Trials, tribulations, the desire to succeed — a rapper’s motivation is vital to their work, yet there’s seemingly little driving Iggy Azalea‘s “Fancy.” A breezy single featuring Charli XCX which charted as Azalea’s biggest hit yet, “Fancy” drops only a solitary hint in its Clueless-inspired video that the Aussie rapper gives a damn about street cred – a whiteboard listing candidates for GOAT emcee (Eminem, Andre 3000, Jay Z). And that’s fine. After the past few years of lackluster, unhelpful guest verses from male rappers (Rick Ross, Big Sean and, actually, Jay Z), Azalea’s “Fancy” reminds instead that, yes, rap can get along with BFF pop.
Unfortunately, the rest of Azalea’s major label debut The New Classic (out today, ) doesn’t have that spark.
Debut single “Work” comes closest to how Azalea described The New Classic‘s sound: “fairly electronic, like moombahton mixed with hip-hop.” This trendy sonic palette picks up where 2012 mixtape TrapGold (executive-produced by Diplo and FKi‘s 1stDown) left off, and even allows for a well-intentioned dancehall tribute (“Lady Patra”), but most of the album simply sounds stale.
“Work” stands out because it offers still-rare autobiographical details for curious critics: three jobs, years of saving, “No money, no family / 16 in the middle of Miami.” It’s an effective riposte to questions about her credibility sparked by her XXL Freshmen nod (Azalea was the first woman to be included), far more than the canned lyrical responses that crowd the rest of The New Classic: the Wyclef Jean-inspired “100,” the career-as-wedding-ceremony (“Walk the Line”), the rap game “busy” trap (“Don’t Need Y’all”). The tepid “Impossible Is Nothing” hints at “storms” and “goals” like posters in a school guidance counselor’s office.
Many Hot 100 rappers get away with just as little effort, though The New Classic disappoints because it has none of the personality seen in Azalea’s interview responses.
In those chats, critics usually point to the disconnect between real-world Iggy and her music, and how her Aussie accent and candor clash with her in-studio flow and braggadocio (cultivated by mentor T.I.). The New Classic shows that the trouble with Azalea’s adopted accent isn’t the thing itself, but that it leaves no room for variety. Whether she’s being encouraging (“Impossible”) or catty (“New Bitch”), detailing her breakup with A$AP Rocky (bonus track “Rolex”) or straight-up bragging (“Change Your Life”), Azalea has her perma-scowl on autopilot.
Azelea’s raps used to point out that she was white, beating detractors to the punch. She doesn’t go there on The New Classic, as if the album were a crowning achievement – proof of how she beat the odds as a seemingly unlikely Tupac fan who moved to the country where hip hop was born, and became a rapper desired by the biggest magazines in the worlds of rap and fashion. As off-the-wall as that sounds, The New Classic makes Azalea’s Cinderella story seem rather ordinary.
Idolator Score: 2.5/5
— Christina Lee
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