Nick Young looks to be having the time of his life right now. The cocky L.A. shooting guard's style and humor were a bright spot for the struggling Lakers all season, and the artist otherwise known as Swaggy P finally made up for last month's hilarious premature celebration of a missed three, bowing out on a season-high 41 points in a low stakes square-off against the Utah Jazz just over a week ago.
No playoffs this year, of course, but he'll keep busy: Off the court, he's seeing Iggy Azalea, the blonde-haired, porcelain-skinned rapper whose latest single, "Fancy," influenced by L.A.'s "ratchet" craze, is blowing up the Top 40 in the U.S. and U.K., not to mention her native Australia. The couple met via Twitter and have kept up a public image that's playful and occasionally dirty. (Here's Nick publicly cracking wise about her ass to TMZ.) But Iggy's still largely a mystery: a white rapper from small-town Australia who sounds like she's from the American South. Her major-label debut album, The New Classic, lands today, and it doesn't bring much clarity to the spectacle, though it does bring more spectacle.
This record is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition: You'll either buy Iggy and her story, or you won't. She's a natural lightning-rod for controversy. There are those, fellow rappers like Azealia Banks included, who feel like Iggy's gotten accolades and career opportunities she doesn't deserve; a clumsy lyric in a 2012 freestyle where she called herself a "runaway slave master" quickly sullied her appeal to pure hip-hop fans. The accent's a put-on: She rhymes like Trina on records, but switches to a Naomi Watts-style speaking voice for interviews like it's nothing.
You'll immediately find yourself searching for an explanation for all this, but The New Classic leaves you to piece it together on your own. On "Work," she looks back on having "no money and no family" at "16 in the middle of Miami," but elsewhere, she thanks her mom for her support. Nagging questions like why she moved away from her family as teenager and how she got from poverty to rap stardom in the States go woefully unanswered. She says she's "the realest" a bunch, but this record never shows any receipts.
What it does best is post up airy pop-rap jingles. The highlights are chipper radio bangers that coast on EDM-infused beats and Iggy's enthusiastic pep-talks: "Fancy" is far and away the biggest win, but "100s" does better than expected teaming her up with the "trapstep" group Watch the Duck, whose single "Poppin' Off" was briefly inescapable a year or so ago. By contrast, the worst songs here inflate an already ever-present vibe of fish-out-of-water awkwardness, as on the token reggae cut "Lady Patra," where we find out she's got a fake Jamaican accent worse than her fake American one. The New Classic might've been a serviceable debut if Iggy stuck to the lightweight dance-rap that got her to the big leagues, but like Swaggy P on more than one occasion, she's trying too hard.
Iggy plays motivational speaker most of the way, instructing fans that if she made it from wherever it is she came from to the overseas stardom and Stateside notoriety she's got nowadays, they can, too. "Impossible Is Nothing" is wall-to-wall leadership-seminar slogans, as are "Walk the Line" and "Work." "Goddess" demands haters to "Bow down to a goddess," but "New Bitch" stunts on a new boyfriend's exes with all the expensive gifts she's getting for being arm candy, and "Black Widow" creepily pledges devotion to a boyfriend who clearly wants out of the relationship.
For all the energy The New Classic commits to celebrating independence, a lot of it measures self worth in the affections of men. It's a confusing series of messages from an album already perplexing on too many fronts, especially in an era where rappers like Kreayshawn and V-Nasty have suffered career-ending assaults on their integrity from a hip-hop community set on edge by white artists' greater ease in crossing over to pop radio.
The New Classic's got some bright spots in spite of the principal weirdness of the premise, i.e. an Australian rapping in earnest about realness in an assumed Southern U.S. accent. But it's ultimately a missed opportunity to get to know more about an artist who's very possibly more multifaceted than she lets on. Equal parts flaw and flair, it seems destined to take its place in hip-hop's pantheon of albums with unfortunately overenthusiastic titles, alongside inductees like Slim Thug's gold-selling Already Platinum and Puff Daddy's forgotten Forever. It's the album-title equivalent to this: