Her latest hit may be about living the high life but Iggy Azalea doesn’t shy away from talking about her humble beginnings.
When we say hip-hop phenomenon Iggy Azalea had to get dirty before becoming famous, we mean it literally.
“I had already dropped out (of school) for about a year and I was cleaning houses full-time,” Azalea, 24, shared candidly last month on the Chelsea Lately show.
Asked about the most horrid thing she came across while working as a cleaner and the Australian chart-topper told host Chelsea Handler, “You’d be surprised. I found poo once on a doormat … which is not where poo belongs.
“It was one of those spiky doormats that gets the dirt off the bottom of your shoes. And it was definitely human.” Yikes!
Thankfully, those days are gone. The only thing she is cleaning up these days are the top spots of major music charts. Azalea is only the second artiste to have a song ranked No.1 (Fancy with Charli XCX) and No.2 (Ariana Grande’s Problem in which she is featured) at the same time on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, matching a record made by The Beatles 50 years ago.
But how did the rapper go from mopping floors to hitting the roof of music charts?
Amethyst Amelia Kelly, or better known by her stage name as Iggy Azalea, grew up in a mud brick house built by her father, a comic artist, in a little town called Mullumbimby in New South Wales. Not exactly the kind of environment one would imagine this future hip-hop “It” girl growing up in.
“She always had the ambition to be the female equivalent of Eminem,” Azalea’s mother, Tanya, told Australian daily The Northern Star, adding her first exposure to hip-hop had been when a teacher taught her class to rap in primary school.
Azalea started rapping at age 14, but knew if she wanted to chase after her dreams, she had to leave.
“I did love growing up there (in Mullumbimby), and I love being from the country. It was so hard to leave, but it was also hard to admit you had aspirations. In small towns, especially, you get laughed at and shut down,” she shared with The Australian.
And so it was to be. Using the money she had saved up while cleaning houses with her mother, Azalea left for the United States to pursue a musical career at age 16.
But the road to success was a winding and uncertain one. She arrived first in Miami, Florida on a tourist visa, staying with a friend’s family.
“In Miami, I had friends get me jobs under the table, because I couldn’t work legitimately here … I’d be staying with friends, moving around to different cities, trying to rap and find people that would let me record in studios,” she told Complex magazine, adding that she did everything from selling fake gift cards to starting up an online hair business to sustain herself.
“It was hard for me (to rap in Miami) because I didn’t know anyone that did music. It’s like, ‘Where do I go? Who do I talk to for this?’,” she shared.
Azalea eventually moved to Houston, Texas, then Atlanta, Georgia, and finally Los Angeles in California, each time in search of bigger and better opportunities.
Azalea kept knocking on doors and they finally flung wide open in 2011 after she uploaded a controversial, sexually-explicit music video (so much so that its title is deemed unprintable) on YouTube.
The video, which sees the gorgeous, statuesque blonde clad in a tube top and bright yellow pants rapping about the female genitalia, went viral. This was probably because, for a change, it wasn’t another black male rapper boasting about his “tool”.
Critics loved her, and The New York Times was singing her praises, stating, “If the white women of the world can possibly produce one superstar rapper, Iggy Azalea could be it.”
Azalea, who, along with white female rappers Kreayshawn and K.Flay are pushing the boundaries of hip-hop music, said: “I think that we are at a point where hip-hop has evolved. Now we are at a time where a white girl can put a song out and people will start to say, ‘Oh, maybe this can work’.”
“Hip-hop used to be black culture, now it’s so much more. Hip-hop evolved and so did the people that listened to it,” she said in Complex magazine.
After offers came “from nearly every label” (as she stated in a Billboard interview), Azalea released her debut album, The New Classic, under Island Records (Universal Music) in April this year.
The album peaked at No.1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart while Fancy has spent four weeks now on the Billboard Hot 100. And to have a white female rapper equal The Beatles’ chart record, that says something.
“I want younger generations to look back on what we’re doing now and say, ‘I wish I was a teenager in 2014’. I come from an era of kids who are always being told that what we make is not classic,” she noted, explaining the meaning behind her album’s title.
“But my album says to people my age, ‘Don’t devalue (the fact) that we can be culturally significant – because we can be’.”
Five things you might not know about Iggy Azalea:
1. The hip-hop sensation’s stage name was inspired by her childhood dog, Iggy, and the street where she lived, Azalea.
2. Kids, we don’t recommend this, but Azalea actually told her parents she was headed to the United States for a two-week vacation initially. Little did they know the Australian artiste’s move would be permanent.
3. She’s a fashion model. Azalea is signed with renowned modelling agency Wilhelmina Models which had former supermodels like Janice Dickinson, Patti Hansen and Gia Carangi on its bill.
4. She raps with a Southern American twang but speaks in an Australian accent.
5. She’s not exactly squeaky clean. Reports of old tweets (now deleted) of the rapper spewing racist and homophobic remarks have been making rounds on the Internet. On another occasion in 2012, black female rapper Azealia Banks tweeted her disapproval of Azalea for including the lyrics “I’m a runaway slave master” in her song, D.R.U.G.S.