Who Owns Hip-Hop?: Of Iggy Azalea, Black And Brown Folk

Read this write up on Class, Race…Iggy, Eminem, 3rd Bass And More.

Do you think the criticism aimed at you is misogynistic?
Well, they don’t say that stuff about Macklemore. So, yes, I think it has 100,000 percent to do with the fact that I have a v#####.

-Iggy Azalea, Vanity Fair Interview

Today’s mathematics will be a painful waxing of overrated v#####. Here we go…

If you didn’t see Macklemore’s Hot 97 interview in its entirety, you should. It’s a prerequisite for this article and a must watch moment for all those born after 1990. I use that year because Hip-Hop and R&B radio formats weren’t in most major markets until the late 90’s (Hot 97 converted their known format in ’93). This is important context because if you have no memory of radio with limited rap, it gives perspective to the journey. Especially since the polar reactions to Azealia Banks interview might have been just as much a generational divide as it was racial one.

This divide is inherent in the internet itself. It’s nice that everyone has a voice but even if this “Who is Paul McCartney?” thing  was a joke, it does reveal the complexities of music fans who are in different grades and schools of thought. When Kanye first started to perform “Gold Digger” live, he’d intercut it with EPMD’s “Gold Digger” instrumental. However, when he didn’t get the hype response he expected, it was a sign of the time that his new audience was not AllHipHop.

I don’t blame anyone for their age and will try not to be too judgmental of those who don’t know McCartney or EPMD but I expect you to realize that music can be a very sophisticated conversation where your voice exposes your ignorance (in the literal sense of the word). Therefore, you should just listen because in about 4 seconds a teacher will begin to speak.

[Macklemore’s Hot 97 Interview]

As much as you think this conversation is about race, it is also about rules, respect, who gets rewarded and why. Allow me to frame the lesson with black people before dissecting the white participants of Hip Hop.

Example 1:

Black on Black – Arrested Development and PM Dawn had similar bohemian styles. Arrested Development had commercial success with approval from the Hip Hop community. PM Dawn had commercial success WITHOUT approval from the Hip Hop community. KRS-1 took the liberty of physically throwing PM Dawn off the stage during a performance. PM Dawn, who appeared in prime position to get awarded in Rap categories, were victims of principle.

“Redfern houses, where 5-0 was afraid to go – is where I first kicked my intro” – MC Search

Example 2:
White on White – Vanilla Ice and Third Bass both had black friends. Ice and MC Search could both dance well. 3rd Bass had moderate commercial success with approval from the Hip Hop community. Vanilla Ice had chart topping commercial success WITHOUT community approval. Vanilla Ice made his regional rounds but 3rd Bass immersed themselves in both the hood and emcee arenas with stellar all black competition. Vanilla Ice didn’t represent Hip Hop, therefore 3rd Bass called him out for his cultural misappropriation.

The hook “Ice Ice Baby” originated as a popular chant used by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc in long-running traditional step routines.

[3rd Bass – Product of the Environment]

In case you still don’t get it, Hip-Hop used to require certification. Of course there were plenty wack rappers, but it was harder to have a long lifespan. Nowadays, it’s harder to find the cultural nucleus because the music is such a mainstream free-for-all. Though I can use certified examples from this century that include Bubba Sparxxx, Paul Wall, Mac Miller, Iron Solomon and Machine Gun Kelly, hell even Kid Rock; I will just finish my making my case with the best in class. As I’ve always said, Marshall Mathers has the skills of Willie Pep and Eminem has the mass appeal of Rocky.

WARNING TO WHITE PEOPLE: If you do NOT agree with Macklemore’s statements of privilege and participation then I don’t advise reading the rest of this highly opinionated editorial. Before you react defensively, ask yourself why are you even on a site called AllHipHop?

[Jeru’s Jungle Music]

White people, in general, have a ‘great white hope’ inferiority complex. The majority of people in boxing (black and white) agree that Willie Pep was the most skilled white boxer in history. The reason the black consensus means more is because we historically dominate the sport (with the exception of some fixed fights). I’m not saying blacks are superior, I’m saying whites have an inferiority complex. I’m not saying white men can’t jump, I’m saying no white man has won the slam dunk contest. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with erecting statues of fictional characters like Rocky. I’m asking where are all the monuments of the real life black champions? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the creative license of the story of Moses, I’m asking why dramatically alter the re-creation of the sphinx, which is an actual historic monument? Yet every time Hollywood makes a big budget film based on history like Titanic, producers love to brag that they duplicate every exact detail down to the plates of the ship.

Listen, f–k all my questions and everything I’m NOT saying, what I AM saying is Hip-Hop belongs to us – Black & Brown People –PERIOD. Hip-Hop is a different kind of music – it comes with a deep rooted culture that has unwritten terms and conditions, especially when it comes to white participation. White people, if you want to just listen and party – that’s fine; you’re entitled to your opinion BUT you have NO say in matters like Azealia Banks unless you prove yourself worthy of the conversation. You have no say because your rape kit has been conveniently defective throughout history. You can’t say there’s no violation without penetration. You can’t discredit my aforementioned smudge claim and not be familiar with black fraternities. We, the creators of this music, declare our existence with or without your recognition so you may NOT reproach our truth. If you want to participate, your primary responsibility is to be a purveyor and/or guardian. Please seek counsel before promoting because you maybe exploiting (e.g. Harlem Shake). These are the main terms and conditions you must accept. By the way-you’re supposed to just know this, spelling it out makes it lame. Unfortunately, I must make it a matter of record as the music becomes more ubiquitous further empowering universal entitlement to use however one sees fit.

“This is not my culture, I need to know my place” -Macklemore

Please do not label my claim reverse racism. Those who do, do not understand the real history of this country or the real history of this country’s music and business practices. It’s no secret that the machine makes exponentially more if a white artist sings “black music.” New Kids on the Block was INTENTIONALLY created to be a white version of New Edition. T.I. was just following a Maurice Starr business model. If I had Tip’s legal bills and a choice of signing Azealia or Azalea, you already know. I ain’t mad at Tip or Iggy for winning, I’m mad at them for how they handled the situation. In addition, it’s fair to say that Iggy makes black music, likes black men, likes being worshiped for having a “black ass,” feels she should be able to use the N-word, BUT doesn’t like supporting black social issues in solidarity; which makes come off sounding like a Kardashian that can rap.

Let’s contrast Iggy with how Eminem handled his N-word scandal. In the song “Yellow Brick Road,” he rhymed:

“Now with this being the new trend, we don’t fit in,
Crackers are out with Cactus albums, Blackness is in,
African symbols and medallions [breath] represent Black power, and we didn’t know what it meant,
Me and my man Howard and Butta would go to the mall with them all over our necks, like we’re showing them off,
Not knowing at all, we was being laughed at, you ain’t even half-Black, you ain’t supposed to have that, Homie let me grab that and that Flavor Flav clock, we gonna have to snatch that, All I remember is meeting back at, Manix’s basement, saying how we hate this, how racist, but dope the X-Clan tape is.”

The whole song displayed a humble, authentically awkward coming-of-age explanation of his behavior with respect for the art form, culture and architects of the temple. You can tell by the details that it was not written for Eminem’s mainstream fan base, it was for us. “Us” is not the Stan who doesn’t know who Professor X is. “Us” is not the Kanye fan who doesn’t know EPMD and not the Macklemore fan who doesn’t know whose posse is on Broadway.

Do you think it’s weird for a white Australian girl to be a rapper? Well, I never thought it was strange. If you go back to the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley and Eminem—they’ve all basically done black music. I felt this wasn’t that far from what we’ve seen in music history over and over again.

-Iggy Azalea, Vanity Fair Interview

That answer there, was the crux of her failure to comprehend the misappropriation in the moment. That’s the difference between Macklemore and Iggy. He seems to better understand and acknowledge why he was being rewarded. Iggy seems to be prepping to wear her rap category crown like she deserves it. Still this does not make her a vulture. I think there is an innocence of insensitivity that repeats itself in history. Iggy is far from trash (on the mic) but if she doesn’t see how and why she is benefiting from systematic supremacy then it’s hard to rock with her – the hate isn’t personal, the rape is. I might believe someone like Buster Poindexter just wanted to do a cover of popular calypso song – it doesn’t make him a vulture. However, I don’t have the right to question any embitterment the calypso community might feel – especially if their song was his only hit of which he gets the residuals.

I could further breakdown Iggy’s answer and give credit to the Rolling Stones and other rock legends who’ve honored black musicians of personal influence. Any real Eminem fan knows how hard he’s worked on ensuring he and Elvis are never mentioned in the same sentence (oh well). He’s done an excellent job at not exploiting his Rocky status. Just like Search used his privilege to give us Nas, Em used his privilege to give us 50. Macklemore made a song called “White Privilege” long before he blew up. We know Iggy is going to win a Grammy but how will she use her white privilege?

[X-Clan’s Fire & Earth]

T. Better Baldwin is an ethical lobbyist and creative mercenary who was born, raised and resides in New York City.