Relax, Everyone. White Rappers Aren't Taking Over

Iggy Azalea (Rodrigo Valera/Getty Images)
Iggy Azalea (Rodrigo Valera/Getty Images)

I returned home this weekend after spending the previous week on a cruise ship. Which means the last 48 or so hours have been spent reacclimating to real life and attempting to rid myself of the remnants of cruise culture. I have to keep reminding myself that I won't be eating 17 full meals a day anymore, I won't watch the same 60 people (my fiancee included) do the Wobble on the deck after lunch, and I won't be urged to attend events with names like "The Captain's Dinner" and "The Captain's Pre-Dinner Reception" and "The Captain's Post-Dinner Speech on Police Brutality and The World Cup" and "The Captain's Midnight Deck Viewing of Carlito's Way."


I also won't end each day in a cruise ship nightclub, watching in awe as Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" easily maintains the crown as 2014's "Song Most Likely to Make Everyone Stop Whatever the Hell They're Doing and Rush to the Dance Floor."

Admittedly, the usual demographic makeup of this club (a close to 50/50 Black/White split most nights) was a bit different than the type of clubs I usually frequent. Basically, I don't know how well this song would play in a mostly Black club. But even I, a person who's had more than one conversation about the awkwardness of a White girl from Australia mimicking the vocal patterns and affectations of a Black female rapper from the South, found myself nodding my head when it came on. And "Who dat? Who dat?/It be I-G-G-Y" has been stuck in my head for the last five days, like an appropriating hipster parrot has gentrified my brain.

The popularity of Azalea's "Fancy" has arguably been hip-hop's biggest story this summer. Publications have crowned her hip-hop's newest star. Other publications have scoffed their noses at that suggestion. Nicki Minaj publicly called her out last week, with words maybe 1/100th as biting as the ones the hip-hop heads and "race people" on my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline use when talking about her.

When coupled with Macklemore's Grammy victories and the fact that the two most relevant male R&B artists today are Britney Spears' old boyfriend and Paula Patton's new stalker, it's easy to get the feeling that this is it. That this is the year when White artists finally complete their Black music coup d'etat. That soon enough, the only new Black music you'll hear from an actual Black person will be from Brian Pumper.

And we all need to relax.

Regardless of how you contextualize their popularity and the reasons for it, it can't be denied that Macklemore, Thicke, and Azalea are legitimately popular. But…this is not a bad thing. It's not a good thing either. It's just a thing. As long as traditionally Black music has existed in America, there have been White artists who've built careers off of it. Some have (obviously) been more well-received than others. And some make shitty music. But the angst over a White artist's popularity in this space minimizes the ubiquity and amorphousness of hip-hop culture. This isn't a redeveloped apartment complex with only 10 available slots for low-income renters. It's pervasive enough that Azalea and Angel Haze could be popular at the same time. Even if you don't care for Azalea's and Macklemore's music, there's enough space in hip-hop for them to exist without being a threat to anything or anyone. Because hip-hop is big as fuck. So big that there's space for White visitors. Even rude ones with shitty potato salad.


Also, this is the year when hip-hop had it's first billionaire (Dr. Dre) and first billion-dollar couple (Jay Z and Beyonce). All Black people. As is the person many consider the most important person in music today (Kanye West). And the country's hottest rapper (Drake). And the person who happens to be the most successful female rapper ever (Nicki Minaj). And the most prominent and potential-filled rising star (Kendrick Lamar). And the guys who still create all the street/hood anthems (Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, T.I., etc). And Diddy's Black ass. Thinking hip-hop is dominated by White artists is like thinking tigers are running the streets cause you saw one at the zoo. (That analogy made much more sense in my head, but you get my point.)

The first time the cruise club DJ played "Fancy", he followed it with a track whose baseline I immediately recognized. Everyone else did too, as those on the dance floor reflexively nodded their heads. They were only half-nods though, as most stopped as soon as the actual song that was playing finally dawned on them: Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby." Some completely left the dance floor. I even caught one White person angrily mouth "WTF?" at the DJ. I went back to my room a few minutes later.


If you're looking for a moral or meaning to this story, stop. There is none. And that's kinda the point.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



The first time I heard "fancy" I thought to myself, "Gwen stefani is still making music? Wow!" Lol, it's not that serious in the industry. Everything comes back around in cycles.