Is platinum-certified, platinum-haired Australian rapper Iggy Azalea a racist, or a harmless drag queen? Is she a racist drag queen? Are all drag queens racists? Are all racists drag queens? Who knows! Well, one man does, certainly: Roots drummer/author/curator Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. Questlove is just about the wisest music expert pop culture currently has, and in an interview with TIME, he weighs in on the woman who has set so many social-justice-inclined fingers aflutter this summer.
In response to interviewer Nolan Feeney's question, "Are you pro- or anti-Iggy Azalea?," Questlove delivers reasonable paragraph after reasonable paragraph:
Here's the thing: the song is effective and catchy as hell, and it works. Just the over-enunciation of "hold you down"? [Laughs]It makes me chuckle because all I can see is my assistant holding a brush in the mirror and singing it.
I'm caught in between. And I defend it. I see false Instagram posts like, "She said the N-word! She said the N-word!" I'll call people out — "Yo, don't troll." I know you're ready to give your 42-page dissertation on theGrio about why this is culture vulture-ism. You know, we as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture. If you love something, you gotta set it free. I will say that "Fancy," above any song that I've ever heard or dealt with, is a game-changer in that fact that we're truly going to have to come to grips with the fact that hip-hop has spread its wings.
And to tell the truth, I was saying this last year, I don't think it's any mistake that four or five of my favorite singers are from Australia. Like between Hiatus Kaiyote, there's a bunch I can name for you right now, but I don't think it's a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under. A lot of them more soulful than what we're dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that's sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we're really not in the church as we used to be, and that's reflected in the songs now.
I'm not going to lie to you, I'm torn between the opinions on the Internet, but I'mma let Iggy be Iggy. It's not even politically correct dribble. The song is effective. I'm in the middle of the approximation of the enunciation, I'll say. Part of me hopes she grows out of that and says it with her regular dialect — I think that would be cooler. But, yeah, "Fancy" is the song of the summer.
The man is fucking flawless.
Also, I'd like to direct you to what Quest told Vulture last year about another white girl that had Twitter whiners screaming, "Devil!" after she acted like an electrocuted imbecile at last year's Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus:
You know the best thing about this whole ordeal? I instantly knew that Twitter was going to be just dominated by this. As a publicity stunt — yeah, that was a win for Miley.
As for the minstrelsy in the performance: To me, it is literally impossible for any form of black music to not have the stain of minstrelsy on it. Minstrelsy is like the great stain on a nice white shoe. I don't think Miley Cyrus is really aware of the deeper offense of it. To her, it's like, "I'm having fun. I'm 20. I want to fuck up, mess around." She's been a role model all her life. But using black minstrel images to accomplish that is a little dangerous. I frowned on it when Gwen Stefani did it with Asian people.
The larger problem is that most people are unaware of what minstrelsy is. They don't know the history. I think a lot of black people are upset because they saw her using black people as accessories. I'm all for Miley finding herself. But she should be aware of the power of the images she's using.
Look at how sensible, sensitive, and knowing this guy is. Everyone: aspire to be this.
[Image via Getty]