but for the time being it belongs to her. My favorite of the new tracks, ‘We In This Bitch’ builds on this same motif.
Featuring one of those aforementioned funky bass lines, Iggy morphs into braggadocios mode while simultaneously reflecting on the complexities of her recent success.
Now let’s reflect on what we left on New Classic
I overstepped what was expected, I blew past it
So best bet is respect my perspective
Or go get your sight checked for new glasses
The fact is you combine the stats with
The history I made, the message should be established
I guess what I’m explaining in laymen’s
Is ain’t nothin’ about miss Azalea average
After acknowledging her success, she goes on to rap:
Unpolished product of my environment
Tryna get the same type love and respect as peers I be rhymin’ with
But everything is so one-sided, divided and biased
That I can’t get a fair judge panel not in the slightest bit
Also noteworthy, the repetition of the line “life is now everything I dreamed and more” at the song’s conclusion. What we have here are the thoughts of a femcee dealing with the backlash of having shot to super-stardom in a relatively short amount of time. She broke records with ‘Fancy’ and recently won American Music Awards for Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Album and best Rap Artist, beating out Hip Hop heavyweights Eminem and Drake. Success isn’t all peaches and cream however, as evidenced by her much ballyhooed non-feud with Nicki Minaj amid claims that Iggy doesn’t write her own lyrics, her Instagram/Twitter beef with Snoop Dogg, and most recently her Twitter replies to Eminem’s not so subtle rape lyric on one of his latest tracks. She’s also been the latest target of those who bring to light a quickly growing trend of whitewashing Hip Hop . Regardless of who’s side you’re on in any of these scenarios, one thing’s for sure, Iggy, through her music (and social media accounts) is not backing down, and both ‘Crown Heavy’ and ‘We In This Bitch’ reflect that sentiment. And why should she? Isn’t the willingness and ability to stand up for you and yours in the heat of battle one of the more important characteristics of any emcee? That’s Hip Hop, no?
For the record, Iggy’s role in the whitewashing of Hip Hop does concern me, though I think it’s foolish to pin it solely on her without acknowledging that without major label, radio, and corporate backing we wouldn’t even be talking about her. That she won those American Music Awards bothers me in the same way that Mackelmore beating Kendrick Lamar out for the Grammy does. It perpetuates this unnerving feeling among True School Hip Hop Heads that much like Rock & Roll and Jazz, Rap music will be lost to the masses. Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that those same True School types were upset about award victories going to Iggy’s AMA competitors; Eminem, a white guy, and Drake, half Jewish and generally regarded as a ‘soft’ emcee. Also, many point to her southern delivery (or ‘blaccent’) as proof that she’s overtly appropriating Hip Hop / black culture. But it’s not uncommon for vocalists across any genre to use different accents and voices when performing.
Does it bother us when Shakira or Jennifer Lopez don’t sound overtly Hispanic when performing their English songs? I’ll do you one better. Does anyone today actually give a crap that Canadian born white guy, Snow, of ‘Informer‘ fame, sounds Jamaican when he performs? No, and we shouldn’t. Snow had a diverse upbringing which resulted in an affinity for dancehall/reggae that’s reflected in his performance. Iggy moved to the United States as a sixteen year old in 2006 to pursue Hip Hop, spending time in Texas, Florida, and Georgia absorbing southern Rap music for five years before her first mixtape release in 2011. If you take away the first four to five years of her life simply due to the fact that most of us don’t remember much of anything from those first few years of existence, then what we’re left with is a woman who spent a third of her formative/conscious life in the southern parts of the United States ingratiating southern Rap music. Is her southern delivery really that much of a stretch? Not to me.
That’s not to say that she’s completely blameless in the misappropriation scenarios. What she does and says going forward and how she reacts to that particular type of backlash will determine how guilty she is in the whitewashing of Hip Hop. For now however, at least from my standpoint, I can separate her culpability (and make no mistake, she’s definitely culpable) from the industry’s (media, record label, corporate sponsorships, etc…) role. And unless she all of a sudden loses her Australian accent in her interviews and starts talking like a black or latina woman (because THAT would be offensive), her southern delivery doesn’t bother me.
All that said, back in May we determined that ‘The New Classic’ was in fact no classic, but a worthwhile listen deserving of a tepid 3 out of 5 limes. ‘Reclassified’ is a better, more cohesive project and though it also fails to achieve classic status, we applaud Iggy for her efforts and upgrade our original rating to 3.5 out of 5 limes. Like it or not, it’s still very much Iggy Season.