Blackvoice The New Blackface?


White guilt is like playing Scrabble: it gathers dust on bookshelves between DVDs featuring white male protagonists, is fun for the whole family, and your kids will always find points that your age denies.

If someone helps me breed at any point in the future I look forward to our offspring sharing in the uneasy oesophageal squirm I get watching out-dated comedy on Youtube. Not because I want them to feel awkward, but because it will vindicate the anxiety that 23-year-old me felt as he tried to come to terms with pop-cult norms.

If future Joshes are to spend just a tenth of the time trawling the depths of the internet for now-taboo norms from another age as Daddy has, then a considerable proportion of what we today consider inoffensive humanperson music is going to be a treasure trove of revisionist cringe.

In 2006 a 16-year-old Australian named Amethyst Amelia Kelly got on a plane to Florida to pursue the pipedream television had sold so well. A manufactured, manicured ascent up bastard art mountain awaited across the seas.

It’s 2014 and Amethyst, now ‘Iggy Azalea’, is a chart-topping star having replaced Lil Kim as the female rapper with the longest leading number one single on the Billboard top 100 with “Fancy”. Azalea claims to have left Australia for feeling an “outsider in my own country, I was in love with hip hop, and America is the birthplace of that”.

If I was writing about the American Dream then there might be something worth celebrating here. But what’s far more interesting than making something of yourself as a beautiful white girl in America is the means by which Azalea has done it: Iggy Azalea adopts a southern drawl, appropriates mass-produced hip-hop’s misogynistic vocabulary, and emulates the booty-shaking apparatus by which women in hip hop, be they subject or object, win the hearts and minds of the drooling television screen-foggers.

Of course no man has the right to tell women how to do feminism, and no white man with one iota of respect for the historically subjugated rest-of-the-world ought be the one saying what does and does not constitute racism. But, as nothing more than a culture-obsessed music lover with a few years of relevant study, the superficiality evident in the ease by which one can squeeze capital from the commodification of black American culture, and the appropriation of the misogynistic objectification of the female body — as a white person — sees the likes of Iggy Azalea the modern blackface minstrel.

I’m not an American woman. I’m also not an African American. But his does not reduce the extent to which I am troubled by Iggy Azalea’s adoption of male chauvinism and black stereotypes in her lyrics and presentation of femininity.

The female 50 per cent of American society who get paid 78c for every dollar a bloke earns ought question the social utility of the 2014 ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, then label it as empowering’ attitude that Azalea has used to generate success as a female hip-hop artist.

When an African American’s accent and lexicon, so offensively referred to in white academia as ‘Ebonics’, still in 2014 is another hurdle in the quest for employment opportunity, it’s a little bit gross that pretty white girls from Australia can recycle linguistic stereotypes and reap rewards not available to those who aren’t pretending when they open their mouths.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.