Mullumbimby is not a centre of hip hop. But somehow, this New Age-y little town on the east coast of Australia managed to produce the indomitable Iggy Azalea, a 21-year-old blonde-bombshell rapper whose pussy poetry and haute-couture thug-jams are spreading like crabs across North America.
Mullumbimby’s 3,129 patchouli-loving denizens enjoy three pubs, proximity to Nimbin (home to MardiGrass, the biggest weed festival in the world) and a crystal shop called The Laughing Buddha, where Iggy once worked. “It’s like, dreadlocks, no shoes, lots of weed-smoking, hemp clothing, a lot of tie-dye shit going on, that kind of thing,” says Iggy of her hometown. There’s also a motel in Mullumbimby where a 14-year-old Iggy once had a job as a chambermaid, making beds and emptying dustbins. She would save up her cash so that she could travel to rap battles in Sydney, a A$60, one-and-a-half-hour plane-ride away. As you can imagine, it was lonely being the only rapper in Mullumbimby. “I used to be really sad,” she says. “Everybody would laugh at me and be like, ‘You want to be American,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be American. I’m Australian but I like this stuff. I was always outcast and didn’t have many friends, but once I connected with rap I just went for it super hard.”
Born to hippy parents, Iggy’s real name is Amethyst, and her younger sister’s name is Emerald. They are not close. “She just turned 19 this month. And isn’t it terrible that I didn’t wish her a happy birthday? We don’t really speak.” Iggy’s mum and dad were also around 19 when they had her. She was born in Sydney, but the family moved to Mullumbimby when she was still a baby, into a house on 12 acres that her father built by hand from mudbricks. Yeah, mudbricks, by hand.
I was pretending to have sex with everyone in my rhymes. I’d say, ‘I’ll take you back home, I’ll give it to you, put it on you. I was like, 14. My poor mother
Unlike Iggy, who was putting posters of Tupac on her bedroom wall, most of the kids in Mullumbimby listened to alternative rock, house and electro. “Everybody just like, takes ecstasy and like, gets a glowstick and a pair of gumboots. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that’.” MySpace is how she started connecting with other rappers. She started visiting Lismore, a town about an hour’s bus ride away, where she’d hang out with Sudanese refugees and jam. “Lismore had a refugee program, and all the people from Sudan liked hip hop and I liked hip hop, so we would all be at the cipher zone,” says Iggy. “That’s where they play a beat, and then everybody’s standing around and it’s like, I say my rap, and you have to say your rap.”
Oh, so how do you know who wins? “I don’t know, whoever’s the best. Certainly not me, I was shit.”
Shit or not, even at the tender age of 14 she was rapping about her pussy, doing the kind of raunchy stuff that would eventually land her a major label record deal in 2012. Nonetheless she’s still pretty shocked at how X-rated she was back in Mullumbimby. “I was pretending to have sex with everyone in my rhymes. I’d say, ‘I’ll take you back home, I’ll give it to you, put it on you.’ I listened to it in December when I was back at home and I was like, that is really terrible saying this stuff – I was like, 14. My poor mother.”
By the time she was 16 it was time to wave bye-bye to Mullumbimby. She knew that the big time lay in the US. “I just knew I wanted to go to America and be a rapper and have a ponytail and a leopardskin jacket that went down to my feet, and like, 20 white, fluffy dogs on one leash.”
She told her mum she wanted to go on holiday to Miami with her best friend, a 26-year-old lawyer who seemed to have her shit together. What her mother didn’t know was that this was a lie – her friend was a meth-addicted bag-whore who happened to practice law, and Iggy had no intention of going to the US with her anyway – her plan was to go alone. “The last time I saw that girl she was fucking for crystal meth,” says Iggy, her voice lowering. “We were at a ‘party’ and it was like, ten guys sitting in a dark room with guns everywhere, bagging up cocaine and smoking crystal meth, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what the fuck type of party this is, but I do not like these types of parties.’”
Meth addiction notwithstanding, Iggy still used her friend as an alibi so she could travel to Miami. Two weeks after landing in the US she called home and told her mother the truth: that she was in Miami alone, that she was OK, and that she had absolutely no intention of coming back to Mullumbimby any time soon. She had a new boyfriend in Miami, and was practicing her rhymes every day for the homeboys in the apartment building in Miramar, where they lived. “I just used to sit out by the pool at my apartment, me and all these guys who were probably selling drugs, and we would just rap all day long.”
After breaking up with her boyfriend in Miami, Iggy moved to Houston on the invitation of Texan hip hop producer Mr Lee, one of the godfathers of the region’s sound. He’d heard Iggy’s raps on MySpace and was the biggest person she knew in the industry. Mr Lee would become Yoda to Iggy’s Luke Skywalker, teaching her some Jedi rapper-shit that helped elevate her rhymes to the next level. “He’d be like, this is how you make a song, m’kay? Like… give it a theme, you know what I mean? Maybe you should not do 16 bars in the same flow, maybe you should switch it up.”
Things were going swimmingly. Then, out of the blue, Hurricane Ike hit Houston and, as Iggy says, Fucked Shit Up. Houston turned into a ghost town as Iggy, along with everyone else, fled. Shortly afterwards, the economic crisis hit. “It was fucking shit,” says Iggy. “I was like, I don’t have a place to stay, and my Australian money is worth 60 cents right now. I was like, fuck.”
I just knew I wanted to go to America and be a rapper and have a ponytail and a leopardskin jacket that went down to my feet, and like, 20 white, fluffy dogs on one leash
In January 2009, down and out, she found herself in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite her troubles some really good things would happen for her there. She met her present-day business manager and best friend, Peezy, her sassy surrogate sister who doesn’t take shit from anybody. And she signed a production contract to allow her to attend Marvelous Enterprises Artist Development Center – a sort of rapper bootcamp – for several months, for free. In terms of being on stage, that school taught her everything she knows. “Before that I just thought you stand around and grab your dick. And I don’t have a dick, so I didn’t know what to grab. Now I can dance in high heels. I couldn’t do that before.”
Problem was, her sponsors wanted her to be less Iggy, more Britney. And that just isn’t in Iggy’s personality. “They’re like, ‘You’re white, you look like a model, you don’t look like you rap, nobody will get this. You need to be a little bit softer and more like, …pop,’ is what they said. And I was like, ‘This kinda sucks.’”
Iggy decided to start over, and in 2010 she and Peezy moved to Los Angeles, where they now share an apartment downtown. There the rebirth of Iggy Azalea was plotted. The videos to her two breakout hits, “Pu$$y” and “My World”, uploaded on YouTube, immediately attracted love and hatred in equal measure. It ain’t easy being a white female rapper, especially if you’re from Australia. “They were giving me shit about rapping in an American accent. But I learned to rap over here, from people who live in the south, so what would you expect it to sound like?”
Haters went so far as to claim she had hired black people for cred, accusing her of shooting the “Pu$$y” video in a bad neighbourhood because she wanted “to be hood”. Not true, she says. The house in the “Pu$$y” video belongs to the grandma of one of her friends, and is two doors down from where she recorded her debut mixtape, Ignorant Art. It was the only place they could shoot the video for free. “Those people can fuck off,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Oh, she wants to be black,’ or, ‘She doesn’t give Australia props.’ All that crap. What does that even mean?”
She had no tattoos until she moved to LA. Now she has several along the inside of her fingers, and one on her arm which reads “Trust Your Struggle” in flowing, cursive script. She drove past a wall, saw those words written on it, and got the tattoo about 20 minutes later. “Every single one of my tattoos I got the day I thought of it,” she says. Except for one, the one that reads “A$AP”, presumably in homage to her boyfriend A$AP Rocky. She thought about that one. “I was reading about tattoos, cos I like to know why I do crazy things,” she muses. “And they were saying how making something a part of your body is a way for you, in your mind, to try and control something. You know what I mean? When you feel out of control?”
LA has been tough for Iggy; the business relationships masked as friendships, the coldness of showbiz. “It’s a hard city,” she says. “People only love you here if you’re somebody to love. Otherwise nobody cares.” Plus she was bummed out at how much blow everyone does in Hollywood. “Do not offer me any bumps, I’m not interested,” she says. “I’ve never done a bump. I’ve never done cocaine. I am not interested in trying or experimenting with any of that shit, cos I seen a bitch fucking for crystal meth, and she was just doing bumps a few months prior. So I’m not interested. I am 100 per cent uninterested.” Peezy chimes in here. “It’s definitely west-coast shit. When you’re in the south and you’re like, ‘I wanna do a bump’, everyone is like, ‘You’re Rick James, you’re a crackhead.’”
I woke up in the morning, and was like, ‘Oh, Perez put my video on the site.’ And that was like, nine o’clock and by 12 o’clock it had like 60,000 views and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s a lot of views,’ and by the end of the day it was on every other blog that existed
She was down on life, down on LA and wondering if she would have to return home to Australia and take up cleaning hotel rooms again. “I was starting to go broke being out here in LA. Did I fuck my whole life?” Then an angel swooped down from the heavens – a very gay angel with a hugely popular blog called PerezHilton.com. Perez, maybe for the first time in his life, was in love with “Pu$$y”. “I woke up in the morning, and was like, ‘Oh, Perez put my video on the site.’ And that was like, nine o’clock and by 12 o’clock it had like 60,000 views and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s a lot of views,’ and by the end of the day it was on every other blog that existed.” All the attention eventually resulted in a deal with Interscope, which had been on the fence about Iggy for a while. The ink on the contracts was barely dry when we met for our interview – she had signed with the label just the week before.
After spending time with Iggy Azalea, you can’t help but feel like she’s earned whatever successes lie ahead of her. Blond, statuesque and a total babe, Mullumbimby’s only white female rapper is poised to take over America with her album The New Classic, which is set to drop in the US in June. What will it be about, we ask? ”It will be about me,” says Iggy. Peezy, leaning in, whispers, “I’m sure there’ll be vaginas involved.”
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