Australian rapper Iggy Azalea segued from a high-profile modeling career to become a rap star in the mid-2010s, breaking into the Hot 100 with a trio of hits -- "Fancy," "Problem," and "Black Widow" -- that dominated airwaves in 2014. Although her debut, The New Classic, was a Top Three hit in North America and Australia, a follow-up would take years to surface, with label issues and scrapped material abruptly halting her cultural momentum. In 2019, Azalea issued In My Defense, her official sophomore effort.
With a bold and brazen lyrical style following in the footsteps of Missy Elliott, Trina, and Nicki Minaj, Azalea (born Amethyst Amelia Kelly) moved to the United States in 2006 at age 16, stating that she was drawn to the birthplace of rap. Moving from Miami to Houston to Atlanta, she absorbed the Southern-style drawl and rap culture of her surroundings and released a trap-inspired mixtape titled Ignorant Art in 2011, shortly after relocating to Los Angeles. A video for her song "Pu$$y" was uploaded to the Internet and became a YouTube favorite due to its explicit nature. Around this time, Azalea's blossoming relationship with rising rapper A$AP Rocky earned her some headlines (she tattooed the title of his debut album on her knuckles), but her recording career stalled when plans to work with T.I. fell through due to label conflicts.
In the spring of 2012, she signed to Wilhelmina Models International and pursued modeling full time, landing a job as the "New Face of Levi's Jeans." Later that year, her musical stock skyrocketed when XXL Magazine put her on the cover of its annual Top Ten Freshman issue alongside Danny Brown, Roscoe Dash, and French Montana. As the first female, non-American rapper to make the list, serious hip-hop fans took notice, including Diplo, who hooked up with Azalea for her follow-up mixtape, TrapGold, before she signed to Mercury Records for her official early-2014 debut, The New Classic. The album peaked in the Top Three in Australasia and North America, spawning the hit singles "Fancy" and "Black Widow." The album was reissued later in the year as Reclassified, and featured five newly recorded songs including the U.S. Top 30 single "Beg for It."
In 2016, she returned with the track "Team," which featured a prominent sample from Juvenile's 1999 hit "Back That Thang Up." Continual delays of her official sophomore set plagued Azalea over the following years. She continued to release standalone singles, including the 2017 trio "Team," "Mo Bounce," and "Switch." The Quavo-assisted "Savior," intended to be the lead single from album number two, arrived in early 2018, but it wasn't found on her next release. Cut to a six-song EP, Survive the Summer arrived that August on Island Records. The effort included the singles "Tokyo Snow Trip" and "Kream" with Tyga. By the end of that year, Azalea had parted ways with Island and established her own independent label, Bad Dreams Records, which would be distributed by Empire.
In March 2019, she issued "Sally Walker," announcing it as the lead single from her long-awaited sophomore LP, In My Defense. Arriving that summer, the defiant set continued the dark, bitter brooding found on Survive the Summer and recruited guests Lil Yachty, Kash Doll, and Juicy J. Despite the multiple setbacks, mixed critical reviews, and an air of controversy and turmoil that had followed Azalea for the years leading up to In My Defense, the album still charted respectably, reaching as high as the number 50 position on the U.S. Billboard charts. After closing out the year with another EP, Wicked Lips, she teamed up with Tinashe in 2020 for the catchy single "Dance Like Nobody's Watching."
© Jason Lymangrover /TiVo