Iggy Azalea is going out like she came in: dancing hard, like everyone is watching and having the best time, no matter what anyone thinks. The rapper dropped what she says is her final album project on Friday (August 13), the EDM-heavy The End of an Era, and she tells Billboard that the collection is an homage to her favorite genre of music, as well as a sweaty journey through her whole career.
“For me The End of an Era is a two-pronged thing,” says the 31-year-old Australian-born MC. “One, it obviously reverences the fact that it’s kind of like an adventure of the last decade, for me drawing inspiration from past projects and just referencing the ‘era’ as in the decade but also a nod to the fact that it’s a last hurrah… it’s probably the last project I’m going to put out musically, so it’s the end of a chapter of my life.”
And though Azalea has famously collaborated on hits with everyone from Charli XCX (“Fancy”), to Ariana Grande (“Problem”), Jennifer Lopez (“Booty”) and Britney Spears (“Pretty Girls”), her third official studio album — previewed with the singles “Brazil” and the thumping “I Am the Stripclub” — is mostly about Iggy. “Honestly, it’s never been something that’s important to me… how popular the other person is,” says Azalea — who apologizes over the phone for interruptions, as her style team works to position her for a photo shoot while she talks about the independently released album.
She describes writing the swinging summer anthem “Sex on the Beach” with singer Sophia Scott because they simply vibed during writing sessions. “I liked her voice and I wanted to stay true to the intent of the song,” she says of the tune’s acoustic dance groove. “For me this album is more about a passion project than wanting it to be some gigantic commercial success.”
From her 2014 debut, The New Classic to 2018’s Survive the Summer EP and 2019’s In My Defense album and that same year’s Wicked Lips EP, Azalea says she has always tried to stay true to the music that moves her. “I guess I would just like to be remembered as a trailblazer,” she tells Billboard, confidently proclaiming that Era is her fitting final studio effort.
Check out Billboard’s chat with Azalea below:
You’ve said this is your last musical project 00 which, to be fair, is a thing rappers say that all the time. Do you really intend to not make music anymore after this?
I’ve been putting out projects for the last decade, which is a long time to professionally do anything. Most people move up in their career or job chain slightly, and mine’s been the same for 11 years. I’m getting to a space where I feel that there’s not much new perspective I can bring to what I’m doing… at least not that I’d be comfortable with the world hearing.
The album is split up into four parts, can you break them down?
I wanted to split it up into four chapters of my inspirations, because I’ve played around so much with musical styles. The 20s, the beginning quarter of the album, is a lot of electronic-influenced sounds, it’s a big more aggressive. The inspiration is from my early mixtapes, like [2012’s] Trap Gold. Then it focuses on 24, when I did big pop features and everything went super mainstream — big open hooks and more polished song construction. Then I move to 28, which is when I did the project In My Defense, and the year before that, Survive the Summer. It’s very heavy 808s and very rap heavy and aggressive and I tried to put more, darker-sounding drums on that. The final chapter brings me here and what I’m inspired by now that I’m 30 — I’m actually 31 now, I started the album a year and a half ago.
You recorded the whole album and gave birth during the pandemic lockdown — your son Onyx is almost one now — what was that like? Did those two major events have an impact on the sound?
It was the same process as before. I worked in person with everyone, starting when I was pregnant, and finished when I had a child. I had to re-record a lot of it — because I was so heavily pregnant that it was hard to rap the verses with the baby sitting on your lungs! I feel like people say a lot that having a kid is a life-changing thing, and it was cool to write an album that’s before I had a kid and then after, to see how my perspective shifted a bit.
It’s a purposeful reach back to the more EDM/dance-oriented vibe of your earlier work. Why did you pivot back to that sound on songs like “Shut the F–k Up” and “Woke Up (Diamonds)?” Is that your most natural lane?
100% for sure. I like steak and I like chicken, but chicken is my favorite. That [dance music] is the chicken to me. I like fast tempo electronic dance music with heavy 808 drums. That’s my s–t, and I can do anything on that with ease. I feel most inspired by that kind of beat… I like when I hear a beat and I’m like, ‘Holy s–t! How am I going to rap over this? ‘Shut the F–k Up’ made me feel that way.
Do you ever think about how Onyx might feel listening to songs like “I Am the Stripclub” or you singing lines like “I love drugs” in “Emo Club Anthem?”
It will be really good. It will be great. I don’t see what would be wrong with it. He’s a human in a human world and he should know what adults are doing in an adult world.
You’ve said it’s a look back at your wild club kid days in Miami in your early 20s, especially “Sex on the Beach.” Does it close a circle for you in that way?
Definitely. I’d go in the studio over the years and look back on those things and it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy with what I was making, but I felt an urge to touch back on those things and then leave it at this. I can put the brush down with this. I love the narrative and the crazy stories that paint a vivid picture of the person I was in my early 20s. “Emo Club Anthem” was so fun to write. It’s about going to the club all the time but not having a good time, but, like a forced good time. Like, “I refuse to be sad!”
With Kid LAROi and Astronaut Wolf coming up lately, do you feel like we’re having a moment with Aussie rap and do you think you played any part in helping pave the way?
There’s definitely something happening there, and I’m really happy to see it. Me breaking out and having such commercial success made people see that it’s possible to do that and have a career because when you’re living there [in Australia] it’s an impossible dream. When you see someone doing it for the first time it’s eye-opening and you realize there’s not the glass ceiling we thought there was. With more faces out there like Kid LAROI [and myself] people will see that it’s achievable, so I hope there are more faces to follow. There’s a lot of talent in Australia, especially talented songwriters, and I’m happy that it’s more streamlined for them. Somebody has to go first, it may as well be me. I always wanted it to be me.
It often seems like you feel misunderstood by the press and some hip-hop fans. Why do you think that is?
I think people have always had an idea about what I’m genuinely interested in or what I’m pretending to be interested in for the sake of this character they think I’m playing. “Hmm, this isn’t a character, this is me.” But I think that just comes from people maybe not being as familiar with Australia. I would get questions like, “How did you find out about hip-hop?” And I was like, “What? The internet! Watching television? I’m so confused about what the question even means!” But it comes down to maybe they weren’t familiar with my country or what it’s like living there and what we have exposure or access to.
I understand how a lot of those assumptions came about, but I do think it played a pivotal role in me being misunderstood because a lot of people had their own idea about who I really was. Or people would not understand that I’ve lived in America for years and years and years [Azalea moved to the U.S. at 16 to pursue a music career] and they’d be like, “Why does she use these slang words? How does she know about this style?” And it’s like, “Because I live here!” Everybody’s not a superfan and everyone doesn’t know your life in depth at that level and so it’s okay. It’s just their assumption to make but I do think it played a large role in a lot of misconceptions about me or what people assume I am as a person.
You seem to be winking at some of the persistent criticism from some about your flow on “Brazil” when you allude people hearing your accent thinking you’re “exotic.”
Azalea: Yeah, exactly. It’s definitely tongue-in-cheek a lot of the time.
Whats’ the biggest misconception people have about you?
Azalea: There are a lot of misconceptions people have about Australians in general and a lot of different things they’re interested in and rap music is one of them. I don’t see people saying that s–t to [Australian-born NBA player] Ben Simmons. Why are they saying it to me? It doesn’t bother me anymore, but it did bother me.
There’s been a big emphasis on mental health in the music biz over the past few years and the last time Billboard talked to you you said Kesha and Demi Lovato were among your biggest supporters. What have you learned from them about the importance of making mental health a priority in this business?
Azalea: Honestly my management are really the ones who made me hold focus on that and pushed me to have more of a focus on checking in and making sure that I am in a good place. But I do think it’s unfortunate that we always have this conversation about mental health for the last five years and I just don’t see anything implemented within the structure of the music industry that’s actually helpful. “Yeah, mental health is important, figure it out yourself kid!”
Is talking about it in an article really enough for a 20 year-old? I would like to see some actual structure within labels where they have some actual qualified do mental health checks. All of the professional athletes have mental health professionals on their team who they can talk to about basketball, or how they’re handling the mental pressure, but that doesn’t happen within labels and I don’t understand why. Because it’s just as high pressure, and and it’s just as public. So why isn’t there anyone built into the system they can utilize? It’s just leaving very young people in really extreme situations and telling them, “Go figure it out on your own and get some help.”
I’m not doubting your sincerity, but a lot of rappers say they are retiring from the game only to return. If this is actually your last record, what do you think your legacy is?
Azalea: I guess I would just like to be remembered as a trail blazer. I experimented a lot with sounds, so remember me as someone not afraid to try new things and experiment. Someone who brought fun and ridiculousness and escapism to the world. When I would listen to music as a kid that was my escape — I like larger-than-life, crazy things and music and songs that made me feel happy. In my small town it would put me in a different world. All I wanted to do was create a universe for some kid sitting at home and help them imagine themselves in the world of my videos. That’s the legacy I want for myself.
Check out the “I Am the Stripclub” video below.