I’ve been thinking lately about M.I.A and Iggy Azalea, and why I like one (M.I.A) but not the other. Both are two non black female artists entering the hip hop scene and are relatively popular. But I think the difference is one maintains her originality while the other usurps a culture in order to seem “cool” and “popular”.
M.I.A conveys the “cool” and “edgy” don’t-give-a-care attitude that is very pervasive in hip hop culture, but her musical style is primarily influenced by her Sri Lankan roots. And that’s why I like her so much, because she’s expressing herself, while simultaneously bringing something unique and different to the field. Iggy, on the other hand, attempts to imitate the language and vocal inflexions of the black American urban culture that she is in no way a part of. So I really have no other reason to believe that she does it only to seem cool and appealing. And I have a problem with that because she is exploiting another’s culture for her own personal gain. Even Macklemore, on whom people cry cultural appropriation, adds his own personal twist to his songs, so he’s still expressing his own style through a popular medium.
But I think what grates me the most is when people who normally don’t even listen to that kind of music say “I don’t really like hip hop/rap, but Iggy/Macklemore does it right!” I can’t help but wonder how these people would know when the genre is done right if they don’t even listen to it, and better yet, how could an artist, who is merely imitating the culture, do it “better” than the actual culture?
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