Pop culture moments, not unlike life itself, is what happens when you’re edging towards the exit at an open air concert. Half way through “Fancy”, obviously the end of the set, I began my move out of Pier 97, the new outdoor hut at West 58th Street and West Side Highway, when the Australian rapper left the stage and walked the minute or so towards the back stage area. Two little girls squealed her name and she turned round while her stage manager warned Iggy to hurry up. The nightmare was obvious, 3000 fans sated (more or less) would spy her and they were seconds away from heading to the exits. Iggy ignored him and stopped to speak to the girls, the manager begged Iggy to move it, she took selfies with the girls, the manager began to panic, she took selfiies with another couple of young girls. Finally, with the fans bearing down, she ran headfirst for the backstage.
In a world where teen idols from Ariana Grande to Selena Gomez notoriously hate their fans, Iggy’s realest moments gave an edge of honesty to her popstar performance, a very short fifty minute extravaganza of dance, beats and raps, culminated with smash hits “Problem”, “Black Widow”, “Work” and “Fancy”. The performance was good and occasionally very good , her rap on “Beat Down”, though early, reminded you she was in it for the music, and the full on ballad “Rolex” was absolutely a lesson on how her future lay in following Drake’s blueprint for songs as well as raps. We didn’t get her rap from “Booty”, though the J Lo track is gonna be huge, and, like Nicki Minaj before her, she had problems (sic) with maneuvering between serious rap artist and a pop star.
The result was, despite the grinding and the fucking and the raunchiness as the back up dancers, six girls, humped the ground, the show was essentially PG-13, she introduced “Pu$$y” with a “can any one help me find my cat” and she introduced T.I.’s”No Mediocre” by speaking to her audience directly, assessing, not inaccurately, that there were a lot of youngsters out there with “I see some sexy girls out there, I even see some cute ones, but you know what I don’t see out there New York? I do not see any mediocres at my concert”.
So, what’s it all about Iggy? That’s what I wanna know. Iggy was raised by hippies, the mother was a maid, the father an actor, in New Wales. She discovered Tupac and rap at the age of eleven, and began writing her own raps by the time she was 14 years old. From aboriginal descent (though how far back? Her real name is Amethyst Amelia Kelly, shades of Ned rather than walkabout), she started by running away to Sydney and ended by running all the way to Atlanta at the age of sixteen. Hey, folks, don’t try that at home. The mind is somewhat blown at the entire concept and while running away from home is one thing, becoming a huge star is something else again, Her looks, she is less pretty and more sexy, her face has an angularly toughness in pictures (up close she is cuter) that has lead her to a secondary career as a model.
After some blips and bloops, Iggy released the excellent mix tape Ignorant Art in 2012, and her debut album The New Classic in 2014. The album has given her two huge hits, Ariana shared a third hit and right now her J Lo collaboration is breaking into the top ten. At the height of her success she played JBL Live last night and it was brisk brisk brisk show, but not a fake one. with her DJ Wizz Kid, and two back up singers, she proved herself a pop force to be reckoned with. while not leaning very hard on her skills as a rapper, she gave an all round glammy performance, which took as much from Taylor Swift as it did from Lil Kim.
The 50 minute set flew by at the great new space JBL At Pier 97, a spacious place, with the stage facing 11th Avenue, and the boardwalk going all the way to the Hudson River. There were nothing but sitelines, there was easy access everywhere, the food was great, the VIP area unobtrusive, the night was perfect. Just a really great place to see a gig, it is a real shame there is no way to get a retractable roof out there. This is my first gig at JBL Live (owned by Live Nation) but not my last.
Not the last time I will be seeing Iggy either. Azalea mentions her Aboriginal origins because of questions of cultural appropriation: she sounds like a Southern rapper though not entirely. Certainly, as female rappers, The New Classic misses a little the brittle rap of Ignorant Art. Like Nicki Minaj, her closest competitor, Iggy wants it both ways but only manages it one way a little too often. It is a major problem with rap in the 21st century, the art and the commerce are a tough mix -they seem to be in a constant argument with each other, and when you listen to a lot of popular hip hop the problems are decidedly clear: as good as Lamar is, as good as Danny Brown, is, and Chance the Rapper, they aren’t walking the tightrope carefully enough.
Iggy certainly isn’t. I am not quite claiming she is toning it down but I am claiming she is playing to a very young audience one way or another. Singing “Booty” is one thing, but it sure ain’t Lil Kim singing “don’t want dick tonight, eat my pussy right”. If her race, place and sex says one thing, her position as a Pop princess, an Elsa with an edge says something else. Speaking of race, Iggy has also been dubbed a racist by Azalea Banks and to be fair, I prefer Banks myself and I can understand her being livid, how Iggy’s culturally ransacking southern rap success might drive Banks crazy with jealous. But cmon, Iggy dated A$AP Rocky, what kinda racist does that? Also, there is nothing black people can do about whites loving rap. They just do and they are gonna rap it so move on.
At JBL last night, Iggy was just fine, both sweet and salty and willing to discuss pussy but not cunnilingus. She could use a band, she could sing a lot better, and pop isn’t rap and sometimes she couldn’t decide which side to fall on. But she put on a strong show and the kids got what they wanted for sure. If that doesn’t amount to a great role model, it amounts to a real role model: taking a minute to talk to some young fans while the craziness of overnight success after ten years of struggling for it rages around her, Iggy isn’t the Elsa of pop, she is the Anna.
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