What are the odds that a teenager who loves hip-hop music will grow up to become a successful recording artist? 1 in a million? Or perhaps 1 in a billion? Most parents and friends of the youngster might offer what they feel is sager advice to develop a plan B, just in case the music career does not work out. Those odds get even larger as more extreme elements are added to the equation. What if the teen was from outside the US, like Australia? Some might say it would be impossible. However, those doubters may have not heard about Iggy Azalea. Her story seems improbable, but facing insurmountable odds the teen from down under went on to become a star. How did it happen?
Amethyst Amelia Kelly (Iggy Azalea) was born June 7, 1990 in Sydney, Australia. Her family later relocated to Mullumbimby, New South Wales, when she was still an infant, into a house on 12 acres that her father built by hand from mud bricks. Her father was a painter and comics artist, while her mother cleaned holiday houses and hotels. In an interview with Complex Music Iggy Azalea spoke in detail about her father, “He made me look at [art] as a teenager. He would give me books and he would give me quizzes. We were talking the other night at dinner about [the artist] Robert Crumb. He would always tell me, ‘Look at this film,’ or ‘Look at this artist. What do you think he’s trying to say?’ Iggy started out like most teens listening to Tupac Shakur whose music provided early inspiration. In an interview with Rap-Up.com, she spoke about her younger years, “I knew I loved rap music, I knew I loved to sing along to the words,” she said. “It takes a while before you have the guts to put yourself in their shoes and think this is something I could actually do.” Before going solo, Iggy was in a group with two other girls in her neighborhood. She eventually decided to leave the group because the other girls weren’t taking it seriously. “I take everything I do serious. I’m too competitive” she said.
Iggy Azalea’s childhood does hold some clues into how she was able to overcome a large number of obstacles to succeed musically. Being the daughter of an artist father helped her form a different view. In order to truly understand art we must strive to understand the artist. I feel she learned early in life to approach her music first examining what she wanted to say initially in the creative process. Also, she did have a tremendous work ethic that was apparent as a teenager. Most teens are still searching for their life path and therefore do not take career moves serious at that time in life. That’s the reason the other girls in the group just left and got involved in other activities.
In pursuit of her desire of moving to America, Azalea chose to work and save the money she earned by cleaning hotel rooms and holiday houses with her mother. Azalea traveled to the United States in 2006, right before she turned 16. She told her parents she was going “on a holiday” with a friend, but eventually decided to stay and shortly after told them she was not coming back home. As a parent, this situation would be terrifying. Imagine your daughter, sixteen years old and alone in a foreign country. Of course any parent would be worried. So young and such a long way from home. She recalled: “My mum was crying, saying, ‘Just be safe.’ “ Through it all Iggy Azalea has not only survived, but she has thrived. In an article in sing365.com she said, “I was drawn to America because I felt like an outsider in my own country, I was in love with hip-hop, and America is the birthplace of that, so I figured the closer I was to the music, the happier I’d be. I was right.”
Iggy Azalea’s international travel brought her right here to Miami, Florida initially, then to Houston and after that to Atlanta. The southern US hip-hop scene has influenced Iggy greatly, as she raps with a southern accent. When asked about her accent in The Pop Manifesto, she said, “I lived in the South for five years; you pick up things from your surroundings and teachers. The people who taught me to rap are all from the South and so was the music I had listened to as a teen.” The fact that Iggy Azalea is a young hip-hop artist from Australia, rapping with a southern accent, makes her a lightning rod for controversy. In fact, when I speak about her with others I never get the same reaction twice. Some responses are positive, some negative, and some people don’t really have a response. Nevertheless, Iggy Azalea continues to attract more new fans. Her new album The New Classic which can be pre-ordered on iTunes is scheduled to be released April 21, 2014, with a tour to follow the release.
Even though Iggy Azalea appears to be a long way from home, she does not feel displaced. Notice what she said about being so far from her birth country of Australia:
“To be 100% honest, I don’t have any friends in Australia, just my family. I identify with Australian culture, of course; I was raised there. But there are parts of other cultures I identify with more, which is why I moved. I don’t think it matters where you or your fans are from in order for you to have things in common; we are all people no matter where we live, and we go through the same major things that shape the type of people we are. Love, loss, frustrations, being misunderstood, etc. These are all universal things that stick us together as human beings.”