When 21-year-old Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was a preteen, she was obsessed with Tupac. She plastered her wall with his photos. She tried to recite his lyrics with his inflections. She visited the Seven Day Theory website religiously, but figured going to an Outlawz concert in Oz when she was 14 was the closest she'd ever get to the object of her affection. Her tortured teen heart might have burst if she'd known that she would soon be living in L.A., taking meetings at Interscope, and sitting in on Snoop Dogg recording sessions with Dr. Dre.
Last year Iggy began taking trips to L.A., invited to join her friend, producer Polow Da Don, in the studio. She attempted to write for other people, to varying success. Dr. Dre was working in the room next to them, and one day he asked Iggy what she did.
“I told him I rapped, and my hands were shaking under the table,” she says, speaking to us at a downtown Yogurtland recently.”I [performed] my rap and he said he thought I was good and should be called 'Fresh Heir' cause I look like an heir to the throne and was dressed up like a model. He let me come in to listen to Detox, and Snoop was doing his verse on “Kush.” Inside I was just freaking out. I was like, 'Um, I used to watch your videos in Australia and wonder what Nike shoes were.'”
Despite those jitters, Iggy Azalea (her real first name is Amethyst, but she won't disclose her last) had been dreaming of this day since she was an eccentric little kid wearing fake Baby Phat and flashing a grill she bought at a flea market.
In early September, Perez Hilton discovered and posted the video for her song “Pu$$y.” The visuals, featuring Iggy and friends suggestively slurping ice creams, were filmed in the territory of street gang Rollin 60s. She wasn't expecting backlash, but blogs have reamed her for the little boy in the video, hanging around her neck as Iggy raps about being “wetter than the Amazon.” Her explanation for the odd casting is simple: A friend in the video couldn't find a babysitter for her son, who happens to adore Iggy.
Her mixtape Ignorant Art — which features her oft-guttural purr and a danceable version of Dave Matthews Band's “Crash” — dropped soon thereafter, and she became something of the new Internet “It Girl.” Because the producers of the “Pu$$y” video weren't happy Iggy leaked it, YouTube removed the first upload, which had 85,000 views. With the versions on Perez Hilton, World Star Hip Hop, and three main fan uploads, the video now has over 550,000 views.
In her videos, Iggy gives off an air of having seen it all. Indeed, by 15 she had dropped out of high school, miserable. She says she had no friends and was teased for her weird homemade outfits. When she was 16, she took her savings from working — around $4000 — and departed for Miami, alone, with no intention of returning to Australia. She told her mom she was going on vacation with a friend, but that wasn't true. “My mom was crying, saying, 'Just be safe.' I was thinking, 'I'm going by myself. I'm fucking crazy!” she remembers.
She stayed with a friend's family for awhile when she finally got to Miami, but because Iggy still doesn't have a visa, she prefers not to speak on how she supported herself.
In person Iggy is bubbly, nothing like the fiercely sexual pinup in her videos. Her eyes dance as her words tumble out in funny monologues. She has a stubborn streak, though, and resents the suggestion that she should model, not rap — which she gets often. She stands over six feet tall in the towering boots she's wearing today, and has porcelain skin, not to mention a penchant for staining her lips Warhol hues. Her hair, pulled into a severe ponytail, is the color peroxide blondes dream of.
After Miami and a brief stint in Houston, she settled for a few years in Atlanta, working with a member of the Dungeon Family named Backbone. She says folks used to laugh at her because “they thought my raps sucked.” But having grown up getting laughed at, she was able to shrug it off.
Meanwhile, she'd met a guy from Interscope who kept encouraging her to move to L.A., and so last summer decided to do so. She's now managed by Interscope, but hasn't signed a deal with anyone.
It's probably not far off, though. Her CMJ show was well-reviewed by our sister blog, Sound of the City, and Perez Hilton sent her a bottle of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold “Ace of Spades” champagne, which she said she'd open when she got a deal. Now, without offering specifics, she hints that that day might be quite soon. All hail the new heir?
Iggy Azalea performs tonight at Cat Walk Los Angeles Halloween, 1726 N. Spring St.