Recently I read an article on salon.com by Brittney Cooper on Iggy Azalea and her cultural appropriation. This critique isn’t exactly new. Personally, I am inclined to agree-to a certain extent-that Iggy has little respect for the founders of the industry and genre in which she succeeds and I can’t ignore some of the problems with her lyrics and racist beliefs. However, it is not surprising to me that Iggy has received the immense success that she has considering white artists have been infiltrating historically black genres and making them their own, to varying degrees of success, for some time now (see: Eminem, Hoodie Allen, Mac Miller, Miley Cyrus). Now, I think it’s worth noting that I don’t think Cooper is entirely wrong and believe she attempted to make a good point, but her argument had a major flaw that I took issue with.
Cooper critiques Iggy and industry leaders like T.I. and Lil’ Wayne for promoting this new form of female rapper where white women get to come in and reap the benefits of black female struggles without having to face any of the negativity. This is true, obvious, and pervasive throughout endless world sectors, not just music. Cooper feels that the black man’s support of one subset of women is seen as support of all women and that, as fellow black performers, T.I. and Weezy have a responsibility to support, promote, and package fellow black women they way they do Iggy. I can’t get down with this. Should black people support other black people? Yes. Should black people be required to support all black people? No. And should black people be required to support other black people in a way that is damaging to them? Hell no. See, Cooper seems to ignore the problem that black women-especially those in the music/performance industry-all already reduced to their assets and strength of their “blackness”. Why would we want to encourage that by saying “No white people, getting reduced to twerking sex objects whose self-worth is fundamentally tied to your ability to talk about your sex life, numerous men, bad bitch attitude, and how well you can “slay the game and its hoes” is for black women only!!!” Why would we want to encourage that by saying “Hey T.I.? Can you maybe write a song about bad bitches and your distaste for mediocrity using a black woman as a prop and walking sex object instead?” I do not want to encourage or support a rap genre where instead of criticizing society for not taking female rappers and performers as serious industry contenders, we focus on making sure black women continue to get the shitty treatment they’ve been getting because it’s a better alternative than Iggy Azalea becoming the poster child for cultural appropriation.
I’m not saying that Iggy shouldn’t have several seats or doesn’t need to take a step back and recognize where her success is built from or that people’s critique of her is wrong, but I’m definitely not saying that Iggy being hailed as a great rapper is the biggest issue with the hip-hop genre today. And again, I want to say that I don’t think Cooper’s point was entirely wrong, I just felt like it ignored a major flaw in the system. A flaw that can’t be fixed just by vowing to delete Iggy Azalea from iTunes.