Iggy Azalea’s ‘Team’: A Cautionary Tale

White rappers tend to walk a fine line, and it quickly became clear she could end up falling on the wrong side of it

Being on a team has always been important to me. Sometimes I get to be the leader, other times I play a role, but the results are always better when other people are involved in the process.

Since Iggy Azalea’s “Team” is hovering on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, it seems like the right time for me to talk about my experience closely watching two different teams’ approach to the exact same goal.

Having worked with her first and second teams, Iggy’s new single has allowed me to answer a question I’ve been asked a few times in the past.

If you Google “Iggy Azalea downfall,” you’ll find pages of results from writers taking a stab at figuring out exactly what went wrong.

As her former publicist, I even reluctantly spoke to a writer at Bloomberg for one of those stories, but I didn’t have the answer at the time.

I found the answer in the chorus of “Team”.

“Baby I got me / Only friend I need / Playing on my team/ Is someone like me”

I always knew Iggy would be successful on her own merits. She was that determined. She had that much natural star power. She knew it too. These lyrics are no surprise to anyone who knows her.

What I realize now, is her different teams played a larger role in how she became successful than we did in why she became successful.

It all makes sense when you look at the handling of her “beef” with Azealia Banks.

Azealia began trolling Iggy immediately after it was announced that Iggy would be the first female on XXL magazine’s coveted Freshman Issue cover — and it’s continued for over four years.

Screenshot from a few weeks ago

Our policy was for Iggy to not respond directly and to act gracious when asked about the feud in interviews. To her credit, this was Iggy’s idea and we supported it. We were still building her reputation and wanted to take the high road.

Our team at the time (let’s call it Team #1) was multi-cultural. Her manager and her best friend / assistant were both Black, her stylist was Latina, and her publicist (me) and agent were white. Plenty of cultural perspective to go around. Perspective that couldn’t help but to rub off on Iggy.

This was important because it’s very difficult for a 21-year-old white woman from rural Australia to have the perspective necessary to understand America’s racial dynamic — and therefore the deep importance of hip-hop culture. White rappers tend to walk a fine line and it quickly became clear to me that she could easily end up falling on the wrong side of it.

Unfortunately, issues arose behind the scenes (as they tend to do in the music industry) and Iggy decided she would look for a new manager.

By the time Iggy officially moved to new management, I was the only one of the big three (manager/agent/publicist) left in the picture. What I witnessed was not only a change in personnel, but also a drastic shift in strategy.

Team #2 was rooted in England, almost entirely white, and had no connection to hip-hop. The perfect team for a British pop singer, but one less suited for someone who was, essentially, an American hip-hop artist.

After Iggy’s debut album finally dropped in 2014, at the height of her career and in the hands of a very different team, something changed. Somehow the game plan went from “take the high road” to “jump in the mud pit.”

Credibility was no longer part of the strategy.

Iggy’s first response to Azealia Banks by name.

From there, she went on to have public arguments with legends Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg, developed a reputation for using Twitter to complain and make insensitive remarks, and lost her biggest hip-hop co-sign and mentor in T.I.

Iggy quickly went from 2014’s biggest new artist to the internet’s joke of the year. Memes mocking her, Vine videos endlessly looping her less-than-stellar stage performances , and the aforementioned media blitz to figure out how this spiraled out of control so quickly.

Yes, Iggy is still rich, famous, and successful. But it also came at a price that I don’t believe she had to pay.

Our team — Team #1 — was not just winning. We were earning people’s respect.

Team #2 picked up the ball when it was already down the field. They didn’t sweat with her early in the game and they didn’t understand the plays we ran to get to that point. I say this because the early stages of anything form the foundation and when you weaken that foundation, there’s no telling what could happen.

For the record, I’m not writing this to criticize Iggy or Team #2. A win is a win and reaching that level is never easy.

But I am writing this because, far too often, I’ve seen people underestimate what others are bringing to the table.

No matter how great of a leader, how capable or individually skilled we are, everyone is vulnerable to the influence of the people around us.

But when that leader thinks they are the team, they become blind to the influence others have on them.

I truly believe that Team #1 was making a positive impact in Iggy’s life and career. I’d like to think she would still have the same playful expressions today that she had in the “My World” video — instead of the cold gaze on her face in “Team.” Mostly, I’d hope she wouldn’t be having those suicidal thoughts due to the backlash against her.

“My World” (2012)
“Team” (2016)

The lyrics of “Team” are revelatory, self-destructive, and most likely a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if Iggy never realizes this, we can still learn from her choices.

We all choose our own paths in life, but the people we choose to walk with us are far more important than any fork in the road.


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Top Image: Iggy’s first promo image back in 2011

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Brian Scully Twitter:
@scullynj / Instagram: @brian_scully

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