Sunday, August 12, 2018

Survive the Summer | Iggy Azalea

Fame has been a weird ride for Iggy Azalea. After calling the internet to her attention with her Ignorant Art mixtape and viral track “Pu$$y,” she began a three-year stretch of major label jumps and false starts for her debut record, The New Classic. When “Work” and “Fancy” transcended internet popularity, the record materialized in the spring of 2014 as a commercialized hip-house record. And in many ways, it was a marketed like a pop record: Its third hit was written by Katy Perry and featured professional featured-artist-only Rita Ora, and it was quickly re-released by the holiday season with a few extra tracks to capitalize on its short-lived success.

Azalea's fall from grace was about as rocky as her rise to fame, as tweets and song lyrics predating her popularity outlined a relatively insensitive attitude from a white woman whose career is rooted in black culture. (To date, she still hasn't admitted to being a problem.) Following what seemed to be the most logical agenda, however, the aborted Digital Distortion project and “Savior,” her first single with Island Records that isn't included on this set, tried to sell Azalea as a harmless, rags-to-riches underdog and a continued resident of the club charts. Tame, underappreciated bangers like “Team” and “Mo Bounce” are glued together with spiked electronics and choruses that work so hard to hide the fact that Azalea is, by all accounts, not a singer.

The philosophy behind Survive the Summer, meanwhile, is to restore Iggy Azalea to the glory of her mixtape days amid hip-hop’s dominance in the mainstream. The extended play ditches poppy choruses and dance orientation for a return to unadulterated hip-hop, hauling in established acts Wiz Khalifa and Tyga to begin to position Azalea as a legitimate rapper. She has been long criticized for an awkward, abrasive flow and a rapping tone that grazes appropriation of black vernacular. And that certainly doesn’t change here — still with an aggressive, faux-Southern husk, she stumbles from time to time. (Check out the misplaced vocal inflection when she says, “Label tripping, so I switch. Which one, which one?” on the title track, for example. Big yikes.)

True to the classic boastful rap trope, Iggy Azalea is very much caught up in being Iggy Azalea... which is strange coming from someone with as much remaining star power as Iggy Azalea. (The title of the extended play is oh-so ironic for that very reason.) She feigns ignorance to the trajectory of her career and public image to this point, and oftentimes, she diverts the source of her confidence to her sexual ability: “Kawasaki,” which mirrors the sound of back catalog gem “Murda Bizness,” is all about riding around on, well, something that has two circular objects beneath it, and lead single “Kream” is all about ass and cash — two of the four classical elements, of course.

The sexed-up music video for "Kream," predominately featuring the largest product of Azalea's cosmetic surgeries, has nearly crested 70 million views: A whimper in comparison to the hundreds of millions of streams on the clips for her earliest hits, but an admirable roar when stacked against the 15 million for "Savior," released early this year. Is it a sign that there's some success to be found in the plan to lodge Iggy Azalea into the list of defining figureheads in hip-hop? Perhaps. But this extended play sets its sights short, dedicated to making Iggy Azalea survive only this summer — it still doesn't take her crippled career off life support or lengthen its expectancy.

Survive the Summer is out now via Island Records.

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