It’s been just over half a decade since Iggy Azalea’s debut studio LP ‘The New Classic’ hit retailers. In those five years, we’ve seen a series of false-starts, ongoing controversy, and a reinvigoration of brand Azalea. Having faced a shift to independency on the music side of things and a schooling on hip-hop by icon Q-Tip, it feels fitting that the Australian act decided to name her sophomore offering ‘In My Defense’. From the likes of Mary J Blige’s ‘My Life’ and Lil Kim’s ‘Hard Core’ to Jay-Z’s renowned ‘The Blueprint’ series of LP’s, album titles prove very important in tracing an artists ability to stay true to theme. In the case of Azalea however, ‘In My Defense’ quickly manifests into a project that fails to conceptualise its initial headline.
A primary example of this misstep arrives early on into the set on 'Clapback'. Slightly before the thirty-second mark, listeners are hit with a reminder of the rappers constant scrutiny when it comes to her place in hip-hop and imitation of black people — which primarily stems from her rapping accent. After warning that she “finna clapback”, Azalea fails to offer much clarity on the situation other than braggadocious verses pertaining to her accumulation of money. Instead, it’s learned that she owns all of her masters and that the world should refer to her as “Iggy the savage”. Sonically, 'Clapback' exists in the realm of Migos, relaxed and layered, computer-created trap soundscapes guiding the entertainers way throughout.
The confidence displayed on 'Clapback' follows audiences across ‘In My Defense’. Throughout, the entertainer is clearly on a mission: primarily to display that she’s having fun, and in a different place to debut, ‘The New Classic’ Iggy Azalea. Most of this involves booty-popping and other careless activity, which in theory is a recipe for success. Tracks such as 'Freak Of The Week' clearly attempt to exude this zest. Aided by the infamous Juicy J and his “Yeah, hoe” ad lib over synth heavy backdrops, Azalea recalls her talents in the bedroom. “Now he knocked out on the pillow” appears to be the result of her technique. Unfortunately, even Juicy J isn’t enough of a force to save the unconvincing record.
The problem isn’t in the lyrics or delivery of the track — in fact Azalea has improved in both her flow and story-telling in her time away from the mainstream. Despite this, there’s a borrowed feel across the album as a whole. It’s almost as if the twelve-track set is delivered as a project that she thinks that we want to hear, as opposed to what is truly on her mind. Similarly, 'Sally Walker' — also a part of ‘In My Defense’ — arrived earlier this year as an instant parallel to Cardi B’s “Money” sparking no sign of originality, particularly in the production arena.
Perhaps the most exciting song on the album comes in the form of the Lil Yachty assisted 'Hoemita'. Yachty, in collaboration with Azalea and J White Did It, offers up a single-worthy number. Still in the terrain of making it drop and clap, something in Iggy Azalea’s tone and delivery here feels a lot more exciting and engaging. If the housing LP had to keep just a few of the twerk-akin numbers, 'Hoemita' would instantly qualify. Yachty himself demonstrates an improvement in his lyrical technique also and the pair ironically work well together, albeit their varying approaches to the mic.
‘In My Defense’ is ambitious in its titling, however, little to nothing transpires across the project. Additions such as Kash Doll and Juicy J are perfect on paper, but beyond justifying their individual presence in the rap realm, do little to save a project which unfortunately suffers from the sophomore slump.
Words: Nicolas Tyrell
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