Iggy Azalea Talks “Kream,” Her New EP & Personal Growth: Interview
Iggy Azalea’s comeback is in full swing. The rapper, who many wrote off after the atomic fallout that followed the success of The New Classic, recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 with “Kream” and just dropped one of the better EPs of 2018. Not only that, but the Aussie hitmaker’s new sound — a return to the aggressive, defiantly sexual anti-pop of her mixtapes, has struck a chord well outside the core group of fans that stuck by her. It seems that Iggy is winning people back, one booty-shaking banger at a time.
The 28-year-old’s delight (and mild shock) at the response to “Kream” was palpable when I spoke to her on the phone in mid-July. The rapper sounded positively elated as she explained what it meant to her. Iggy also opened up about the eye-popping visual, which bridges 2011 breakout hit “Pu$$y” with the neon-drenched aesthetic of today, as well as the very distinct tone of Survive The Summer. Other topics of conversation included the permanence of social media, her growth as a person, the fate of Digital Distortion and a surprise summer collaboration. Find out more in our Q&A below.
The response to “Kream” has been so positive. What does that mean to you?
Everything! I always hope for the best but, I think there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to hope for anything too big because I don’t want to be let down and this is more than I could have hoped for. It feels surreal that everybody likes it so much. It’s weird. You would think that everyone liking “Fancy” would be the most surreal moment, but oddly enough I think that everyone liking “Kream” has been the most surprising thing.
What did you do differently this time around?
I really wanted to try and make an effort to have the same energy as when I was making mixtapes. I really wanted to get back to that energy and not the pop energy of The New Classic that I think people had kind of come to expect from me. Not that those songs are bad, I just think it felt a little bit predictable. I wanted to give something that people that have been following me for a long time would feel familiar with, but maybe the kind of casual listener would be surprised by. So, it kind of kills two birds for me. That was my thinking when I was making the entire project.
I think that really comes through, particularly in the video, which falls somewhere between the “Pu$$y” aesthetic and “Mo Bounce.”
Yeah, that’s intentional. I think as soon as I sat down, before I knew that I was going to pick “Kream” as a single, I already knew what the video would be. And I said to the director, “Hey, I want to have an acknowledgment or nod to ‘Pu$$y’ because that was the first music video I ever filmed, and it was the music video that sparked my career and interest in me.” I just wanted to acknowledge visually as well as sonically a return to that sound, so I really wanted to film in front of that house again, but still be kind like “Mo Bounce.”
I didn’t want a “Pu$$y” aesthetic visually, but I wanted it to be in that location and have that energy. But color-wise, “Mo Bounce” is the direction I’m into. I just love neon lights and the Blade Runner-type vibe, a combination of those two things.
From the very beginning, there has always been a striking visual aspect to your work. Where does that appreciation for film and photography come from?
I don’t know, I really love art. Not just photography or cinematography. I just like visual art and visual things. I grew up in a very rural area, so I really spent a lot of my childhood playing outside and being imaginative, but also watching movies and looking at books. Art and drawing were my hobbies. I spent so much of my childhood escaping and imagining the different worlds or different places that seemed so far away from where I grew up.
And so I’ve always wanted to recreate that kind of escapism for other people watching, for kids singing along in their bedroom. I always want to create a hyper-reality in music videos or movies or pictures. And kind of imagine if that place really existed, just to spark the imagination has always been really important to me.
I think the rap landscape has really changed since 2014 when “Fancy” blew up.
Oh, me too.
I’m just wondering how you have adapted?
I watch what is going on, because it’s important — no matter what it is you’re doing, if you’re rapping or working in an office — it’s important to keep an eye on what is happening around you. So I watch what’s going on and what people like, but I never want to try to copy that. I still want to be original and have a sound that’s true to me. So for me, I listen to what’s happening or what’s changing sonically, and then I just try to incorporate something that’s organic to me.
I don’t want to come out with a song like “Powerglide,” for example. That’s a song that I really love, but for me to put out a song like that, I don’t think it would sound like Iggy Azalea. I like to pay attention and then figure out, how do I fit into this world organically? How do I evolve as an artist from 2013 to 2018 and still sound like me? And I think this project does a good job of that — staying up to date with rap sonically, but still sounding like an Iggy record. I don’t want to imitate what’s on the charts.
Do you think another key to the success of “Kream” is that you have kept a bit of lower profile? There’s no controversy this time around.
I think when you have mainstream success and you rocket launch into the spotlight, you aren’t really prepared for a lot of the things that come with that. You can find yourself really putting your foot in your mouth a lot. When you combine that with the fact that you’re 23, 24 years old… I’m only 28 now, but there’s a big difference between that and 23. A lot of things change in your late 20s. You’re maturing and growing up and becoming an adult.
And I’m not new to the industry anymore. I’m thinking a lot more heavily about what I say, what the repercussions of that may be, and being more responsible. It’s not that I go out of my way not to say anything or be quiet, I think that it’s just that when you really think about what you want to say, you might have less that comes out of your mouth. Because when you’re just yapping, you could have a bit of verbal diarrhea.
Social media is a learning curve for everyone.
Yeah, but not just on social media. I think I have verbal diarrhea in life in general. When you’re younger, you think you know everything about everything. As you grow up, you figure out that you don’t. So I think sometimes as you get older, it’s funny because you know more, but you almost have less of an opinion than when you’re younger because you’re like, “I don’t know. I don’t have information, can I really give an educated opinion about this?” So you find yourself having less to say or maybe you can say more with less, you know?
Absolutely. If you could go back and delete any one tweet or comment, would you? Or has the dust finally settled?
I think it’s all just settled. Though, there are many things that I regret. Twitter is unfortunate, social media is unfortunate because it freezes that in time for us. In some ways, that’s good. You can look back and self reflect and say, “Geez, I’ve come a long way, that’s good.” The silver lining is that you can look at that and be like, “Never again.” But I don’t really sit around thinking “if only I could delete that one thing.” You know, you’ve gotta move forward and have personal growth. I don’t really think much about that.
You originally said Survive The Summer was going to be a visual EP. Has that changed?
Kind of. [Laughs]. I’m a gemini! It could be or it couldn’t be. I’m not sure. To be honest with you, I have six video treatments written out ready to go. But, I haven’t shot six visuals. I have only shot one for “Kream.” I still don’t know if I will do all six or not. I hate having the conversation with myself as an artist where you are like, “Do I want a visual EP? I have a certain amount of money to film it. Do I want less of a budget for my six videos, or do I only want three but have more freedom to really see my ideas materialize?”
So I guess that’s the conversation that I’m having with myself at the moment. I don’t want to say it is or isn’t. I’m undecided. I have treatments for everything, but I don’t know which compromise I want to make yet. Is it less videos and having it aesthetically exactly the way I want or is it making some aesthetic or budgetary compromise but having a visual for the whole album? I don’t know yet.
And “Savior”… I guess that was a buzz track?
I mean, I hate the word buzz track.
I know, but it’s polite in some circumstances!
I know, it’s just a nice way of saying that didn’t work out, isn’t it? [Laughs].
To be honest.
No, it’s not on the EP. Just to clarify. I really liked “Savior.” It was really important to me. For me, it was the right first step to take. It shows personal growth and I wanted to have a song that talked about where I was at and dealt with things that I wanted to change or that I learned within myself. It was important for that message to get out there before I went and made Survive the Summer.
But there has been different iterations of the project and originally I wanted it to embody all the emotions of summer — not just happiness or aggression, but kind of the lulls and lows as well. That was when I was thinking about it as an LP. When I decided to change it to six songs, for me it just felt messy trying to pick six different energies. So that’s why I haven’t put “Savior” on there. Sonically, everything is very aggressive.
I just felt like I wanted something that was going to be short and sweet and dynamic, and kind of stick to the one topic, if you know what I mean. I think I’ll definitely dive into more topical things on an LP, and have more vibes on an LP, where something can flow and have more time to make that cohesive. But for six songs, I just wanted to keep the same energy and it’s that strong aggressive energy. So no “Savior.”
I think it’s a bop, but it doesn’t really fit with “Kream.”
I love it too, but it doesn’t sonically make sense within six songs. That’s the only reason why. It’s not because I don’t love the song. I may end up putting it on the album afterwards. It could live there. But it can’t live on this project. I just think for me to have such a heavy, aggressive energy and to switch to “Hey, here’s a song about my depression.” It’s like, “Wait. What?” As an artist, that just doesn’t make sense. Listening from start to finish this doesn’t make sense energy-wise, sonically it doesn’t fit here. It can’t live here. But I do love it.
I know you have already been asked this several thousand times on Twitter, but are the songs from Digital Distortion gone forever?
They’re all gone. They’re gone forever.
How hard was it to let them go? I loved “Middle Man.”
It’s literally so funny because it’s not hard at all. I think maybe I don’t feel attached in that way, because you have to remember that I record so many songs, and I like so many songs, and I have so many half-finished ideas. Or I’ll play a snippet of something and fans will be like, “Are you gonna put blah blah on the album?” And I’m just like, “This is just a random verse that I wrote… it’s not even a song yet and it may never be.”
So, even though it’s my work, I don’t have that attachment to having to put out every song that I make. There are so many songs I make that will never be on EPs. So I don’t really feel attached to that. I’m okay with them not coming out. And also, I recorded most of those songs on Digital Distortion in 2016, so I feel like I’m always learning and getting better, I just don’t think putting those out would be the best that I could do. I think I could do better than that and I want to do my best.
That makes a lot of sense. Ok, one last question. Do you have any features or collaborations on the way?
I have a really cool collaboration coming out with DJ Fresh that I’m excited about. We’re mixing a song and it’s me and DJ Fresh’s collaboration. It’s gonna be out in the summer. In a matter of weeks. I’m really excited ’cause he’s going to have a music video. Actually, we’ve been going back and forth with the treatments today between my interviews. But my collaboration with DJ Fresh has been years in the making. I’ll tell you that. Because that man has sent me beats and I’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t really like this one” or “not quite.”
Sometimes he’ll send me something and I’ll love it, and I’ll send back a verse and he’ll be like, “No, I don’t love the verse. I’ll pass.” We have tried to collaborate like four or five times, once a year or once every two years since probably about 2013, he has sent me something. Then finally he sent me this song, and I was like, “Yes, this is the one.” So I wrote my verse and he liked this one and it worked out. I think it’s coming out in August.
I’m really excited for that. I really like the music DJ Fresh makes. I like the EDM sound still and I always will like those electronic elements. I think it’s good for me to collaborate with him, because it gives me a chance to go back into that world without it having to be on my project. It gives me the freedom to keep things very rap heavy and aggressive on my own project, but do something still in that other lane that I like so much.
Good luck with everything. Great to finally talk with you.
Thank you. It was good talking to you. Bye bye.