In her videos for ‘Pu$$y’ and ‘Two Times,’ Iggy Azalea is intimidating. The 21-year-old Australian rapper, who grew up in a tiny town but moved to the U.S. by herself when she was 16, is glamazon tall with Snow White skin and baby-blond hair slicked back into a ponytail that hangs halfway down her back. Of course, she’s also suggestively licking ice cream and superimposing cartoon cats on her crotch. But in person, she’s self-deprecating and giddily girlish, peppering her animated storytelling with dramatic voices. Her debut mixtape, Ignorant Art (a nod to Basquiat), was released the last week of September, and she has just one request: Will people please stop comparing her to Kreayshawn? This interview by Rebecca Haithcoat.
How many ice creams did you go through for the ‘Pu$$y’ video?
Oh my god—eight. It was a lemon sorbet—disgusting. After the first take, I asked if I could have a different ice cream and of course they said no cuz of continuity. I wasn’t even swallowing it by the end of it, just spitting it out.
I was just listening to ‘Drop That Shit’ from the mixtape. Have you been to any strip clubs in L.A.?
Oh yeah. We call it ‘Ming Lee’s Asian Fantasy.’ We went to Déjà Vu at 4 AM, and it seemed like they really didn’t care to be strippers. Someone got thrown, like, four dollars. It was so bad it was funny. In the South, we go to strip clubs a LOT—we go to eat chicken wings; it’s nothing weird. They were very skinny here, and gave us fruit punch. One girl texted for half her set and got, like, two dollars. They didn’t know any moves! And their underpants were from Target. If you’re a stripper, I expect you to have a costume made out of Lycra. She was in her period panties!
Why the name Iggy Azalea?
It was my dog’s name when I was a kid, and he was badass. He used to go around and get in fights with all the other dogs. I used to try to rap with my real name [Amethyst], but it just doesn’t rhyme; it has too many letters. My grandpa was telling me there is this science behind the perfect stage name. It has to have a certain number of syllables.
Have you ever battle rapped?
Yep. And I lost. I didn’t start wanting to be a battle rapper, but I come from a town where’s there’s nowhere to record so if you wanted to be a rapper, you had to catch a bus to go to battle raps or open mics, and it would always be both. So you would do both because you want to be up there as much as you could. I’d be the only girl, and I would definitely lose and get booed EVERY single time. I was so bad! Once a guy said to me, ‘You have a vagina and you’re on your period.’ After I choked, I was like, ‘Well, I NEVAH!’ And I didn’t know what to say, I lost and I got booed heaps. I was crap. I was 14.
So what did you do instead?
They let me perform at the school dance. I got booed at that, too. I lost my voice, and everybody was like, ‘Your show was OK, but your mic cut out halfway through.’ No, I lost my voice cuz I was practicing so hard! I did like seven songs, which was probably too many now that I think about it, but I was like, ‘This is my concert.’ Someone filmed it, and when I watched it, people were talking: ‘She fucking sucks.’ I muted it, and dubbed my songs over it so it looked like everybody loved me, and put it on MySpace. I started going to competitions. There’d be a lot of festivals where a little local group would perform, and I’d do a song. They’d have little awards. I never would win, but I’d think, ‘Why didn’t I win best costume? I had the best costume! I can’t even win best costume?’
So this is when the Pussycat Dolls were popular, and they had those jackets with the words on the top. And I wanted words on my clothes. I remember cutting out stencils and spray painting it onto my jacket and my jeans. I did it on my mom’s path, and I didn’t put enough newspaper down so I spray painted her path gold. She was realllly pissed. She was like, ‘I got these tiles imported from Indonesia!’
And no best costume!
And I didn’t even win best costume. I was certain! One, my grandma sewed these clothes for me. They were an original design. Two, they had gold words! How could I lose? And I had a grill!
Why did you feel isolated in high school?
Nobody where I lived liked hip-hop. I already didn’t have friends cuz I would get teased for wearing weird shit and making my own outfits and thinking that was some next-level shit. Or I would do dress-ups. In elementary school, I would get my friends or my little sister to paint our faces and walk through town past all the adults and say, ‘Yeah, Rebecca’s birthday party is gonna be so fun.’ I know they were all like, ‘This bitch. She does this every month. What dress-up party is she going to? There are 2,000 people in this town!’ People thought I was weird cuz of that, but I just had too much time on my hands.
So how did you fund coming to America when you were 16?
I worked, I saved, the Illuminati helped wherever they could. No, I’ve been working since I was 13, and I never spent my money cuz we lived in a town where there was nothing to spend your money on. I worked a cleaning job, and my mom suggested I register my own business. You can work as a contractor and get paid whatever you wanna get paid. I dropped out of high school six months before I came, so I had saved up about $4,000. I told my mom I was going on holiday.
And she said no.
Yeah, so I told her my friend from Sydney’s family lived in Miami—which is true—and we were going to stay with them. But my friend wasn’t really going with me. My mom found out I’d dropped out of school, and that I was really sad and had no friends, so she said I could go. But you know how when you’re about to do something really big, and before you do it you start thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I had the ticket, though, so I went. My mom’s godmother is American and lives in L.A., and she came to LAX to help me switch terminals. I was scared! I didn’t know if they would even let me in. I made my stepdad, who works for Qantas Airlines, get the forms and help me fill them out before I left. I made someone escort me off the plane like a fucking kid to go through customs.
What did you do once you got through customs?
I got to Miami, and I did see my friend’s family. I was just happy to be here. I always wanted to come to America, even before I wanted to rap. It was my dream when I was a kid: I would move to America, have a convertible, lots of dogs, and a long leopard skin coat—cuz I used to wear leopard skin EVERYthing, velvet leopard skin cuz of Scary Spice; I would have my grandma make me outfits. I would have lots of dogs on one leash, wear my leopard skin coat, and walk them. And my name would be Jane or Quinn, off of Daria, because I hated my name. When I first saw a car with rims in Miami—an Escalade spraypainted to look like the ocean, with coral—I thought it was fucking cool. We were at the gas station, and I just freaked out. The guy was so embarrassed. There was this theater that had an arcade in it and it was done up like a pyramid. I thought it was fuckin’ crazy! Everybody was like, ‘Uh, it’s a cinema.’ But I thought it was insane. I didn’t even see the beach in Miami till I moved away and came back, and I lived there a year. We would sit on the porch with a bunch of Jamaicans and rap for each other. My boyfriend didn’t want me to hang out with them. They ended up robbing my apartment and my boyfriend broke up with me. I moved from Miami after that.
No, Houston. This producer saw my music on MySpace and said if I were ever in Houston to hit him up and I could have some of his beats. So after all that in Miami, I didn’t know where to go cuz nobody wanted to work with me. I decided to go to Houston for the weekend and work with that guy. I went and never left. I only stayed for eight months cuz Hurricane Ike came and ruined my apartment. Everybody there was gonna go to Atlanta cuz they said it was where the music industry was moving.
This whole time, did you have other jobs?
Yeah, we [she and her assistant, Shawna] have a hair business. It’s online. I’ve always had long hair; mine’s not a wig. I’m a foreign investor. She earns and I invest. We went to Thailand together. It’s not as glamorous as it looks. You’ll go through alleys, and a lot of the hair will have lice in it, or be gray.
You have a veneer of having seen it all, but in person you’re just so ebullient.
It’s sorta like I had to be like that. Everybody tells you no! No, no, no, no, no, no, NO so much. It makes you … not tough like you have a knife in your pocket, but just more like a man. People always said I just should model. And they hadn’t even heard my music! Mind you, it was shit at the time, but fuck, give me a chance.
You have more in common with older female rappers—or maybe Nicki Minaj at the beginning of her career.
Yeah, now she wants to be a Harajuku Barbie. My videos weren’t always sexual, and people would say it was going to take me, like, six years longer because of that. Fuck off, if I’m going to do it, I’ll do it how I want to do it. That’s why I did the ‘Two Times’ video like that [with cats on her crotch]—I was mocking it. If I want to be sexual, I’ll be it in my own way and be funny. I’m not doing it in a man’s version of what women’s sexuality is allowed to be, which I personally think is bullshit and most of the time demeaning. I’m not going to rap in a video with lingerie on and my ass out for WorldStarHipHop. People will think I’m a prostitute and that I want to be a video vixen.
And you’ve been working seriously since you were 17.
That’s why it drives me crazy when people say, ‘She just put out her video in February and it just blew up!’ No, it didn’t: I had to move countries, be here in this country for like six years with everybody telling me to fuck off, and put out a video that nobody gave a fuck about, and then Perez Hilton puts it on his site and everybody cares. But it wasn’t a fluke or overnight. My career didn’t start a year ago. I had to fight to prove that I’m good enough for a long time.
So you’re prepared for all the inevitable hate.
It sucks—no one wants to be hated. But I’m used to it. I’m sure I’ll get booed many more times in life but I’ll also get love letters, too.
Do you feel like these are your last days of peace and quiet?
I get really paranoid about it. Nothing is guaranteed. People say I just have to ride the wave now, but I don’t really know. I haven’t made it, I still have to put out content and be consistent. I don’t have a record deal or a visa. Hip-hop is competitive. I only hear Nicki and Kreayshawn on the radio—they’re the only ones with videos and projects out. It’s like hip-hop is the husband, and there can only be one wife. Everybody else is like, ‘Get the fuck off my man!’ Being a girl, you feel that you wanna be the only one. But you don’t want to be number one by default. I wanna be the best, but I don’t wanna drag anybody through the mud. There used to be a lot more women.
There did. But never—and I know you don’t want to be classified as such—many white female rappers.
Even if there was a brilliant white female rapper ten years ago, I’m sure they wouldn’t have put it out because they didn’t think it was profitable. So one happened to fluke it, and the media’s like, ‘Ahhhh! That’s profitable!’ People say, ‘Oh, you wanna be like Kreayshawn.’ I’ve had this dream since I was 13. A lot of people have the same dream. A lot of people wanna be the president, a lot of people wanna work at McDonald’s and make chicken nuggets. There aren’t that many occupations! I wanted to be a rapper and so did she; that doesn’t mean we want to be each other.