Jam Master Jay and the other late pioneers of the genre would almost certainly turn in their graves after an MC from Mullumbimby, Australia, became the first female to grace the cover of XXL’s esteemed Freshman Cover back in 2012. But while it’s tricky to raid the buzz of blogosphere criticism, Iggy has spent much of the interim months morphing like-minded skeptics into converts. Her equal-parts stubborn and unflinching persistence has garnered the respect of hip-hop royalty like Nas and 2 Chainz. Not to mention, she is down with the king of the South, T.I.
The New Classic is no doubt an ambitious title for a debut feature-length effort, but it is befitting of a brash good-googly-moogly-proportioned female MC known for boasting as much as for an inexplicable southern accent more reminiscent of Trina than Nicole Kidman or Portia De Rossi. Despite wide-ranging speculations about the enlistment of million dollar beatsmiths, the bulk of the instrumentals come from a relatively unknown London trio named The Invisblemen.
The 23-year-old Def Jam signee wastes no time in her quest to carve out a little more room for the vixens, as “Walk The Line” radiates the ambience of an artist out to extinguish any past or future skepticism. We are chaperoned via a Louis Vuitton imprint-trail as Iggy fuses intimate narrative with her emblematic bombshell braggadocio against somber operatic humming. “Don’t Need Y’all” slows the pace sonically but ups the stakes as a cocksure Iggy reassures the masses why her reign in the music industry is cemented.
Iggy has publicly agonized at length about how she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed simply as T.I.’s artistic inception, but his influence on the record is difficult to deny. She seems aware that new classics are not necessarily achieved through new god flows; rather they stem from crafting durable good music, a properly prioritized approach that has afforded Tip, a supreme, mighty healthy catalogue over the years. For all intents and purposes, Iggy’s lyrics often revolve around moving the body and partying, and so we get a smooth, crisp gem like “100.” The sometimes wayward blonde beauty we witnessed on the Glory EP is apparently dead and gone, and she even sings on tracks like “New Bitch” and Tip-featured, “Change Your Life.”
“Fancy” is a Venti cup of guiltless hot messery as Charli XCX and Iggy collab in quite possibly the finest ode to ratchness of our time. The two are truly kindred spirits in this realm, and they romp heavily against the backdrop of modernized Miami booty bass. But after “Work,” the song that made the world fall in love with Iggy all over again after an extended hypebeast-hibernation phase, the album creeps into mediocrity. Iggy’s pop ambitions muddy her former successes, and a captivating originality descends into the indistinguishable work of the common.
The title “Impossible Is Nothing” seemingly has the swagger of a future Iggy classic in of itself, but it fails to resemble anything memorable. Ditto for “Goddess,” as The Invisblemen and Iggy sound wholly out of sync in both the sound and direction. Iggy is aided by Rita Ora and the penmanship of Katy Perry on “Black Widow,” an all-star cast that screams of a hit-to-obliterate-all-other-hits-forever-and-ever-amen, but is a fourth quarter Hail Mary pass at best. Instead of remaining steadfast to the shimmer that made the early offerings bright spots, Iggy veers off course in an all too contrived effort to meet the quota of her colossal ambition.
On “Lady Patra,” even a couple of top-notch verses lack the power necessary to make up for an ugly blemish of an utterly forgettable chorus.
The intensity of an Aussie bobcat in Miami poised to pull off the upset of the century has all but departed by the time “Fuck Love” rolls around. Although a few late quarter misfirings render the album’s title misleading, there is too much good here to say with a straight face that Iggy will amount to nothing more than a flash in the pan. The New Classic is a persuasive indicator that Iggy Azalea will be around for the long haul.—Kellan Miller