Amethyst Amelia Kelly, known professionally as Iggy Azalea (/əˈzeɪliːə/; born 7 June 1990), is an Australian rapper. Born in Sydney and raised in Mullumbimby, Azalea moved to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue a career in hip hop music, residing in the southern part of the country. She earned public recognition after releasing music videos for her songs "Pu$$y" and "Two Times" on YouTube. She signed a recording contract with American rapper T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records imprint in 2012, after gaining attention from her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Ignorant Art.
Azalea's debut studio album, The New Classic (2014), peaked among the top five of several charts worldwide and received generally mixed reviews. It topped the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums making Azalea the first non-American female rapper to reach the summit of the chart. The album was preceded by her debut single "Work", and generated the US Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping single "Fancy", which made Azalea the fourth female rapper in the history of the chart to reach number one, claiming the longest-leading reign with seven consecutive weeks. Additionally, she was featured on Ariana Grande's single "Problem", which peaked at number two while "Fancy" was number one; Azalea joined The Beatles as the only acts to rank at numbers one and two simultaneously with their first two Hot 100 entries. She also went on to achieve three top ten hits simultaneously on the Hot 100 with the aforementioned songs along with the fifth single from the album, "Black Widow", later that year.
Amethyst Amelia Kelly was born in Sydney and brought up in Mullumbimby, New South Wales. Her father, Brendan Kelly, was a European-Australian painter and comic artist, while her mother, Tanya, cleaned holiday houses and hotels.Azalea lived in a house that her father built by hand from mud-bricks, surrounded by 5 hectares (12 acres) of land.According to Azalea, she has some Aboriginal (Indigenous Australian) ancestry: "My family came to Australia on the First Fleet. My family's been in that country for a long time, over 100 years. If your family's lived in Australia for a long time, everyone has a little bit of [Aborigine blood]. I know my family does because we have an eye condition that only Aboriginal people have." Azalea has also said that her father "made her look at [art] as a teenager", which has always influenced her life and work. She began rapping at age 14. Before embarking on a solo career, Azalea formed a group with two other girls from her neighbourhood: "I was like, I could be the rapper. This could be like TLC. I'll be Left Eye." Azalea eventually decided to disband the group because the other girls weren't taking it seriously: "I take everything I do serious [sic]. I'm too competitive."
In pursuit of her desire to move to America, Azalea dropped out of high school. She worked and saved the money she earned by cleaning hotel rooms and holiday houses with her mother. She claims to have hated school, which, apart from art class, only made her miserable. She also said she had no friends and was teased for her homemade outfits. Azalea travelled to the United States in 2006, shortly before she turned 16. She told her parents she was going "on a holiday" with a friend, but eventually decided to stay and shortly afterwards told them she was not coming back home: "I was drawn to America because I felt like an outsider in my own country, I was in love with hip hop, and America is the birthplace of that, so I figured the closer I was to the music, the happier I'd be. I was right." She recalled, "My mum was crying, saying, 'Just be safe.' I was thinking, 'I'm going by myself. I'm fucking crazy!'." After her arrival in the US, she received her GED, and resided in the country on a visa waiver for six years, returning to Australia every three months to renew it. Azalea worked in the US illegally until February 2013 when she was granted a five-year O visa.
2006–2011: Career beginnings in the US
When she first arrived in the United States in 2006, she stayed in Miami, Florida, and afterwards lived briefly in Houston, Texas. Azalea settled for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia, working with a member of the Dungeon Family named Backbone. During that period, she met future collaborators FKi and Natalie Sims. She took her stage name from the name of her childhood dog, Iggy, and the street she grew up on, Azalea Street, where her family lives to this day. She said people would laugh at her because "they thought my raps sucked." But having grown up getting laughed at, she was able to shrug it off. Meanwhile, she'd met someone from Interscope Records who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles, and so in the summer of 2010, she decided to do so. She was briefly managed by Interscope.
On 27 September 2011, Azalea released her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Ignorant Art, saying she made it "with the intent to make people question and redefine old ideals". Her song "Pu$$y", was included on the mixed tape and features guest appearances from YG, Joe Moses, Chevy Jones, and Problem. In November 2011, she released a music video for her song "My World", directed by Alex/2tone. The video features a cameo appearance from character actor and former wrestler Tiny Lister, which earned her more attention due to its rising popularity online. "It's supposed to have like, all the ridiculousness of a big-budget '90s video, but then chopped and screwed," said Azalea, of the video. In December 2011, Azalea revealed she would release her debut studio album, entitled The New Classic, as soon as she signed a major record label deal: "Once that's sorted out and I establish an overall sound and direction for the album, I will be able to know what artists would make for a dynamic collaboration". On 11 January 2012, Azalea released the music video for "The Last Song", her third video from Ignorant Art. In an interview with Billboard, released on 27 January, Azalea hinted at an Interscope Records signing, while also revealing hopes of releasing The New Classic in June, and for her debut single to precede it in March.
2012: Label issues and Glory
"I'm working with a different production company for my album than what I did for my mixtape Ignorant Art, and I don't know who yet. I'm still looking. T.I.'s gonna be helping me with it, kinda like A&Ring, kinda like executive-producing. He called me up and was like, 'Yo.' And I was like, 'Definitely. You're Tip. I love you, of course.' So he's gonna be kinda helping me out, like just kinda reaching out to people and helping me find production and pointing me in the direction of things that I might like. We're gonna start on that next week together. I'll probably fly out to Atlanta and we'll do it in between there because he's weird with traveling and stuff. I understand. We're in touch with each other. I have legal issues, he has legal issues. I get it. So hopefully that will be really dynamic and it'll help speed things along."
Azalea reached out to Southern rapper T.I., for the direction of her debut album. T.I. was set to executive produce The New Classic, soon after a phone call the two had. At the time, Azalea was eyeing a summer release for The New Classic: "Hopefully if all goes to plan, my album will be out in June and I'll have it recorded by the end of the month." However, after Interscope did not allow T.I. to be an on-going part of her deal, Azalea opted not to sign with the major label and stay independently signed to Grand Hustle Records, until the release of her first album, which had then been postponed. In early 2012, Azalea was featured on the cover of XXL, as part of its annual "Top 10 Freshman List", along with fellow up-and-coming rappers French Montana, MGK, Danny Brown, Hopsin, and Roscoe Dash. On 1 March 2012, T.I. announced he signed Azalea to Grand Hustle Records, along with rappers Chip and Trae tha Truth. On 26 March 2012, Azalea posted "Murda Bizness", the intended lead single for The New Classic, on her YouTube account. The song was produced by Bei Maejor and features a verse from her Grand Hustle label-boss T.I.. Around this time, Azalea also caused controversy for her 2011 song "D.R.U.G.S", a remix of Kendrick Lamar's "Look Out for Detox", having adapted one of its lyrics to "When the relay starts, I'm a runaway slave / Master," leading her to release a letter online apologising, stating that it was a "tacky and careless thing to say."
In April 2012, via her Twitter feed, Azalea announced plans to release an extended play (EP) entitled Glory, later in May: "I'm just onto something right now, the last two weeks and it's glory. Azaleans need something new." Also in April, Azalea starred alongside Grammy-nominated producer Diplo and FKi in the world's first fully interactive 'shoppable' music video for Canadian fashion retailer, SSENSE. In May 2012, it was confirmed by T.I., on MTV's HipHopPov, that Azalea had not yet secured distribution for her deal with Grand Hustle Records, and was described by T.I. as a "free agent". It was later revealed in the interview that she is in negotiations with labels other than Interscope and possibly Def Jam Recordings (wherein Bu Thiam, whom of which originally placed a bid to sign her is VP of A&R). Azalea was also featured on Steve Aoki and Angger Dimas' collaborative electronic track "Beat Down", which was released on 31 May 2012.
On 24 June 2012, Azalea released "Millionaire Misfits", the second offering from her EP Glory; the first being "Murda Bizness". On 21 July, the official music video for "Murda Bizness" was released online. Glory, although not released in May, as it was originally scheduled, was released 30 July 2012. Azalea was also one of the acts on MTV's 2012 Closer To My Dreams Tour, along with Tyga and Kirko Bangz. On 28 September 2012, Azalea announced she would be releasing her second mixtape on 11 October 2012. Titling it TrapGold, the mixtape was produced entirely by Diplo and FKi. She later premiered teaser visuals for the track "Bac 2 Tha Future (My Time)". On 9 October 2012, Azalea made her US national television debut, appearing alongside T.I., B.o.B and other Grand Hustle artists in a cypher, at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards. Later that month, she embarked on yet another North American mini-concert tour with Roc Nation singer-songwriter Rita Ora, on her Ora Tour. Azalea then headlined a tour in Europe to support TrapGold. On 16 December 2012, Azalea performed live alongside Natasha Bedingfield and Bootsy Collins, covering Deee-Lite's 1990 hit disco song "Groove Is in the Heart", on the annual television series VH1 Divas.
2013–2015: The New Classic
In January and February 2013, while working on her upcoming singles and The New Classic, which was announced to be released in the summer, Azalea was the opening act for Rita Ora's Radioactive Tour, in the United Kingdom. As part of her set for Ora's Radioactive Tour, Azalea premiered her commercial debut single "Work", which also serves as the lead single for her debut album. The single premiered on BBC Radio 1Xtra on 11 February 2013. On 13 February 2013, it was announced Azalea had signed a record deal with Mercury Records. The music video for her debut single "Work", was directed by Jonas & François and released 13 March 2013. In March 2013, Azalea also joined renowned East Coast rapper Nas, on the European leg of his Life Is Good Tour.
On 15 April 2013, Vevo announced Azalea as its second LIFT artist of 2013 and that she would film live festival performances, fashion and style pieces and behind-the-scenes interviews as part of the eight-week-long campaign. It was also revealed that the music video for her second single "Bounce", would premiere on Vevo at the end of the month. On 16 March 2013, it was announced that Azalea would perform in the beneficent concert "Chime for Change", scheduled to take place on 1 June in London, alongside Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and others. On 23 April 2013, Azalea announced that she had signed a solo record deal with Island Def Jam. On 26 April 2013, Azalea's second European single "Bounce", premiered on BBC Radio 1. She also noted that the third international single taken from her debut album is entitled "Change Your Life" and features a verse from T.I.. Azalea also confirmed that she is not signed to Grand Hustle Records; however, heavily affiliated with the label.
On 25 May 2013, Azalea, as part of Radio 1's Big Weekend in Londonderry, performed an acclaimed carnival themed set on the In New Music We Trust stage. The setlist contained songs from previous EP's and album material such as "Bounce" and "Work". The show was the start of a short set of UK pre-album promotional appearances. In June 2013, Azalea confirmed that the album was nearly finished and that it's slated for release in September 2013. On 29 July 2013, Azalea revealed she will be opening for Beyoncé on the 17-date Australia leg of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in October and November. The third single from The New Classic, titled "Change Your Life", was premiered by BBC Radio 1Xtra's MistaJam, on 19 August 2013. On 3 October 2013, Azalea made her first appearance on BET's 106 & Park, where she was interviewed and performed "Change Your Life", alongside T.I.
Azalea's debut album was slated for an October release but in an interview with Australia's Herald Sun, she revealed due to other commitments such as supporting Beyoncé on her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour her record label would not allow her to release The New Classic until March 2014. She said: "The official date? Fucked if I know! It's done, it's so depressing to say this but it's the beginning of March, it's so far away but I just have to accept that." She explained the reasons behind the delay: "It was supposed to be October but obviously I'm going on tour with Beyoncé and they said I'm not allowed to put an album out while I'm on tour because I'll be trapped in Australia and I won't be able to do any TV appearances and I thought that's fair enough, that's three weeks and then they said 'You can't put an album out around Christmas time, that's a bad time' and I said 'What about January?' 'Well nobody gets back off holidays and then it's the BRIT Awards, you can't release an album, it's terrible for marketing' which brings me to February." On 10 November, Azalea performed "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards.
On 5 December 2013, an unfinished song by Azalea, surfaced with the title "Leave It" and the tag "produced by DJ Mustard", was leaked. Azalea later revealed the song was in fact produced by The Invisible Men and The Arcade, whom she collaborated with on the entire album. In February 2014, Azalea announced that she would be releasing a new single titled "Fancy", featuring English singer-songwriter Charli XCX. The song was premiered on BBC Radio 1 Xtra at 7PM GMT on 6 February 2014. After the song's premiere, it was revealed "Fancy" was the song that had leaked titled "Leave It". On 17 February 2014, the song was serviced to urban contemporary radio in the United Kingdom as the album's fourth single and became her highest charting song at the time. The music video for "Fancy", inspired by the 1995 American comedy film Clueless was released on 4 March. "Fancy" went on to become Azalea's most successful single to date, becoming her first single to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number-one on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart, as well as number-one the US Dance Club Play chart.
Azalea's often-delayed and long-awaited debut album, The New Classic, was released on 21 April 2014. Upon its release, the album debuted at number-three on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 52,000 copies in the United States. The New Classic was the highest-charting female rap album since American rapper Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012). Azalea also logs the highest bow for a female rapper's debut album since Pink Friday (2010), which had entered at number-two with 375,000 copies sold. Azalea was then featured on American singer Ariana Grande's single "Problem", which was released on 28 April 2014. The song was released as the lead single from Grande's second studio album. Shortly after, Azalea also appeared on Jennifer Lopez's single "Booty".
On 28 May 2014, The New Classic's fourth single "Fancy", reached number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with Azalea becoming only the fourth solo female rapper ever to top the Hot 100. On the same day, "Problem" rose to number-two on the Hot 100, with Azalea becoming the only artist since The Beatles, to rank at numbers one and two simultaneously, with their first two respective Hot 100 entries. "Fancy" also topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. On 24 June 2014, Azalea's song "Black Widow", featuring Rita Ora, was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio, as her debut album's fifth single in the US, eventually peaking at number-three on the Billboard Hot 100. A reissue of The New Classic, titled Reclassified, was released in November 2014; featuring five new songs, including new singles "Beg for It" and "Trouble".
On 10 December 2014, when reflecting on the year she's had and the struggles she faced in the years before, Azalea announced plans of an arena tour for 2015 and a second studio album via her Twitter account. The same day, she revealed the title of the tour, The Great Escape Tour, and the concept behind it, which is Azalea picturing herself as "a musical escape artist for people." Azalea also stated that the name of the tour went along with the title of her upcoming second studio album, which would also be promoted on the tour. Azalea declared she had started to work on her second studio album in January 2015. On 4 May 2015, she released a duet with Britney Spears titled "Pretty Girls." On 29 May 2015, it was reported The Great Escape Tour had been canceled and there would be a new tour planned around Azalea's new album to be released in 2016. Azalea later clarified she "had a different creative change of heart" and would also be taking a break to figure out the progression she wanted for her sound and visuals. In June, when asked details on her new music, she explained she had scrapped six months of work to start from scratch. On 30 August, Azalea performed "Cool for the Summer" with Demi Lovato at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, after a collaboration between the two was announced for Lovato's fifth studio album Confident.
2016–present: Digital Distortion
In October 2015, Azalea revealed the title of her second album to be Digital Distortion. A buzz track off the album, "Azillion", was made available for free streaming on SoundCloud on 9 January 2016. The project's lead single "Team" was released on 18 March 2016 along with a dance video. An accompanying music video premiered on 31 March. In March 2016, Azalea revealed she had started a production company, having "bought the rights to a couple of books that I really like, and also some television shows from Australia that I really believed in and was a fan of when I was a kid, and I had some ideas to rework [them]." In July 2016, she announced that her company, Azalea Street Productions, had signed a deal to create original content for NBCUniversal.
On 12 June 2016, Seven Network revealed that Azalea had signed on to be a judge on The X Factor Australia for its eighth season, broadcast from October to November 2016. In September 2016, Azalea explained she was delaying the release of her album to 2017, despite it initially being set for July 2016, after ending the relationship with her fiancé, "[I] just needed to have some me time to get my life in order and process the changes that are happening in my private life," and wanting to record new songs that reflected her mindset: "when I wrote [my album] I was about to get married ... I don't want to go and promote my album and get asked about my relationship that has just crumbled." In November 2016, Azalea disclosed that a new single from the album would be out in January 2017.She released a new single from the album on 24 March titled "Mo Bounce". Azalea will release her next single "Switch" with Brazilian singer Anitta on May 19 with an accompanying lyric video.
After at first resisting suggestions to try modeling, in 2012 Azalea signed with Wilhelmina Models International Inc., a model and celebrity agency in the fashion industry. She featured in promotional ads for Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand Dim Mak's 2012 fall/winter collection. Also in 2012, Azalea was the face of Levi's "Go Forth" campaign. Azalea also appeared in House of Holland's first eyewear collection campaign. In July 2014, MTV announced that Azalea would be the host of the revived House of Style. Azalea appeared in the seventh installment of The Fast and the Furious film series, Furious 7, released in 2015. In August 2014, the New York Post's Page Six reported that Azalea had formed a footwear collaboration with Steve Madden. Their shoe collection was unveiled in February 2015. In October 2014, Azalea and her boyfriend Nick Young were announced as the new faces of Forever 21's 2014 holiday campaign. In April 2015, she signed on to be the 100th birthday ambassador of Australian underwear and clothing company Bonds.
Musical style and influences
Although Azalea is Australian, she raps with a Southern American accent. When she first moved to America, she was involved in the Southern hip hop scene of Miami and later Atlanta, which made it easy for her to cultivate the Southern influence in her music: "I lived in the South for five years; you pick up things from your surroundings and teachers. The people who taught me to rap are all from the South and so was the music I had listened to as a teen." While Azalea's debut extended play Glory was intended to focus on hardcore-rap, the EP also touched up on other genres including electronic dance music. Music critics have defined her singles "Fancy" and "Team" as electro-hop.
At the age of 11, Azalea was infatuated with hip hop when she heard Tupac Shakur's "Baby Don't Cry (Keep Ya Head Up II)": "It was the song that made me fall in love with music and also what sparked my Tupac fascination. That would later make me pick up my own pen and write songs". In her early interviews, Azalea regularly mentioned Shakur's influence: "I was sickly obsessed. I had every picture of Tupac ever printed on my wall". She has credited Beyoncé as an influence and Missy Elliott as the female rapper who she is influenced by and admires the most. Outside of music, her fashion sense is influenced by various people such as Grace Kelly, Lil' Kim, Gwen Stefani, the Spice Girls, Victoria Beckham, Fran Drescher, Eve, Trina, Fergie, and Christina Aguilera. Azalea has also been credited as a director for some of her music videos, and often mentions the importance she attributes to them: "For me, visuals are as important as the music, I just love escapism and giving people something to escape to. To me, that's what art is."
According to the UK newspaper The Guardian, there have been "accusations of racism against Azalea" focused on her "...insensitivity to the complexities of race relations and cultural appropriation." Salon writer Brittney Cooper critiqued Azalea's "co-optation and appropriation of sonic Southern Blackness, particularly the sonic Blackness of Southern Black women."
In late 2011, Azalea began dating American rapper ASAP Rocky, whom she met through American record producer Chase N. Cashe. She confirmed that they were dating in a January 2012 interview with Vibe. It was around this time that she got the title of Rocky's breakout mixtape Live. Love. A$AP, tattooed on her fingers.She had claimed she was not the only one with tattoos dedicated to the relationship, just Rocky's were not visible. In July 2012, Rocky stated they were no longer dating. In March 2013, Azalea revealed she had crossed out the "A$AP" part of the tattoo months previously.
She began a relationship with Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Nick Young in November 2013. Azalea and Young were featured in the March 2014 issue of GQ magazine. They resided together in Tarzana, California. On 1 June 2015, they announced their engagement. On 19 June 2016, Azalea announced that she and Young had split.
In March 2015, while talking about her body shape with Vogue, Azalea revealed she had undergone breast augmentation, saying, "I did change something: Four months ago, I got bigger boobs! I'd thought about it my entire life," adding she was sick of having to sew padding into her stage costumes and wanting to be able to wear lingerie without wiring. After initially resolving never to discuss it publicly as she didn't want other girls to feel bad about their own bodies, she concluded, "But then, I decided I wasn't into secret-keeping." In August 2015, she talked about having a nose job with Seventeen magazine, adding, "Your perception of yourself can change a lot over time, so I think it's important to wait and make sure it's the right choice. Plastic surgery is an emotional journey. (...) There are things that I didn't like about myself that I changed through surgery. There are other things I dislike but I've learned to accept. It's important to remember you can't change everything. You can never be perfect."
Awards and nominations
Iggy Azalea has been nominated for numerous major music awards. Azalea was the first female, and first non-American rapper to be featured on XXL's "Top 10 Freshman List". In 2014, she received two American Music Awards in the Rap/Hip-Hop categories, along with four more nominations, and one MTV Video Music Award for her collaboration with Ariana Grande, along with seven more nominations, making her the most nominated artist at these respective award show editions. She has also won three Teen Choice Awards and one MTV Europe Music Award. Azalea won the 2014 ARIA Award for Breakthrough Artist and the 2015 People's Choice Award for Favorite Hip-Hop Artist.
In November 2014, she was placed at number-one on the Maxim Hot 100 list in Australia because "few Aussies, female or otherwise, have had a bigger 2014 than Iggy." Azalea also ranked at number 46 on the 2014 edition of the AMID (Australasian Music Industry Directory) Power 50, a list that compiles the most influential figures in the Australasian music world. Azalea received four nominations at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Fancy" and Best Rap Album for The New Classic. Azalea joined the list of the 9th Annual Billboard Women in Music honorees as a chart-topper. In late 2014, it was announced she was placed at number-one on Billboard Year-End's Top New Artists chart. In 2015, Azalea also led the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards nominations with five. She received twelve nominations at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. In 2016, Azalea was presented with the Woman of the Year award by GQ Australia.
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- XXL Freshmen Live Tour (2012)
- Tyga – MTV Jams Presents: Closer To My Dreams Tour (2012)
- Rita Ora – Ora Tour (2012)
- Rita Ora – Radioactive Tour (2013)
- Nas – Life Is Good Tour (2013)
- Beyoncé – The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour (2013)
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