Nestled in the hills about 10 minutes out of Byron Bay is a tiny little village called Mullumbimby. There are some quaint little cafes, a general store and a lovely little health spa with some incredible masseuses on staff. It’s also the hometown of Amethyst Amelia Kelly – better known by her stage-name Iggy Azalea who set off for the USA at the ripe old age of 16 and never really looked back. In 2012 she first rose to prominence with her debut EP Glory and after a couple of years at the center of the music media’s attention, this month she steps up with her first long-player, the boldly titled The New Classic.
This is definitely an album for Gen-Y. The overriding theme that ties The New Classic together is a ruthlessly defiant independence that’s evident from the first track Walk The Line. Instead of a ratchet-ass trap-beat restructuring of a timeless hard-country classic, it serves as a mission statement: “Know where I wanna be but I’m far from home/I’m just trying to make it on my own/And unless destiny calls I don’t answer phones/This is the line that I walk alone”. It’s this single-minded focus that is both the making and the undoing of someone like Iggy – she’s fully aware that the eyes of the world are on her and while her iconoclastic, on-the-money approach totally works in 2014, it makes you wonder about how this record will sound a year from now, let alone 5 or 10.
There’s some piping hot production on this record, primarily by London trio The Invisible Men but also The Arcade, The Messengers and Atlanta three-piece Watch The Duck whose glitchy folktronica/trapstep guest appearance on third track 100 is definitely one of the highlights. While this is a “hip-hop” album, the influence of pristine European radio pop has surreptitiously worked its way onto The New Classic on songs like the minimalist synth-pop of Fancy or the spooky slow-build of Black Widow. It’s not a bad thing and definitely provides a bit of much-needed reprieve from the posturing braggadocio upon which Azalea has built her reputation to date.
Iggy well and truly holds her own as a rapper – she comfortably sits next to other brutally honest 20-somethings succeeding in the music industry by having something to say and taking the further step of saying it however she wants. At the moment, Drake is the king of the delicate balance between vulnerability and swagger and Iggy can deservedly call herself the queen however there are some sentiments on this record that show a little more room for growth as an artist and a person. By no means is she as far gone as the Mileys and Biebers of the world but a song like F**k Love (“Give me diamonds”) is kind of a disappointing way to close the record because even though the irony is there if you look for it, someone as ferociously focused as Azalea who left home at such a young age to commit to their career is capable of exploring far deeper lyrical themes and does so elsewhere on the record.
With a lofty name like The New Classic, it’s clear that Iggy is out to make a statement with her full-length debut and more or less, she does. There are moments of carefully constructed, soulfully honest artistic integrity that are sometimes sadly watered down by their disposable club-smash counterparts. She hopefully has a long, fruitful career ahead but either way, the anomaly that is a girl from a tiny little Australian town of just over 3000 people taking hip-hop by the horns is going to be interesting to watch.