Understanding what ‘Cultural Appropriation’ is throughout today’s society is as easy as turning on your television or watching your favourite music video, it occurs around us constantly. ‘Cultural Appropriation’ looks at individuals adopting aspects of a culture that’s not their own. On a deeper understanding it refers to a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group” (Maisha Z. Johnson). To many, the term implies the theft of culture, without respect to its history and an ignorance of underlying cultural meaning.
Through analysing today’s media, there are many well- known individuals whose actions have lead to negative connotations regarding the adoption of a culture rather than their own. An example of this is the Australian born female ‘Hip-Hop’ artist Iggy Azalea. In a genre dominated almost exclusively by African American men, Azalea stands out, but unfortunately it’s not for the right reasons. The hometown ‘rapper’ has recently sparked a great deal of controversy as her ‘Cultural Appropriation’, hints to underlining tones of racism.
One example of Azalea’s ‘Cultural Appropriation’ events first occurred on the song entitled ‘D.R.U.G.S’ as the artist refers to herself as a “runaway slave… master”. This incident caused massive amounts of controversy, especially in the African- American community, leading many to speak out on the issue, including Iggy’s peer, African- American ‘Hip-Hop’ artist Azealia Banks. Banks took to various media outlets to talk about the history of American capitalism beginning with slave labor as well the discussion about reparations. Banks goes on to state “at the very least y’all owe me the right to my f***ing identity and to not exploit that s***. That’s all we’re holding on to with ‘Hip-Hop” and ‘Rap’”. Being classified as any type of artist provides many individuals an outlet for self-expression and vehicle for identification, however using expressions whilst having a lack of cultural appreciation becomes dispensable, and is an insult stemming from a long history and trend of racial and ethnic discrimination and prejudice. When violence systematically targets a group of people through genocide, slavery, or colonisation, the resulting trauma lasts through generations. It’s insulting to say the least.
The Daily Dot’s Derrick Clifton writes: “‘Fancy’ new starlet is now dominating the entire genre, especially since she’s now the female rapper with the longest reign on the ‘Billboard Top 100’ But it seems as though every time conversations crop up about Iggy Azalea, the vocal critics get panned—mainly by white people—as a horde of racists for ‘attacking’ their participation in black art forms, no matter how intrinsically rooted they are to black experiences… Our sayings, dialects, and even vocal dynamics may bear common roots, but are heavily influenced by life experiences, education and regional differences. Iggy azaleas ‘natural speaking voice’ is actually the sugary-sweet, rural Australian accent she grew’ up with—not the grungy, Southern ‘’blackcent’ she adopts for the sake of rapping”
As Clifton suggests here, there are ways to imitate black artists that don’t explicitly demean them or the black community, and that actually honor the legacy of black music. In fact, he singles out Adele, Duffy, and Sam Smith as prime examples. However the problem with Azalea here is with her accent, her clothes, and her general image, as he agues that she’s basically a step away from black face. That’s not to say Azalea doesn’t truly love the kind of music she’s taking from. The ‘rapper’ personally shares her admiration for legendary rap artists such as Tupac, even citing him as the reason why she felt so inspired to enter the industry in the first place. Nevertheless loving hip-hop, or any kind of music relating to a culture for that matter, doesn’t really make it okay for you to “act black,” as it becomes a strike against her authenticity and tips her over the line from appreciation into appropriation.
So what do you think?
Do you believe Azalea is inappropriate when it comes to ‘Cultural Appropriation’?
If so, what other individuals have you seen been doing the same?
Please feel free to leave a comment.
- Chang, Jeff. ‘Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea And Hip-Hop’s Appropriation Problem’. the Guardian. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
- Clifton, Derrick. ’17 Things White People Need To Know About #Yesallblackpeople’. The Daily Dot. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
- Johnson, Maisha. ‘Whatâ€™S Wrong With Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm’. Everyday Feminism. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
- Morrison, Aaron. ‘Rachel Dolezal, Iggy Azalea And Cultural Appropriation: When Admiration Of Black Culture Becomes Offensive’. International Business Times. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
- Osterndorf, Chris. ‘Iggy Azalea And A Culture Of Appropriation’. Media Diversified. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.
- Iggy Azalea Photo: prettystatus.com
- Iggy Azalea Photo meme: davidsdistrict