In the previous entry, a connection was drawn that might benefit from a more direct approach.

The depiction of musician Jimi Hendrix as “wild” and “violent” in the biopic “All Is By My Side” was compared to Iggy Azalea’s recent comments in the entertainment media.

For clarity, I’ll refer to Iggy Azalea by her real name, Amethyst Kelly (since her stage name is oddly similar to Azealia Banks, a musician with whom Kelly is having a nasty row — a “feud” in silly entertainment lingo).

Specifically, Kelly (Iggy Azalea) accused her rival (Banks) of being lazy, entitled, irresponsible, self-destructively impulsive, and inherently stupid.

In other comments, Kelly characterized her own ex-boyfriend as being frighteningly violent, to the extent that she has avoided the entire state of Texas where he lives. Is he actually violent? It doesn’t really matter, any more than the accusations against Bill Cosby are enough to convict him of crimes that lacked enough evidence to go to trial over fifteen years ago.

Audience Versus Artist: A Guilty Confession

First, a guilty admission: I have no interest in the utterly trivial publicity-seeking “feuds” or gossip-ready “intimate details” of anyone’s life, celebrity or otherwise. The fact that I know this much about the Azaleas (and Azealias) of the world honestly surprises me.

So why does this matter enough to write about more than once?

It matters because there are at least two distinct influences at work from the inside — from an artist’s point of view. For anyone who craves fame for their art, this entry can be seen as either instructive or cautionary.

The two influences are race and commercialization.

There is also one influence evident from outside — that influence is the audience’s perspective.

In modern pop culture, the word “audience” is synonymous with “consumer”. To the extent that an artist is stripped of privacy, he or she is elevated (or dragged down) to “celebrity” status. The celebrity is then marketed and sold as a “brand”.

This story matters at the point where mass consumption meets artistry, and the inevitable consequences that follow.

Race, Credibility and Commercialization

Race has long been blamed for many of the divisions that vivisect modern society. Especially in the history of popular music, race is an obvious issue to rattle sabres about. Anyone who is even peripherally aware could easily be sold the idea that hip-hop is about black Americans’ struggle.

The influence of commercialization changes that equation instantly. If hip-hop is for black people, by black people, why are the majority of personalities in the hip-hop universe essentially cartoon characters? Most rappers, for example, appear as degenerate criminals who celebrate the denigration of women and flaunt flashily violent lifestyles.

Mainstream hip-hop is this way because the masses demand it. Intelligent, socially conscious artists don’t make headlines as often or sell as well as ones who seem psychologically unstable and ready for a meltdown at any time.

An example of this is Chris Brown, who grew up middle-class and isn’t even a rapper. He’s a singer who had to buy the allegiance of Bloods gang members in order to pose “as if” he were one of them. Without the gang affiliation, he would essentially be a younger, taller version of Sisqo.

If the music were all that mattered, then being Sisqo 2.0 wouldn’t be all that bad a label. But of course, in the land of celebrity-as-brand-name, music is almost an afterthought compared to “street cred”. So now we have the Ominous (and sometimes platinum blonde) Chris Brown who flashes gang signs and does time in prison (after beating up his abusive girlfriend Rihanna, who herself apparently was in the habit of pettily violent behavior, but never mind).

Stereotypes and “Selling Out”

The masses demand stereotypes; the more popular a person becomes, the more their image has to conform to simplistic soundbytes and sensationalistic news stories. White female celebrities become Feminist Icons (because they’re women, see). Black and Latina females become desperately whorish fetish objects (hello Nicki and J.Lo!). White men become White Knights or desirable Bad Boys. Black Men become Irredeemable Thugs one step above rampaging apes. And, somewhat incongruously, Asian people still seem mostly not to exist — how many major-label Asian rappers have there been since M.C. Jin?

Selling out isn’t undesirable for a mainstream artist. At some point, it’s inevitable. Upon reaching the apex of fame, even James Brown moved to the affluent (read: white) side of town. Good on him, I’d say, but in the fake racial politics of Celebrityland, even the Godfather of Soul saw his black fanbase desert him for equally spurious reasons.

Herds are inherently stupid, regardless of their predominant skin color. Mass marketing thrives on creating a mindless “viral” frenzy of unthinking zombies clutching credit cards and slathering at the mouth for whatever is on offer from the brains of their favored celebrities du jour.

It was only a matter of time, then, before the Conformity Machine turned hip hop into a reality-show cartoon. Or perhaps a live-action video game exchanging plotlines, scripts, soundtracks and dialogue with the next iteration of Grand Theft Auto.

Amethyst “Iggy Azalea” Kelly may clothe her celebrity persona in stereotypes — even to the extent of faking a “ghetto” American-accented rap style, despite having been born and raised in Australia. She also clearly hasn’t a clue about the history of black-originated music in the United States (hint: using the words “slave” and “master” in reference to yourself might not be as amazingly clever as it seemed while brushing your teeth to a Kendrick Lamar song this morning). Despite her thinly coded sniping at Azealia Banks and public villanizing of ex-boyfriends, Amethyst Amelia Kelly may not be a racist, after all. At the end of the day, Iggy is just another new celebrity doing what pop stars inevitably do, following a focus-grouped, market-tested, tried-and-true formula for mainstream American commercial success.

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