Jack Spencer can’t decide if trash can be lit
History dictates the rise and fall of an Iggy Azalea, a creative cipher inserted into an industry that needs white faces to sell black music. The market was there and someone needed to fill that role, but artists lacking artistry are bound to be out of the paint eventually. For a while it seemed like the Internet was attempting to tweet and thinkpiece Azalea to death, and it kind of worked. She’s cancelled her 2015 tour and is getting pep talks from T.I. about buckling under public pressure. The jig is up, and it’s only a matter of time before she’s rebranded herself as nu-metal juggalette a la Vanilla Ice, but it also means we’ll see another shitty rapper take that place once the market shifts enough to need a new contender.
This cycle reminds me of the early work of Princess Superstar, the blonde progenitor of white girl rap that never quite took off. “Bad Babysitter” is the rap song that put her on people’s radar, a tongue-in-cheek ode to being a terrible teenager that showcased her Eminemish abilities with complex rhyme patterning and goofy voices. The single was the sort of novelty hit that makes it understandable why she’s been largely forgotten in the overall hip-hop conversation–dig deeper into the work of Lady Soveriegn or Kreayshawn and you’ll find you’ve wasted your time. But “Bad Babysitter” only scratched the surface of the layers to Princess Superstar’s music, an oeuvre more complicated than most have given it credit.
The industry didn’t really have a place for Spanish Harlem’s Concetta Kirschner, the Italian-Jewish MC and DJ who produced her own music, talked about sexuality with a left-field comedic approach and who reflected in her music a sense of self-awareness about her place in black art. Majors had been attempting to court her for label placement since her ’94 demo Mitch Better Get My Bunny but she instead opted to create her own independent label, ironically named A Big Rich Major Label. She was rife with potential marketability as a corollary to various rappers:
Eminem: she was prone to punchlines about making snuff films with Snuffluffagus and teaching Nancy Drew how to jerk off and steal from drug dealers.
Kool Keith: she shares his seedy penchant for explicitly raunchy raps that straddle the line between sexy and off-putting, showcased on their dirty-talk back-and-forth “Kieth ‘N Me.”
De La Soul: using wry humor to speak subtly on larger issues of corporate displacement and misogynist culture, and using a grab-bag all-over-the-map approach to sampling, like the Prince Paul-produced “I Hope I Sell A Lot Of Records At Christmastime.”
She had a handle on the technical side as well, showcasing internal rhyming and quick-paced phrasing, which is more than can be said for Azalea’s feeble meme-fodder bars.
Princess Superstar would alternate between talking about fucking to taking down sexist industries and dismissive music fans using the same lightly combative tone. Sometimes she’d talk about inter-sectionality and the nature of art as product. Sometimes she’d devote an entire song to Kool Keith’s ass. Mostly, she sneered and cracked jokes about whatever she thought was funny, subtly revealing aspects of herself over her discography without being overt. But her random forays into EDM [“Do It Like A Robot”], rock [“Sex (I Like), and “I’m White”] plus symphonic loud-quiet-loud anthems (“You Get Mad At Napster”) make her style fairly hard to pin down, and in turn made her a hard sell.
Appearing on records with both Grandmaster Flash and Moby meant that she was so eclectic it left her with a muddles image. Was she a Real Rapper who’s going to represent for the ladies? Or was she an EDM guest vocalist who they decided to credit this time? Is she Feminem? Is she a goofball one-hit novelty act in the vein of Dynamite Hack? The answer to these questions is No, but the right question never got asked.
These days Princess Superstar has mostly dropped the rapping portion of her work and gone full electro-clash, playing DJ sets in Ibiza and dressing like Peaches. It’s less interesting but seemingly more profitable, and not quite as prone to the deluge of criticism Iggy faces. But I have the feeling had Princess Superstar taken off in the same way Iggy did, she’d be able to handle the position far better, both in terms of rap ability and owning her spot.
Plus, Princess Superstar probably would’t change the subject immediately when asked to freestyle on Sway In The Morning. Her raps were self-aware and reflected a knowledge of industry machinations and biases — the same ones that Iggy denies and would rather not have to talk about.