What Drove T.I. and Iggy Azalea Apart?
Rapper T.I. has distanced himself from his ex-protégé Iggy Azalea after accusations of cultural appropriation and homophobia tanked her career. Is the pair’s relationship really on the mend?
In a Wednesday radio interview, “Whatever You Like” rapper T.I. broke the news that his working relationship with Iggy Azalea is as over as, well, Iggy Azalea. T.I. later “clarified” that Iggy is still his “partner” and insisted that “we’re focused on making the next Iggy record,” but no one—not T.I., and definitely not Iggy Azalea—seems to know exactly what’s going on between the performer and her longtime mentor.
Maybe it helps to understand the pair’s history. Way back in 2012, Iggy Azalea, with her blonde good looks and confusing southern drawl, was slated to be hip-hop’s next big thing. That was a simpler time, before Kanye West was a soon-to-be presidential candidate and “cultural appropriation” had yet to infiltrate the pop culture think piece machine. Naturally, southern rapper T.I. agreed to executive produce Azalea’s pseudo-southern “masterpiece”, The New Classic. When Interscope barred T.I. from the ongoing deal, Azalea decided not to sign with the major label.
The rest is hip-hop-lite history: the rapper released singles like “Murda Bizness,” “Work,” and “Fancy,” revolutionizing sorority pregames across America. In 2014, The New Classic debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and quickly became the highest-charting female rap album since Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. Azalea was living a life that most passably talented blondes only dream of: dressing up as Cher Horowitz, wearing fun ponytail extensions, and even working with notorious donut criminal /woodland nymph Ariana Grande.
But like Icarus flying too close to the sun, or Ariana Grande’s tongue sliding too close to the donut, Azalea was in for a rude awakening. When, in 2011, the rapper rhapsodized about being a “runaway slave-master” on her remix track “D.R.U.G.S.,” the Internet quickly ran through all the stages of white lady rapper backlash, from “is this Kreayshawn?” to “Why should I care?” to “Wait…WTF?” to “please bring back Kreayshawn.” You don’t need to read Emily Post to know that appropriating and commodifying a black sonic culture and then making a slave-master joke is simply bad manners. Azalea quickly apologized, admitting that “it was a tacky and careless thing to say.”
But the Internet, armed with schadenfreude and scandalous screenshots, quickly attacked Iggy with a number of her own “tacky,” racist, homophobic tweets, ranging from 2010 to 2012 (the golden years of saying stupid shit on the Internet). Iggy’s totally careless response? “Remember there was a time when my Twitter was just for my friends and family to see.” So, to sum things up: Iggy Azalea doesn’t want to stop using racist stereotypes and making offensive jokes—she just years for the privacy of a segregated Twitter account. The future of hip-hop is here, and it’s whites-only.
Azealia Banks, our patron saint of telling it like it is, wasn’t about to let Iggy Azalea steal both her stage name and her entire culture. In the wake of Ferguson, Banks went fully off on Azalea, tweeting, “its funny to see people like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen...Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” She also went on Hot 97 and did a must-see interview on black erasure and Iggy Azalea’s general mediocrity. In addition to launching a thousand sassy, sarcastic “Igloo Australia”-themed Twitter handles, Banks’s crusade centralized all the anti-Iggy ire that had been floating around the interwebs. Suddenly, Iggy was more than just that omnipresent, hard-to-spell radio sensation—she was a full “10” on the 1-to-Macklemore scale of white hip-hop horribleness.
A hip-hop history lesson from A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, a losing streak at the Grammys, and an avalanche of online shade followed in quick succession. Instead of addressing the errors of her ways, Azalea fought back by criticizing Banks’ “piss-poor attitude,” telling Q-Tip she was “not going to sit on Twitter & play hip-hop squares with strangers to somehow prove I deserve to be a fan of or influenced by hip-hop,” and picking a fight with her Papa John’s delivery man.
Unlike everyone else and their mother, T.I. has stood by the melting Igloo Australia through thick and thin. He’s gone on record attesting to Azalea’s vision, insisting that “she should be judged based on that rather than her creed, nationality, or what country she’s from.” He even responded to Q-Tip with his own Twitter screed, explaining that Iggy, Eminem and other artists who “just so happen to be” white “allowed ME TO SEE, that not all white people out to steal our culture…There are some that merely wish to contribute to it.” He ended his Tweet-off with a message for Iggy to “KEEP SHINING, FOLLOW YOUR HEART, & STAY TRUE TO WHO U ARE!!!”
Even after Azalea cancelled her Great Escape Tour over the summer to take a much-needed “break” (AKA was forced to scrap her plans after all her openers quit and ticket sales stalled), T.I. stayed by her side like a man with a vested financial interest in the matter. Defending her controversial decision, T.I. said, “I feel any artist deserves the right to postpone or reschedule any presentation of their art. Any true fan should appreciate that.”
Additionally, Iggy Azalea was pressured out of performing at a Pittsburgh Pride event due to her history of homophobia and added insult to injury by chastising Britney Spears for failing to promote their single “Pretty Girls.” Gaining a reputation as a homophobe then proceeding to insult a gay icon isn’t just stupid—it’s career suicide.
No wonder T.I. is finally making moves to jump off this sinking ship, citing his belief that Iggy’s team “needed some time to adjust.” While Azalea swears that they’re still going steady, it seems like T.I. is losing confidence in Iggy’s vision. With no tour, no upcoming hit, and T.I. threatening to leave her in the lurch, it’s hard to imagine Iggy Azalea ever getting her mojo back. Bad news for Iggy Azalea, great news for anyone who’s looking to buy a tour’s worth of half-off, lightly used blonde ponytail extensions on eBay—or anyone who actually gives a damn about the future of hip-hop.