Culture Shock!: Azalea & Perry Take Racial Stereotypes Too Far

Published on August 27, 2014

Shelby Ivey Christie & Dominique Moody Scene Editor & Contributor

Authenticity. A characteristic that we hope all our favorite entertainers have; unfortunately, Iggy Azalea and Katy Perry seem to lack what we as fans look for in a great musician. Instead, these ladies take on the swagger of other cultures with their southern drawls, hip-hop slang and twerking stage performances. We can all appreciate what flavor and uniqueness each ethnicity brings to the world of entertainment but when does appreciation become appropriation?
Iggy Azalea is a colorless “rapper” from Australia, who just happens to have that gritty, southern-fried flow that we as hip-hop fans love to hear from time to time. A southern accent is usually associated with southern upbringing and obviously the MC had no parts of the East Atlanta traps that she brags about in her lyrics. Being southern and Black seems to be Iggy’s appeal. Every time she raps, “how you love dat?” on her single “Fancy,” I want to tell her that I do not “love dat” she is taking on the persona of a southern Black woman.
Ah, but this time having a full-figure will not work in her favor to convince fans. The rapper has talent; however, she has the talent to act and not to rap. Furthermore, do we, as hip-hop fans not realize the greatness in a MC, not the imitation of another? Iggy Azalea caught major heat following her performance at the 2014 BET Awards for her “ghetto girl” persona. Female rapper Nicki Minaj added fuel to the fire when she called attention to Iggy’s unoriginal rhymes by stating, “What I want the world to know about Nicki Minaj is, that when you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it” as the audience cheered her on. You are not the only one who is onto Iggy’s unoriginal rhymes, Nicki.
Pop hit sensation Katy Perry comes from a traditional, devoutly Christian, middle-class family. Katy was kept from listening to secular music as a kid & recorded gospel albums as a teen. In Katy Perry’s latest hit “This is How We Do,” she has subliminal messages targeting the African American Culture. In the video you can view Katy Perry eating watermelon, riding around with big rims, having cornrows, baby hair and saving one of her female friends as a “thot” in her phone.
Granted, all of these could be a really rare occurrence that she and the director wanted in the video. Perhaps her shielded upbringing has made her ignorant of cultural sensitivity?
In Perry’s latest hit “Dark Horse,” she makes a parody of a history that people of African decent are very proud of. In the questionable “Dark Horse” video, set in Memphis Egypt, Katy dresses as an Egyptian queen. Quick fact check: Egypt is in Africa. If you recall, in a very similar manner to Katy Perry’s video, Elizabeth Taylor was cast as Cleopatra in 20th Century Fox’s 1963 production of Cleopatra and many of the same cultural appropriation questions swirled even then.
Why is it okay for Black women to be erased from their own history and substituted by white faces? A history that was ripped from us by our slave masters is now being mocked by their descendents. Not cool.
There was an absence of Black people in the “Dark Horse” video. The one black guy appeared as a potential suitor for Perry. He presented her with a chariot complete with spinning rims and hydraulics. Perry turned the Black guy into a dog after she was displeased with his gift ….a dog. Michael Jackson and many others have used Egypt as an artistic inspiration but they all managed to keep the historical accuracy and respect for the culture intact. We are not bothered that artist think our history is cool enough to feature. We know we are cool. The frustration comes from the misrepresentation of us.
Why is it that Iggy Azeala and Katy Perry seem to have taken on the characteristics of a Black woman? African and African American culture has influenced much of pop-culture throughout the years. From ear gages to cornrows, Black culture has influenced what is cool.
Cultural influence has previously been executed with tact and taste by the likes of white female artists P!NK and Gwen Stefani. So it can be done. Why is Katy Perry’s misrepresentation of blackness being applauded? Why is Iggy’s mimicking of Blackness okay? Yes, rap music is a Black and Brown craft, but one does not need to mimic Blackness to be good at it. Take the Beastie Boys, or Eminem, or even Macklemore. These are white men who have done well in the rap game and they do not have to appropriate Black culture to do it.
Iggy and Katy should take a page or two out of these artists’ book and practice a more respectable, authentic approach when drawing inspiration from cultures other than their own. If you cannot represent our Blackness and our Black women right, then it’s “I-G-G-BYE!”
—Follow Shelby on Twitter at
@bronze_bombSHEL and email Dominique at [email protected]