IGGY AZALEA at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), Friday (April 25), doors 7 pm, all ages. $25. LN.
Iggy Azalea is a polarizing figure.
As if being a white female rapper weren't difficult enough, Azalea (real name Amethyst Amelia Kelly) is Australian and raps with a heavy Southern twang that belies her native accent.
Her long-delayed debut album, The New Classic, out last week on Universal/Def Jam, meshes her aggressively spat rhymes with catchy hooks and poppy electronic production. There's a sharpness to her beats that you'll either find edgy or grating.
At this point, Iggy Azalea the personality overshadows Iggy Azalea the artist. She shot the world's first "shoppable" music video (with FKi and Diplo, for Montreal's SSENSE clothing retailer); she's a front-row figure at Fashion Weeks; she's appeared in splashy Vogue articles and GQ shoots (the latter with her boyfriend, Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Nick Young); she is, unfairly, written about in the context of her body rather than her art. Google her and you get headlines like "Iggy Azalea showcases her famous curves as she strips down to animal-print bikini."
The hope is, though, that The New Classic will shift the conversation back to the music. Certainly her newest single, Fancy, complete with radio-friendly, Charli XCX-sung chorus and Clueless-inspired video, is doing its bit.
"To be honest, there have been so many potential release dates that have changed. But in hindsight, it allowed me time to reflect on songs I wrote last year and make choices on my final album track listings," Azalea says over email. "I'm happy with The New Classic, and it's amazing to finally have it out there. My fans have been so patient."
They're not the only ones. Azalea's story is near-fairy-tale, but her success hasn't come overnight. As a kid in Mullumbimby, Australia, she fell in love with American rap - Tupac Shakur and Missy Elliott in particular. Her delivery combines the influence of the latter and that of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
After dropping out of high school to clean houses and hotel rooms with her mom, she saved enough cash for a ticket to the U.S., leaving Australia before she turned 16. She never went back - on a permanent basis anyhow.
"I just knew in my heart I had to be in America. There wasn't much thought - it was just necessary. So I got on that plane."
A lot of rappers start from the bottom, but very few are completely on their own in a totally new country.
"It's important to trust your inner voice and stay true to that," she says. "Keeping your independence when you have so many opinions thrown at you is tough, especially when some are from people who have been doing this for a long time. I know that my choices are my own, and I have always done well by sticking to that mentality."
Whatever stick-to-itiveness she was blessed with, it's got her this far. The New Classic is her first studio release - after a tumultuous ride with various labels, including a near-miss with Interscope in the U.S. and finally landing with Def Jam - but the emcee has already released a smattering of mixtapes and EPs, the best of which are on this record.
Is it a classic? Probably not. But it's catchy (Change Your Life), motivational (Work) and surprising (employing Jamaican dancehall superstar Mavado on Lady Patra).
Azalea comes to the Danforth Music Hall on Friday - the same venue she played two years ago, which shows how long this album's been in the works. Since then she's cut her teeth opening for the world's biggest artists, but her takeaways haven't necessarily been tips for her live show. And for an artist who's as much a persona as she is a rapper - at least for now - maybe that's a good thing.
"It's always inspiring to work so closely with people you have respect for. I have learned the importance of hard work, but also not to get lost in the scene. Nas and Beyoncé work hard but also keep personal time aside for those they love. I think this is the key to a successful career."