[image courtesy of celebuzz.com]
By: Liam McGurl @Liiiammm1996
Iggy Azalea has released a promotional single off her forthcoming album Digital Distortion, ironically reminding everyone why her A-list team is constantly diminishing.
“Team,” supported by borderline EDM beats, derives the majority of its power from commanding sounds, removed from Azalea’s lyricism. As far as Azalea’s artistry on the track goes, the 25-year-old singer provided what everyone had expected: a “good enough” track. Sonically, the song can’t be shamed. It warrants more than just a lackadaisical foot tap or lethargic head bob because it’s undeniably aggressive—in that self-assured, Nicki Minaj sort of way (although, Minaj might not appreciate that comparison).
While its dance-inducing nature might deem it a successful comeback effort—after Azalea’s rough, 2015 career roadblocks—the track’s lyricism and lyric video pose a whole new set of issues for the Australia native. And those roadblocks seem all-too-familiar for Azalea, who’s known to attract public disdain and media criticism.
Opening with five female dancers in the utmost intimidating poses, the technically impressive video jumps right into all the crumping and twerking that lines the nearly four-minute-long piece.
As far as the choreography goes, the video’s impressive. Featuring denim-clad male and female hip hop dancers, it breeds visual excellence all around. The marrying of the dancer’s loose clothing and jagged movements exaggerate the already impactful choreography; they hit every mark effortlessly, affording an occasional cocky snarl or hair flip.
Despite the song and video’s invigorating sounds and visuals, there’s a concerning dynamic to the efforts, which were meant to resurrect Azalea’s career after she made some questionable, public race and sexual orientation-related remarks: it bleeds cultural appropriation.
We’ve seen these types of dance-focused videos everywhere lately: Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Beyonce’s “Formation” and Rihanna’s “Work.” While Yonce and RiRi might have participated in the video’s choreography, it’s worth noting that Bieber didn’t.
With that being said, there stands one dividing point between the 22-year-old, Canada-native and Azalea: the success “Sorry” acquired wasn’t rooted in references to another’s culture. While the single’s video might have displayed a few questionable twerks, it featured white dancers, without any uncomfortable mentioning of a group’s experiences or cultural norms—which Bieber is likely unversed in.
Not only did Azalea feature mainly dancers of color in her video, she also references dutty whining, a form of Jamaican head dance, singing, “Jamaican club – I’m stayin’ on the grind/ Dutty whine, don’t step on, this land mine!” It’s a subtle statement, wedged between a reference to her financial standings and the Spanish phrase “ven aqui, andele.”
While Azalea’s Jamaican reference might not have carried any intent of cultural appropriation, the reality is that she’s used another’s cultural expressions as a means for acquiring “street cred,” something most would acknowledge benefits a rapper’s career. She’s not celebrating Jamaican culture. Rather, she’s promoting herself.
After the release of her 2011, Kendrick Lamar remix “D.R.UG.S.,”Azalea was under fire for her racially insensitive line, “When the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave … Master, hitting on the past gotta spit it like a pastor.” It’s an unsettling lyric, regardless of one’s race or in-depth understanding of the history behind the concept. Azalea, intentions aside, used the deaths of countless men and women—persecuted due to an uncontrollable, genetic factor—to complete a dull rhyme. Needless to say, a bit more creativity on Azalea’s part might have made the word-selection-process a bit easier.
In blunt terms, the line shows a lack of ethics on the “Fancy” singer’s part, valuing a catchy line over a directly offensive remark.
Considering her “D.R.U.G.S.” reference in conjunction to her mentioning of dutty whining, it seems Azalea doesn’t understand cultural boundaries, whether she’s borrowing from another’s dance style or softening a pained historic event
Only one line later, Azalea sings, “Ven aqui, andele,” meaning “Come on, hurry” in Spanish. At face value, the line is harmless. Considering an insensitive 2011 tweet, posted by Azalea, though, it speaks of Azalea’s cultural ignorance. Tweeting, “Is it wrong I feel happy to hear southern accents again & not mexican ones? F*ck it. I am,” Azalea made her feelings on Mexican language—and presumably culture—abundantly clear. Her tweet reverberates intolerance.
On the track, Azalea uses the Spanish language to finish another rhyme. Ironically, the singer seems supportive of the Spanish language when it benefits her career, but she comfortably voiced her annoyance with its accompanying accent only five years prior. It’s a self-serving move, one of the many that have yielded Azalea a multitude of professional second chances.
Azalea has agreeably posted her racial standpoints on Twitter, allowing them to even shine through in her released tracks and mainstream interviews. As loud as her past racial statements have been, echoing complete apathy, “Team” serves a message more blunt than ever before: it’s all about image.
Much like the common person, who isn’t broadcasted on a global scale and whose every verbalization isn’t critiqued, Azalea has made questionable remarks. With that being said, it was expected she’d learn from her professional stumbling blocks going forward. As a well-known performer, with a net worth of nearly $6 million, Azalea had the resources to get outside, uninvolved opinions on her content before its release. Had she taken the time to hear from listeners of color, she may have been impassioned by the unwarranted ignorance these sort of disparages breed.
No matter how upbeat “Team” may be, its cultural references serve as regressive statements—one that adds to the egoistic borrowing of one’s culture over its well-bred celebration.