At 5’10”—with a, well, notably blessed “non-symmetrical” shape—Iggy Azalea is frankly hard to miss, but if you’re still unfamiliar, the Australia-born rapper has been a YouTube sensation (a tune titled the always-controversial “Pu$$y” unsurprisingly became a standout), one-half of a tattoo-cursed relationship (see: her now-edited A$AP Rocky ink), the subject of record label disarray, a Wilhelmina Models signee, Beyonce’s opening act, and the first female to be featured on XXL’s annual “Freshman” cover, all before dropping her first album.
The 23-year-old left Down Under for the United States while still a teen and “on holiday” before becoming so drawn to its hip-hop scene, she decided not to return home and instead bounced from Miami to Houston to Atlanta developing her now-divisive flow (to some, it’s unnaturally Southern) before landing in Los Angeles. Several YouTube videos and mixtapes later, Azalea rejected a deal with Interscope Records in favor of T.I.’s indie Grand Hustle label, but ultimately ended up on Island Def Jam’s roster, where her debut album The New Classic—no longer stuck in record release-date purgatory—will hit stateside shelves April 22. Here, Life+Times talks with Azalea about art vs. exploitation, cleaning up her act for young fans, and her new man. (And, oh yeah, that body.)
Life+Times: Congratulations on “Fancy”! It’s your first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. So, did you feel you had to compromise or change your sound or lyrics for your songs to become mainstream or be sent to radio?
Iggy Azalea: Yeah, I had to change it, but I don’t know if I like the word ‘compromise’ because I don’t feel it was a compromise. I just feel it’s been a long time in between “Pu$$y” and “Fancy,” and I’ve learned a lot about how to tweak things and how to make things work and how to appeal to people and play the game as a businesswoman and be successful, which is what I want to be. So, for me, I don’t feel like it’s a compromise. I think the biggest compromise would be to not grow and continue doing nothing or make something that sounds the same over and over again. I definitely think, yes, it’s changed, but it’s a good change for me. I’m kinda proud of seeing the growth and being able to say, ‘Wow, look what I came from and now look at what I’m making.’
L+T: Speaking of being a woman in this male-dominated business, do you feel you’ve encountered sexism or racism on your journey?
IA: I don’t wanna say I encountered any racism because whenever I say that, people get so fucking up in arms. You know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ Sometimes I feel like people, uh, I’m not gonna get into that, but there’s definitely road bumps. There’s definitely people in the industry that don’t want to see you succeed for whatever reason—sometimes it’s where you’re from, sometimes it’s what you’re saying, and sometimes it is because you have a vagina [laughs]. That does exist.
L+T: So what was the inspiration behind The New Classic?
IA: The thing that inspired me to write The New Classic, or what it is a reflection of, is really the last two-and-a-half years. I really, truly have been on a rollercoaster and have had personal relationships drop out of the sky and crash into the ocean and I’ve experienced a lot of new things for the first time, too, that are completely ridiculous and excessive, and some of it is sort of about my career suicide and successes also [laughs] and things that I found that are still a glimmer of hope, so it’s been those extremes that have been my inspiration.
L+T: What would The New Classic be the perfect soundtrack to?
IA: If you just left high school and you got your first apartment and you’re realizing that you’re gonna be broke for awhile [laughs], but you’re also, like, really enjoying the freedom and new things that come with being a new adult and discovering stuff for the first time because, for me, that’s what it’s been like.
L+T: Speaking of adolescence, what do you miss most about Australia that you can’t get here in the States?
IA: There’s tons of food I miss everyday. Although I’m fairly accustomed to American food nowadays that I enjoy too, but there’s just certain things…like we put beets on our hamburgers in Australia and that just doesn’t happen in America and I don’t think it ever will. A vegetable on a hamburger seems weird here. I definitely wish I’d learn to cook a bit more Australian-style before I left. Food is the number one thing that I miss.
L+T: Are your parents still in Australia?
IA: Yeah, my whole family lives in Australia still and they love it and don’t wanna move [laughs]. They’re very far away. It’s just me out here.
L+T: How are they handling your success?
IA: I think they truly realized it when I came to Australia [to open] for Beyonce and they saw me being on the TV over there. I do know that they like to try and get all the magazines that I’m in, so they definitely have an idea, but the first and only show any of them have ever seen was me opening for Beyonce, so that was cool. I know my mom cried and my stepmom cried like, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen you perform before!’ Parts of it are still new for them because they don’t get to experience it firsthand or see me often, so to see me coming to Australia with her made it real for them.
L+T: You’ve said that your mom wasn’t bothered by you going topless in your “Change Your Life” video…
IA: Yeah, she wasn’t offended!
L+T: But do you feel self-conscious now, because of your younger fans, when you show skin or say vulgar lyrics?
IA: I mean, it’s the reason now why I guess I swear way less—there’s songs that I have on [my] Ignorant Art [EP] where I say ‘bitch’ probably 15 to 20 times in one song, if you can even imagine. And now I would just never do that just because it’s one thing to hear or to say, ‘Oh, you want younger kids and teens [as fans]’ and I’m like, ‘Fuck that’—I don’t care to try and get them on my own—but they do naturally come as your profile rises and younger kids start to become interested. I just did a radio promotional tour for “Fancy” and there were a lot of meet-and-greets and I saw a lot of kids that were under 10 [years old] there and you do remember them and it makes you think, ‘Hm, I don’t wanna do a show where I’m like rubbing my vagina on stage and they might be there!’ I don’t wanna make music for kids necessarily, but it’s definitely something I think about. I think I started thinking about it when I did the video with this girl for “Murda Bizness.” I call her my ‘Mini-Iggy’; she’s the girl that plays my daughter. I always kept in touch with her and her family and I always invite her to my shows in L.A. where she lives and once I met her and saw how much she loved me and followed my music, I do think about her and say, ‘Ugh, I don’t wanna do something that her mom wouldn’t let her be involved in’—although I still went topless in my video, but you know what I mean! She’s always the person I think about, like, ‘Would she be able to come to this show if I did this? No? Okay, I’m not gonna do it because she should be able to come.’
L+T: Right. You said yourself, in an interview, that you considered the topless scene “art.”
IA: Yeah, some things are art. To me, the topless thing was a necessary part of the storyline: I’m [paying homage to] Showgirls and half the movie’s topless! Most of my songs now I try to limit it to maybe saying only two curse words. I try to keep it as minimal as I can because, at the end of the day, you have to go back and change them all anyway for the radio and it’s just an annoyance. But I do try—maybe not content or what I’m rapping about, I don’t edit that necessarily, but I do try to do little things like that to make it easier for it to be more widely received.
L+T: In that same interview you said you’d never undress for a magazine and that you’d never date somebody publicly again. However, you just posed nude for GQ and it was with your boyfriend [Los Angeles Lakers’] Nick Young. What made you change your mind?
IA: [Laughs] The reason why I did the nudity thing was, I guess, because I just wanted it on my wall in my house? It was because I was there with him, that was what it was. If it was just me in a bathtub on my own, I probably wouldn’t have done it because I would’ve felt like it was a little bit degrading, but because it was my boyfriend, I was kinda like: ’It’s a sexy shoot with my boyfriend, I’m cool with it, I sorta wanna frame it and put it on my wall, I’m interested in owning a picture like this for myself, so if this is how I have to go about obtaining this picture than so be it, I’m gonna do it!’ [Laughs] That’s why I made the exception for that. And I suppose with the whole thing about being public, I mean, I am careful. I try to be more vague about it than I was with other people, but I just, I dunno, I don’t wanna share it to be honest with you, but when it’s completely obvious that you’re going out with someone, when you don’t share it, it just makes people prod into it even more and it’s annoying. If you just answer the question like, ‘It’s great, he’s amazing!’ then that’s the end of it, and that’s better for me than to have things be speculated on. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to answer any questions about it, but it’s unavoidable so I’d rather just make it boring to ask about it. That’s the approach I’m currently trying out.
L+T: Well, now that we’ve seen your body, we need to know your workout tips.
IA: [Laughs] I don’t have any! I don’t have any secrets! I don’t, like, eat oranges upside down. I always say, everybody has a natural body shape and I’m a pear shape: I don’t have any tits, I have a big bottom-half. Women will say, ‘How do I get my butt to be like yours?!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well you’re like a lollipop-shape or an hourglass!’ I think girls see somebody in the media whose body shape they want, but it might not necessarily be what’s natural. I believe in trying to think logically when you see girls in the media, like, ’Is this actually achievable to me?’ I don’t think you can magically make all your weight go to your ass, but you can just do the regular things! You can get toned! I believe in being the best for whatever your body shape is. Everybody does have a shape and you can’t go against it. It’s impossible. I see plenty of fitness freaks on Instagram that are doing like 1,500 squats a day and they have a nice butt, but it isn’t gonna necessarily make it bigger; it’ll make it toned and perky. I will never have tits and I will always be bottom-heavy; I can go against it as much as I want but as soon as I pack on the pounds, I’m gonna have cellulite-thighs. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Ooh, you might wanna start dong some squats yourself because it’s starting to get a lil’ sloppy,’ but I like to eat! And I’m like, you know what, there’s always Spanx!
L+T: Well, on behalf of women, we appreciate your honesty. Back to the music! You’ve been very vocal about your love for Tupac, but is there anyone you think your fans would be surprised to learn you listen to?
IA: Growing up, I was very obsessed with J. Dilla and I was very obsessed and influenced by Slum Village. I was obsessed with J. Dilla as a producer and I used to try to rap over all his beats and stuff and then I don’t know what happened, I just went the complete opposite fucking direction, but people would be surprised to know I was really in love with him.
L+T: Also, on The New Classic, you collaborate with Charli XCX and RIta Ora. Who else would you like to work with?
IA: My dream wish list is always the same. It always includes Andre 3000 and Missy Elliott because I love them and I think they’re genius.
L+T: Finally, what do you hope people do after hearing The New Classic?
IA: Tell a friend? I hope the reaction is that it’s different to what they thought they were gonna hear and I hope that they’re pleasantly surprised. I hope someone would say, “Hey, have you heard that new Iggy Azalea album? It’s better than I thought.”