Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review: In My Defense • Iggy Azalea

The campaign for Iggy Azalea’s second studio album sits somewhere between a shock advertisement and a satirical fever dream: Below an image of a bloodied Azalea propped against a car, a magazine advertisement tagline reads, “You tried... but I just won’t die!” In a way, it seems like the most appropriate return: After years of strange label-prompted career moves, unprovoked assaults from fellow rappers across the industry, and weird social media feuds with sub-par pizza chains, she stumbled face-first down the popularity ladder. And in hindsight, it seems that the best possible move Iggy Azalea made in her career was one into her own lane.

In My Defense, assumed to hold a similar thematic scheme as her aborted major-label sophomore record Digital Distortion, attempts to resuscitate her credibility. Rather than packing the record with flimsy self-pity and empowerment, she rebrands herself as a dirty emcee with an average amount of musical proficiency. Though not a bad thing, she is downright filthy compared to her past life, sometimes to the point of comic relief: There's a lot of idle talk about her vagina, her strong desire to fuck and nut, and the capacity to which her ass can bounce while showered with dollar bills.  It’s a change in venue for Azalea – one so drastic that it inspires thought as to how her first record, a tame statement by comparison, was created in the first place.

When Azalea secured the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, we as a society were just considering a pivot away from the idea that a radio rap track needed a Rihanna-ready pop hook. Knowing her limitations, Iggy Azalea was a feature-heavy artist at her height – but today’s climate is much different, giving plenty of leniency for a spoken or nonexistent hook if the verses can build their own hype. While her production choices are limited in scope and her hooks are largely underdeveloped here, rarely reaching the infectiousness of “Started” or “Thanks I Get,” her verses are generally pointed. (Although it is easy to latch onto the infinite loop of “Fuck it up, sis” on Kash Doll-featuring “Fuck It Up.”)

Azalea once thrived in a commercial environment, and now an independent artist, she has made a lateral move to campy viral fame: Video concepts from the album are packed with drag queens and dead sugar daddies, and with her profile picture set to Karen from Mean Girls mid-eye roll, Azalea’s most recent Twitter beef was with a slab of pork. (It was newfound pop icon Peppa Pig, to be precise.) Club-bound and ready to party, she doesn't make much of substance but serves plenty to soundtrack ass-shakes and body-grinds at the bar. And although it doesn't translate all that well into an album filled with stock-build, color-by-numbers rap tracks, she is at her most likable on a personal level. She hasn't hit the sweet spot just yet, but claiming her independence – which she has done here – is certainly the first step to finding it.

In My Defense is available now under Bad Dreams Records.

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