Few people get to say that they’re as big as The Beatles, but in 2014, Iggy Azalea has matched some of their biggest achievements. Her single “Fancy” and her collaboration with Ariana Grande, “Problem,” gave her the top two spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, an accomplishment she shares with only the Fab Four. Born in 1990 in Sydney, Australia, Azalea has taken the rap world by storm, collaborating and performing with artists like Beyoncé and T.I. while pioneering her own unique sound. She’s already one of the most successful female rappers in the history of the genre—and she’s only been on the scene for about three years. Needless to say, Iggy has become one of my absolute favorites.
Born Amethyst Amelia Kelly, Azalea spent her childhood in Mullumbimby, New South Wales, a small town of 3,000. She has credited her father, an artist, for encouraging her love for the arts, while her love of American culture began after her grandparents brought her on a trip abroad in 2001. Azalea has been passionate about hip hop from an early age, and she’s been rapping since she was 14. She decided she needed to leave Australia to express her talent fully after her first idea for an act, a girl group modeled after TLC, fell through. She left high school, where she felt miserably unpopular, and told her parents she was taking a trip to America; that trip never ended, as she arrived in America in 2006 and has been a fixture here more or less ever since.
She did not gain fame immediately after arriving—instead, she moved between Florida, Texas, and Georgia while solidifying her sound and settling on a catchy stage name: “Iggy” for her dog and “Azalea” for the street of her childhood home. After moving to Los Angeles to kickstart her music career, Azalea became a viral hit on YouTube with her track “Pu$$y.” Her first mixtape, Ignorant Art, came out in September 2011, and she first appeared on television at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards. Even before her debut album, she was performing on stage for big crowds, joining Rita Ora’s Radioactive Tour and, in 2013, the Australian shows in Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. Despite facing setbacks releasing her debut album, Azalea continued to work and push out new material, releasing another mixtape, TrapGold, and an EP, Glory, in 2012. Glory’s lead single, the T.I.-assisted “Murda Bizness” became another viral video hit for her.
After several delays, her debut album finally arrived in April 2014; The New Classic debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200, and the arrival of the 4th single from the album, “Fancy,” gave her the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, making her only the fourth female solo artist to ever reach the top.
Although “Baby Don’t Cry (Keep Ya Head Up II)” by West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur served as her introduction to rap, Azalea’s music is influenced by the Southern hip hop that’s been coming out of Atlanta and Miami for the past decade. Her debut EP additionally borrows from electronic dance music, yet it still has a distinctive hardcore style; Iggy pulls no punches, using explicit lyrics and themes throughout her tracks. Since the release of her album, she has embarked on her first headlining (and mostly sold-out) tour of the United States, Canada, and Europe. I saw her on the first stop at the House of Blues in Boston, and she did not disappoint. I can’t wait to see her when she comes around again. Azalea continues to be in demand, hosting MTV’s recently resurrected House of Style, filming a role in the latest Fast and the Furious movie, and appearing on Jennifer Lopez’s “Booty (remix).” It’s also rumored that she’ll be re-releasing The New Classic next month with 5 or 6 additional tracks, which is an exciting prospect for fans. Make sure to check out her website to keep tabs on her!