Like many up-and-coming rhymers, Azalea started posting her music on YouTube, and amassed a solid fan following. Among the tracks that garnered her the most hits was the sexually explicit, bass heavy track "Pu$$y." Out the gate, Azalea's aggressive flow, with a hint of a southern accent, is the last thing one would expect from a platinum blonde white girl from down under. But maybe that's why she's so appealing. Although hip-hop has no race requirements, there's no denying that the number of successful white rappers are few and far between. In the last year alone, a handful of white female rappers have emerged, namely Kreayshawn, her sidekick V-Nasty, K-Flay and Azalea herself, who are bending rules when it comes to what rappers can both look and sound like.
By the end of 2011, Azalea's digital buzz landed her in the middle of a bidding war between Def Jam and Interscope Records. In the end, the latter label won her over, while T.I. also signed her to his Grand Hustle imprint. Yet being in the bright glare of the media also turned her into a target. After becoming the first woman to adorn XXL's coveted 2012 Freshman Class cover, Azalea was called out by fellow rap newcomer Azealia Banks, who pegged her as a racist. Banks opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of criticism which, at its peak, found Grand Hustle's newest star clarifying, then apologizing for using the term "runaway slave master" on the track, "D.R.U.G.S."
Now that all the chatter has died down, Azalea has been quietly spending time in the studio in Atlanta, only coming out to respond to other female rappers who can't seem to stop blasting her. The latest, Eve, admitted that she "can't really f--- with her music," and questioned the authenticity of her look. With what could have blown up into a unnecessary beef averted, Azalea remains less focused on her would-be competitors and more interested in making good music. Her forthcoming debut LP, The New Classic, which she describes as "a little bit of bragging and a little bit of complaining," is among the most anticipated records in the game. With T.I.'s endorsement, the rest of the year will be about Azalea putting out a record which she hopes will live up to its name, and who knows, maybe it'll win over some of her opponents in the process.
Read on as she gives details on her collaboration with rapper Rye Rye, the lessons T.I. has taught her and explains why she felt a little bit like Taylor Swift not too long ago.
Have the last few months felt like a whirlwind?
In some respects. I think that it doesn't seem so crazy until you look at it in retrospect, and it's like, "Wow, things are actually moving pretty quick," you know what I mean. I feel like most of the days I'm just in Atlanta recording so it doesn't seem that fast, but then I look at the platform changing, and the things I'm doing that keep being more legit, and I start to realize "This is going pretty quick!"
You mentioned being in the studio. Can you tell me about the sound of the records you're making?
God, they're so extreme. Some stuff is very base-driven, stripped down, more southern-sounding. Then other stuff is more mood and closer to my ignorant [side]. I kind of like have two different zones. It's ratchet, then introspective, I guess [laughs]. Those are the two sounds, and I'm trying to glue all the things together, and find things that will make it cohesive. I got all my singles and stuff picked out, all the big records that really matter are done. Now it's just trying to find the glue to stick it all together.
Why did you choose "Murda Bizness" as your first single?
Just because I think it's a fun record. I always like to start things off pretty lighthearted. I did that with "Pu$$y" too -- something you can kind of dance to a little bit. I feel like you can dance to that thing. I don't know, I do! I don't like to come in like, "I'm super serious." I don't think people take me that seriously. I don't wanna come out and be talking about something crazy like abortions or something, and people think, "Whoa! What is her record going to be like?" Of course I have those serious records, but I just wanted it to be more fun and lighthearted.
What other songs off The New Classic can you give me the scoop on?
It's hard to give specific details for what's going on the album. I really haven't picked what will go on the album and what I might just put out, but I did do a song with Trey Songz ["Waste It All"] that's kind of unexpected. The beat, and the way he sings, it's kind of different [from] his regular style. I'm going to put that out, probably before the album. I met with Cee Lo [Green] the other day; I love his voice. I really want to find something that he can be involved with, probably for the album. [There are] a few other people that are in the works, but I'm not sure if they'll make the album or what we'll do with it. It's really hard to say when you don't have all the elements of a record done. I don't know what's going to keep the storyline of the record, and what I can keep.
What have you learned from being around T.I.?
Probably how to be a calmer person. Having been incarcerated and [going] through all the things he's gone through, it takes so much to get T.I.'s blood boiling. I feel like some days it takes just the smallest little pinch to get mine all the way at 100 degrees! Being around him and seeing how he's so unfazed by it all, I really like that about him. It's so easy to become an angry person with all the things that you feel are misprinted or misunderstood, and he's one of the happiest people I know. Just watching how he deals with it all is teaching me how not to be affected by that kind of stuff.
Do you feel like the "slave master" lyric being misconstrued affected the way you felt about the media?
Yeah, it affected it a lot. It was just a big arrow in my heart. There have been a few things, not just that. There have been a few things, as well as personal stuff, that annoys you the most, because those are the things that are closest to your heart. I felt wronged by the media because I always did my [best] to befriend you guys. Everybody would always say, "Be careful of them," and I would say, "They're not all bad." Then things like that [the "slave master" controversy] would happen, and it made me feel so burnt by them.
When the XXL cover came out I saw how everything changed for you, in one day. I can only imagine how it was for you to go through that.
It was frustrating because I felt like that was supposed to be a poignant moment for me and it got taken away. I kind of felt like Taylor Swift and Kanye West and I was Taylor Swift. I felt like this is supposed to be my moment, this is my great achievement, it's great for me and it's great for my country, it's great for women, and I felt like it got stolen from me in a sense. It was supposed to be a happy day and it got twisted around, and it disappointed me, and annoyed me because I had been anticipating that [cover] coming out as a celebration, and it really turned into the opposite. It was just mudslinging, and I felt disappointed by the whole thing. But I'll have other moments, and they will be mine. I'll make sure of it.
Being that you were the first woman to get that cover, who are some of the female rappers you look up to?
I love Missy Elliott. I say it all the time. She's my No. 1 female. She's a writer, she has the crazy videos, she just does her own thing. She pulls her own as a singer, a rapper, everything. She's one of the greatest girls ever, and I love her.
What do have to say about the lack of unity among female rappers?
I don't know because I don't think I'm the one that does it. I can't help what other people say. I think it sucks because a lot of times these girls, I like [their] music, but I feel like a lot of times [with] stuff like that it's going to be both of the people that are getting a bad rap. But I'm not the one starting this stuff. I'll never understand it.
Me and [Interscope Records artist] Rye Rye, we're doing a record together. She hit me up and was like, "Hey what do you think?" and I was like, "You know what? I would love to do this record with you." It's not enough records like that, it just doesn't happen. I just think there's a lack of respect in general. You don't even have to do collaborations [with other female rappers, but] I don't understand why it's so hard to keep your mouth closed about things.
Well, you'll have the opportunity to prove everybody wrong with your album.
I mean at the end of the day, if an artist dislikes me, I don't mind because the artists aren't fans. An artist isn't going to buy 100 records, or even by a ticket to my show, so it's not something that annoys me so much. Fans will like what they want. Me disliking someone, or them disliking me, it doesn't stop a fan from liking what they're gonna like. That's just how it is. You [other female rappers] don't stop the checks, you don't create the checks. I currently do that for me. If you're going to be mad, be mad with the checks [laughs].