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Iggy Azalea - Survive the Summer EP Music Album Reviews

On the embattled rapper’s latest EP, Iggy Azalea knows what a good rap song sounds like in the abstract but is simply incapable of making one.

“First things first: I’m the realest,” Iggy Azalea rapped to open her chart-conquering, Grammy-nominated single “Fancy,” through a well-rehearsed “blaccent” over a knockoff DJ Mustard beat. Authenticity was never really her thing, but since a scathing investigation into the careful creation of her pop-rap image by Jezebel’s Clover Hope, in a piece called “The Making and Unmaking of Iggy Azalea,” she’s been unmasked as a poseur infatuated with “super hood shit,” an outsider drawn to rap “caricatures” looking to fulfill her facile American dream.

She got her wish but not without consequence. Becoming rap’s latest Great White Hope left her neck-deep in fierce, ongoing conversations about appropriation, erasure, and realness. (Conversations Miley Cyrus had already been stoking for months before Azalea became the lightning rod.) “Its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen,” Azealia Banks tweeted when Iggy was silent on Ferguson. “Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” She was in a meme war with Snoop Dogg, schooled on rap by Q-Tip, the butt of a “South Park” joke, threatened by Anonymous. And that was all at the height of her popularity.

Iggy Azalea’s debut album, 2014’s The New Classic, wrote checks she couldn’t cash on the front cover, and inside she smushed her Southern-aping flows into EDM beats. It’s taken her four years to release a new project because of how quickly the last one expired. Once touted as a clear heir apparent to Nicki Minaj, her sophomore album, Digital Distortion, is somewhere in label purgatory with Detox. After several false starts, she parted with Def Jam and signed with Island Records. Survive the Summer is the EP of someone too deep in the hole to stop digging. It’s like she’s rapping in a vacuum where none of this has happened. The same boilerplate language used in her songs four years ago is repurposed here, only now she’s even less believable. In these songs, she makes soporific guests Tyga and Wiz Khalifa look like aesthetes and tastemakers.

Azalea is, if nothing else, competent, owed primarily to a keen eye for forgery and a well-practiced routine. She knows what a good rap song should sound like in the abstract, but she is incapable of making one. Her writing is unimaginative yet cocksure, so convinced of its own epicness despite evidence to the contrary, framing her as the same unlikeable blowhard from her most controversial tweets. Few rappers seem to have to work as hard in their raps as she does, and even fewer make stunting feel so completely unglamourous.

Most of Iggy’s raps, dating back to and including “Fancy,” are about how she’s better off than those around her, how lucky someone (anyone, everyone) is to be in her presence, yet she is uninteresting and she comes across as dissatisfied. It’s hard to provoke envy when you’re projecting displeasure and resentment at every turn. When she raps, “I be looking at the stars while my pussy in his face/How the fuck could I fall off? I get 250 just to play,” on “OMG,” she doesn’t even sound like she’s enjoying herself, much less believes her own claim. Her request, on “Hey Iggy,” to “play this in the club” is performed with such animus it’s like she already knows the answer. Given all her haters, and how good she is at pretending, you’d think she could summon some showmanship. But the only thing flimsier on Survive the Summer is her songcraft.

These songs are so derivative that it’s hard not to home in and nitpick every instance where she says or does something absurd. “The Whisper Song”-referencing “Tokyo Snow Trip” is made entirely of tumbling hooks, and each is monotonous: “Rose from the cracks, with the rats and the roaches/Bust a duffle bag open/Hush money in the sofa/Bitch, you know what I’m totin’,” she hisses over and over, as if repeating the words will make them truer. On “Kawasaki,” she raps, “The block is hot, bitch go inside/Barry Sanders tryna juke the truth, we know you lyin’,” and it’s hard to imagine any rapper has been less self-aware. Realness is an elusive concept for Iggy Azalea, who still has no idea who she is in her songs and can’t even feign sincerity. Inside the 16-minutes of raps on Survive the Summer, her caricature feels less real than ever.

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