It was just last year that we placed Iggy Azalea in our 2012 XXL Freshman class. The Aussie native was the first female MC to grace the cover on the strength of her track “Pu$$y” and breakthrough mixtape Ignorant Art. Nearly a year later, Iggy has been on the steady climb to the top of the rap game, with some assistance from her mentor T.I. After releasing impressive projects—Glory and TrapGold—she’s set to release her debut album The New Classic in September. She’s had her moments of beef in the past, but now things are going her way.

With her move to Island Def Jam in April, the 23-year-old is never afraid to discuss the buzz surrounding her career. XXL got on the phone with Iggy to speak on her chances of winning Artist To Watch at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, going on tour with Beyoncé and proving herself as a lyricist. Plus, she took the time to explain the concept behind her “Change Your Life” video and breaks down why there won’t be a lot of features on her new album. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

I saw that you have a VMA nomination for Artist To Watch.
Yeah, it’s very big. I’m fucking ecstatic about it. [Laughs] Every kid grows up watching the VMAs and it’s the highlight of the year because you get to see all the celebrities and artists you like all in one place. They get the award and you are happy for them, so it’s crazy that I even have a chance that I get to walk up and say something and get a Moonman too. It’s amazing.

You are up against Austin Mahone, The Weeknd and Zedd. What do you think of the competition? Do you think you have a good chance?
I always think I have a chance at anything. Even with the XXL Freshman, I didn’t think I had much of a chance compared to other people, but I made it on there. [Laughs] Anyone has a chance. I’m a strong believer in that. I think people like Austin obviously or the Weeknd, perhaps they have a stronger chance because they have a bigger fan base. But I’m never somebody who thinks, “Aw, I am not going to try 'cause they’ll definitely get it.” I think I have a small chance, but a chance is a chance. Hey, I could win. You never know.

Do you see yourself as the underdog?
Yeah, for sure I do. Definitely. Even with Zedd, Zedd just had a song with fucking Lady Gaga. I don’t have that shit. Fuck. Austin Mahone has four million followers and MTV tweets him a million times a day and say they love his cute smile. And fair enough. I do feel like the underdog. Definitely. I still do think I have a chance.

You are going on tour with Beyoncé in the fall.
It’s crazy that I already knew for about six weeks before I could tell anyone. It's the hardest secret I ever had to keep in my fucking life. I was scared that if I told anyone and it got out, they would axe me off the tour or something. [Laughs] And that would be the ultimate embarrassment. I should just keep my mouth shut. I just can’t believe that ended up happening. I think it’s so amazing. They came to my shows in New York that I did at the Bowery Ballroom, they came both nights in a row. I guess they were impressed by them. The day after my last show at Bowery, they called and asked if I wanted to go on tour. Of course I said yes. It was such a shock that she would even ask me. Very cool.

I've never met her. I’ve met a lot of people around her. I met her management and her mom. People like that because of course we did Chime For Change together. I got a chance to meet all the people around her. I heard she was a fan and liked what I was doing with my music. And then she sent some people down to watch the show. They called and told us that she personally asked if I could open for Australia. I can’t wait to meet her. I am really excited, so I can tell her thank you!

And you're going back to Australia. It’s probably been a while.
It’s a pretty good way to go home I think. It’s funny because I was speaking with Nas actually just the other day. I was supposed to go with him on tour to Australia earlier this year. I didn’t like the lineup because there were a few other people on this tour with us. Like five or six people and I was filling in for somebody else. Angel Haze. She dropped off the tour, so I had to take the slot. I didn’t like it was so early in the set because I just felt like even though I wanted to continue the tour with Nas, I felt like if I want to go back with my country, I want to go back with a bang. I want to be in a great position in the lineup. It ended up the tour got cancelled. He was saying a few days ago, ‘It’s really worked out. I think this is the best way you can go back to Australia and you said you wanted to go back the right way and with a bang.’ I think Beyoncé is the best way. [Laughs]

What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get home?
The first thing I’ll do when I get home...I’m not sure. I think we end up in Melbourne first. I am not really familiar with Melbourne. My family all live in Sydney, close to Byron Shire. But, there’s going to be two days off. After Byron Shire, I am going to go home back to my hometown of Mullumbimby. I am inviting everybody that I am on tour with that I know quite closely. They are all going to come and stay out on the beach. Getting to go home and show everybody that I know where I live because they never been to Australia. They definitely haven’t seen where I live and I talk about it all the time. So I am just really excited to get to take them and show them like, ‘this the shop where I go eat lunch at!’ and ‘this is where I went to high school!’ ‘This is where I used to hang out!’ I just want to show them all that stuff and show them around. I am always an outsider in a way. Everywhere I go, I am always visiting. It’ll be cool to show the people I am with that this is exactly—I am not a visitor here—this is exactly where I am from.

You just dropped the tracklisting for your album and you shot the video for your next single “Change Your Life” in Vegas. How’d that go?
Hot as hell cause it was like the hottest day in 100 years. [Laughs] I was like, cooking from the inside. But, it was good. It went great. I did it with Jonas & François who did “Work,” which has been nominated for the VMA. We teamed up again. I loved working with them. They are crazy French people and they are super passionate and so am I. We can get into these heated, crazy discussions where we are screaming at each other. [Imitates Argument] We go back and forth and I love that. I get so passionate about what I do and I think sometimes people will come away or will be around me or just met me and be like, ‘She’s a bitch. I can’t believe she said that. It’s so blunt.’ So, I love being around Jonas & François where we can have the most heated discussions and walk away and we come up with a solution and no one is offended by anyone. I love that.

So the energy is there.
Yeah, I got arrested in my video. I was topless. I got to show some skin. There was dancing. There were things caught on fire. We went to the strip club; we did it at the casino house. I had a tiger. [Laughs] I feel pretty good about this video; people will definitely want to rewatch it. I think a great thing about a video is when there’s so many things happening in it that you didn’t get process all the information. You want to watch it again, so you can see what it properly [is]. You feel like you missed something, you need to watch it again. Everybody that I showed it to so far watched it again. They say, ‘Wait, I didn’t catch that. I need to watch it again.’ So, that’s a good sign. I’m really happy with it and I am happy that I am finished with the album.

How is the video inspired by Bladerunner and Showgirls? What did you take from those movies?
When I heard this song, I just kind of felt like it...“Change Your Life,” it has a bigness about it. It’s a big record. It feels like, ‘Whoa, this is humongous when you listen to it.’ When I think of a Vegas show, I think they are always spectacular and humongous. I didn’t want it to be cabaret, I didn’t want it to be cheesy. I just started to watch all the movies that I could think of that were kind of Vegas-based. I loved Showgirls because I think it’s a fucking awful movie and I just love that it was so tacky and kind of awful but hilarious in its own way. I think some things can be so bad that they're good. I think it was so bad, it was good. [Laughs] I loved it. I loved that this girl in Showgirls, Naomi, the character that I play in my music video, she’s a badass. And she’s rebellious. She does things in her own way, but she still has a dependency on this man or this casino. She needs them to get her job off or her dream. She’s dependent in a way, but she’s rebellious. I identified with that. Myself with needing a label, but being an artist and wanting to do it your own way and having to kind of dealing with the devil I guess. I really liked this movie. I connected with it in that aspect.

I love the song that I got, “Change Your Life” with T.I. I am saying to a man, essentially, ‘You need me. I’ll make things better.’ I guess it’s a bit [to] upgrade you. T.I.’s going back and forth with me saying, ‘No, bitch. You need me. What the fuck are you talking about?’ And so I love that. I thought it was appropriate to base it on that storyline of Showgirls where she needs the person, but she’s still rebellious. 'No you need me. No I need you.' I like the back and forth of it. I thought it was a good storyline to base on.

Of course, Bladerunner, I just love.  I didn’t want to do the traditional Vegas. I still love the neon lights. I love neon lights, bold lighting, and the lighting of Vegas. I thought in a way similar to what I had seen in Bladerunner. I like Bladerunner. It’s a little bit futuristic throwback. It’s like '80s, but '80s future. I like that. Vegas can be really tacky and '80s—that kind of gaudiness. I thought it was a good combination.

You were with Interscope, but you’ve dealt with some label drama when they weren’t on the same page as you and Hustle Gang. How’s the new situation at Def Jam treating you?
I love them. I came to them with my album in a state of about 80 percent done. They loved it. They loved the direction. They respected T.I. being a part of it. I think they saw why T.I. was important. Not necessarily my creative, but our relationship and our business relationship and him supporting me. It was nice to have that for a change. To be friends with a lot of the guys up there—Pecas and people that work there too and have their own relationships. I think it just worked out. It was a good fit. I’m happy.

Of course, I still have my label struggles. There’s budgets or things that I am going to disagree with. For the most part, I think they are brilliant. I think they feel passionate about trying to do something new or trying to have a new story and they always say to me, ‘If we did this, then this could be the first time somebody from Australia has done something like this. And we want to be part of the story.’ We want to help build the story or part of the history. They love that.

If you can make history with anybody, then fuck, it should be Def Jam, right? I think it’s perfect and I love that they love that. Other people that I experienced [was] kind of me meeting hostility. ‘Oh, it hasn’t been done, so we shouldn’t have given it a bigger budget because it's a risk.’ I think with them they are almost the opposite. ‘No, we should because we haven’t done this before.’ If we are going to do it, we should do and put our all into it and see if we can take it all away. I love that about them.

You were saying on Twitter that you wanted more songs on The New Classic. You got what you wanted.
Yeah, they listen to me. I guess they said they’ve done research and people only want to listen to an album for this amount of time, but if you want to have more, you can have more. I just felt like for me, I’ve been working on this album for so long. There are some songs that I just can’t let go or have an important message. I need this sound to create the balance I want to create. I just felt that I could not do it in 12 songs—I need 14 or 15. I need those extra songs to make the story, because otherwise someone might hear it or review it and say, ‘Well, it was good but it was missing this.’ And I actually have that. I don’t want it to be missing if I know I got that in my stash. I want to put it on there. If somebody skips through, one song isn’t for them, at least I know maybe this was the song was for you and it was on this. I think it’s important.

Are you going to rock this album solo without any features?
It’s pretty solo. I didn’t write any features or anything down on that list cause we don’t want to just give that away like that. The album will probably be 15 tracks, standard. I am only planning on having three features for the most part. One of which is T.I., and there’s two more that I’ll add on there. I did this all alone. I just feel like I don’t need to put people on to add to it in a way. For me, if I put somebody on some of the songs, then I have to take off one of my verses. I don’t want to really do that. I just decided to do three features and that’s enough for me.

I think there are always times when you can put features out as a single or other shit. I just want people to know that they know me. If I get 75 minutes, I’m going to take all of my 75 minutes to give my speech. I am not going to let guest speakers come up too much—you might not know who I am. My main criticism has always been, ‘She’s good, but she doesn’t rap about anything good. She’s good, but she just kind of talks trash. I don’t know who she is. What is she rapping about? It’s a gimmick.’ Maybe if you know more about me and I actually talk about it in song, maybe that can change. And I like it to change.