Genre Trouble: How the Music Industry Classifies Iggy Azalea

August 21, 2014 2:37 PM

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Iggy Azalea is the new Miley Cyrus. In the same way that Miley served as a point of entry to many conversations about whiteness and cultural appropriation last year, Iggy is the latest example of how white artists snatch up elements of black culture, whitewash them, and then sell them to the mainstream as their own. Certainly, Iggy's Billboard chart dominance, which apparently rivals that of The Beatles, demonstrates that white women can appropriate elements of hip hop, a black cultural form, to great commercial success. But it is a mistake to condemn this phenomenon as cultural appropriation, roll our eyes, and throw up our hands. We must acknowledge that white women who engage with hip hop enter into a complex web of identity and genre. They can't quite dominate hip hop, but they instead occupy a liminal space between hip hop and pop, allowing them to incorporate elements of hip hop culture while maintaining the commercial appeal of pop -- a privilege unique to white women artists.

Genre is not a discrete reflection of the aesthetic, but a complex construct the music industry uses to organize and classify artists. An artist's race and gender play a significant role in determining how their music is classified. White women who rap possess neither the blackness nor the maleness ...

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