Stray Shots: Likely Manufacturing Iggy Azalea's Hit & Drake's Regional Curation

This week, it seems Iggy Azalea's infectious hit "Fancy" may have had some help, and Drake pays Rappin' 4-Tay for his verse off YG's "Who Do You Love."

Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.

As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”

Did Clear Channel Manufacture Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” Into A Hit? 

Andre: Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” has been a musical phenomenon that almost no one is happy about. This has been happening a lot lately. With last years “Blurred Lines,” however, you could get away from what rhymes with “hug me” by listening to one of the other “summer” songs out there. You were up all night to get lucky or you were wearing Versace, Versace, Versace or pounding Pabst Blue Ribbons in the tropics wishing you were Shabba Ranks, but you could get away. 2014 provides no such respite. It seems to be “Fancy,” or bust. Yeah you could wade down into “0 - 100/The Catch Up” land, but the track feels unfinished. A loosie. “Loyal” dropped in December 2013 (where, notably, Breezy was in the slammer, but I’m sayin’) and “Believe Me” dropped in May. But still, the summer song wheezing to the finish line is “Fancy.” And, lo and behold, it may not be for the reason you might imagine. Not for her stunning good looks, or her faux-accent, or who’s ghostwriting for her (oh, Nicki) but at the behest of a conglomerate with, maybe, good intentions.

We’re talking about a story obvious to us all but broken by the Washington Post in which it spoke to the good folks at iHeartRadio about the “On The Verge” program and just the kind of power it wields. In short, that uzi weighs a ton. Essentially, iHeartRadio is owned by Clear Channel, and Clear Channel has a listener base that is about the population of the United States of America in 1988 at 245 million. Oh, that’s listeners… a month. The radio stations are required to play the record 150 times in a six week span, and they often do more because (wait for it…) those songs become a hit! As “Fancy” has become. But, don’t fret, folks. This is fool proof. iHeartRadio’s brand managers are the ones that first pick the songs, and then it filters its way down into the realm of the programmers where they make the final decisions. It’s all gut feelings and good times. Except nothing works that way. People have preferences. They have biases, even. And those sorts of self imposed limitations screw with results. Am I saying that “Fancy” is pure corporate grift? Nope. There’s tons of people who love that song, and I, for one, trust that people aren’t idiots. But it certainly does help when a large corporate conglomerate decides to shine a light on your song and yours alone across its vast network of stations all over the country all at once. It’s like Apollo Creed training Rocky; is there any real way that man was going to lose? And Iggy isn’t the only one this has helped. Right now Tinashe’s “2 On” featuring ScHoolboy Q is healthily climbing up the ladder at radio stations all over the country. The correlation? “On The Verge.” But that’s none of my business. 

Nevertheless, who cares, right? Not one of our “stars” weren’t handpicked by someone, somewhere with the power and connections to see them through. And the song is legitimately catchy. And, the kicker, the young have almost always ran what songs killed during the summer. And right now, the young wanna be “Fancy.”

Omar: In case you missed it, there was a time this summer when Iggy Azalea co-owned the top two spots on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart. Her Charlie XCX-assisted single has been on their chart 19 weeks and peaked at the top spot while Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” which features Iggy, peaked at the #2 spot in the midst of an 11-week run. But if you’re a reader wondering why the New York Daily News essentially said Iggy was making Hip Hop “white hot” or why proclaimed, “Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman,” then what the hell does being on the “Hot 100” really mean? According to a September, 2013 article by Gary Trust, Billboard takes 100 songs and ranks their popularity by “a ratio of sales (35-45%), airplay (30-40%) and streaming (20-30%).” So in the most literal sense, Iggy was featured on two of the most commercially successful songs that were also popular on terrestrial radio, YouTube and legal streaming services. The numbers back it up, as “Fancy” sold 177,739 for the week ending on July 5.

All of this matters (or doesn’t) because one third of that equation was powered very heavily by Clear Channel—the major conglomerate which per an excellent Washington Post article owns 840 stations with about 245 million—handpicked it as an “On The Verge” single. That designation meant programmers across the Clear Channel network were required to play “Fancy” at least 150 times in approximately six weeks. So to me, it’s a chicken/egg thing. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed the cap on the number of stations one entity can own, effectively making what was once 70 different broadcast companies all fall under the Clear Channel umbrella. I don’t have anything against Iggy Azalea, and it’s not as if she forced a major corporation to handpick her song and excessively play it across their vast network. Technically, every media outlet—including HipHopDX—handpicks certain artists to showcase. But in Iggy’s case, she was both handpicked by a major conglomerate and then crowned as (and I’m paraphrasing here) making Hip Hop “white hot” or “running” Hip Hop. I think such opinions are not only factually inaccurate, but they’re cancerous to the culture. And that has nothing to do with Iggy being an Australian white woman with an ass that seemingly bends the time space continuum who appropriates Southern black culture. It has everything to do with confusing popularity and commercial success with cultural excellence. The uproar shouldn’t be pointed at Iggy, because she’s gone on record as agreeing that Hip Hop should internally choose its own ambassadors. She’s smart, has some interesting thoughts about pop culture and doesn’t appear to be a culture vulture. As Andre points out, that uzi does in fact weigh a ton. Save your anger for Clear Channel, Emmis and corporate radio. Because when it comes to the metaphorical weight of an automatic weapon or the truly corporate climate of terrestrial radio, Chuck D has never steered us wrong.

Does Drake’s $100K reinterpretation Of Rappin 4-Tay Set A Precedent?

Omar: Speaking of people who appropriate regional Hip Hop, after landing atop Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart with 2012’s “The Motto,” Drake has co-opted some Bay Area Hip Hop for YG’s “Who Do You Love.” In this case it’s not Mac Dre but Rappin’ 4-Tay. This week, TMZ broke the story that Drake allegedly had to fork over $100,000 for repurposing some of 4-Tay’s “Playaz Club” lyrics on the YG hit. I’ve written before about how popular (and sometimes justified) it is to make fun of Drake. He’s Canadian, he sings all the time, he flexes with his hookah and talks about cupcaking strippers. We get it. But if you’re a ‘90s baby who likes Drake, you probably haven’t heard of 4-Tay unless you’re from The Bay or have done an exhaustive amount of Hip Hop research. So, much like he’s done for certain Memphis and Houston artists, Drake is bringing light to an underrepresented and possibly forgotten part of Hip Hop culture. People like E-40 have accused Drake of capitalizing off of the Bay Area’s loyalty to the likes of Mac Dre, and in a vacuum—since I’m not from The Bay—it’s a valid argument. But if you’re in a somewhat overlooked region like Memphis, I wonder how much you hope for someone like Drake to shout out someone obscure like Koopsta Knicca or Playa Fly on a hit song.

As someone who was born in Flint, Michigan I thought it was dope Slum Village recorded with MC Breed. Conversely, fellow Flint product Jon Connor caught some heat from Breed’s family when he remade “Ain’t No Future In Yo’ Frontin’.” Where do you draw the line between paying homage, cultural appropriation and being a interloper looking for a quick buck? There’s a ton of gray area. Go back and look at Snoop Dogg’s 2004 song “Perfect.” He repurposed Sade’s 1984 hit “Smooth Operator” when he sang, “Coast to coast / L.A. to Chicago.” In turn, Snoop coughed up some of his publishing, as Sade Adu is credited as one of the song’s co-writers. That was neither the first nor the only time Snoop said the line verbatim. I guess the difference comes down to some combination of respect, money and recognition. Drake may have gotten away with not officially clearing his interpolation of “Playaz Club,” if he so chose to. But regardless of how much you do or don’t like the man formerly known as “Wheelchair Jimmy,” he went through the proper channels, and in doing so possibly turned new fans onto 4-Tay, put some paper in his pocket and made his 2012 nod to Mac Dre look slightly less opportunistic.

Andre: Drake is often seen as an interloper, a carpetbagger, the kind of person you see and know he isn’t from here. Like most rappers he reps some town, some home, but sometimes it feels contrived, as though he is trying to put on for a city that would rather have him leaning out of a window, chatting. You know, doing some old regular thing. Intuitively, he feels calculating. As though he knows exactly how you look at him, and he’s manipulating you for it. But then he comes with something like, “You must’ve done this before, this can’t be your first time.” And there creeps in this male fantasy of women, and how women behave, and your reaction to that woman and wrapped up in the song is this self-knowledge. He knows he’s mistaken. He’d rather be. “Oh you dance? Dance like how? Like, ballet and shit? Oh, wait, girl I get it and I’m wit it.” He get’s it? He’s wit it? Most dudes, upon finding out something about a woman, proceed to put her in a category so complete it is like a universe unto itself. It is deeper and darker than any friendzone. Drake however, upon finding that the woman he finds himself wanting is not the thing he thought she was simply... changes his mind.

In much the same way, he tends to take specific regional styles and distill them into lovable, fun hits. “The Motto,” which was a bonus track off 2011s Take Care brought us all “YOLO,” and a line that said his city “loves him like Mac Dre in the Bay.” At the time, there were some grumbles about the song being a reappropriation of Hyphy, and its Bay area origination is not questioned. What is, is what again feels like an outsider using a style in a way that the originators of that style get no compensation for. So when TMZ broke the story about Drake paying Rappin’ 4-Tay a 100 stacks because he directly lifted half a verse off the emcee’s classic “Playaz Club” single from ‘94 the Internet exploded. Of course it’s news. Not only did Drake have to pay up for dragging a beloved if not almost forgotten verse off the shelf and resurrecting it, but it felt like he got caught. Comeuppance for the section of the Hip Hop public who are always ready to say, “See? He ain’t from here.” But the man handled it in a classy way, and HipHopDX spoke exclusively with 4-Tay and his management, wherein they claim the 100K is a lowball figure used by TMZ. That the settlement was much more lucrative, and that they’ll be getting royalties forever. So, there, everyone’s happy, right? Probably not. This sort of borrowing or referencing of others lyrics is pretty standard in the Hip Hop vernacular. In New York Hip Hop, artists are constantly referential. From Jay and his constant quoting of Big to Fab’ to… Let’s make it easier. Think about your favorite Rap song and imagine that it doesn’t reference something you’ve heard before. So it sets an interesting precedent. Do I think it was some sort of cash grab? No, absolutely not. But there’s no doubt Hip Hop as a musical art form and a culture are highly referential. So where do you draw the line? 

Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.


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  • Anonymous

    In 3 years that's what people will be saying. People already claim Macklemore as one the greats. Haha. Stans.

  • Anonymous

    Greatest female rapper of all time. The female Eminem.

  • BayZ

    You draw the line when an artist actually uses a part of another song (lyric/hook/beat). When a simple reference is made, there's no need for royalties - in fact it's free advertisement for the likes of Mac Dre. Sure, there's a bit of "using" his fame, but when you're already big-time, it's more of paying homage than anything. The simple fact of the matter is, ALL modern day artists sit on the back of prior giants, who unfortunately get very little credit. The same complaint was made by 80s rappers when 90s hip-hop went crazy commercially. At the same time, fragmentation in distribution (thanks to the internet) have changed the dynamics of the industry. Iggy Azalea caught fire, and entities like ClearChannel are just trying to ride the wave, and at the same time trying to create mini-waves may hopefully turn into mega ones. She's just a beneficiary of the fact that the corporate conglomerate decided to latch onto her, much like any other artist that gets a lot of airplay (e.g. Rihanna).

  • fsf

    Iggy is already a legend. Deal with it :)

  • HiphopUSA

    #PIGGYAUSTRALIA pass it on.

    • j

      ditto,put a bimbo with a kardashian ass in the public eye n people get stupid for some rediculous reason

  • entertainingread

    some hip hop news can be borderline ridiculous, so it is nice to get an opinion piece every now and then. nice work

  • Kelsey

    Hey I just uploaded a video it's called iggy azalea inspired makeup you can check it out here

  • Malcolm X

    Damn, 15 years ago, when Em came on the scene, he was the only white person selling records. 15+ years later, we have Mac Miller, Iggy, Macklemore, etc as "front-runners" of the genre. Imagine how the face of Hip Hop will look 10 years from now...scary thought, I know. Even though I'm not a Jay Z or Lil Wayne fan, i think it's important for these guys to continue making music so that Hip Hop is being represented by more Afro American faces. Decent article DX, but the "payola" aspect of the music industry as been plaguing it for decades now.

    • dunn

      the asian macklemore

    • Anonymous

      Lol talent is talent man, I'm a Wayne fans and jay z fan, but you can't knock Mgk, Em, Yelawolf , Mac miller just because they are white they are dope as fuck and speak some of the realist shit, maybe because not everyone expects whites to rap about the typical slanging crack on the corner. Macklemore, Iggy should be considered more alternative pop if anything, but yeah talent is talent there are some awful black people in the game right now (Rick Ross, young thug, rich homie quan, chance the rapper)

  • smh

    Well the writers for this site know nothing about the music industry.... All hits are made by radio stations being paid and told to play certain records... This isn't even a question... Th radio and internet doesn't play good music... These big companies play what they're told to...100%... I'm in the industry I see it everyday

    • Anonymous

      DX Staff: You want to prove me wrong. Tell me the last intelligent rap song that wasn't disrespecting our women, telling us to cook crack or shoot another black person on the radio that generally promoted the well being and uplifting of black people on corporately owned black radio stations. I won't wait because you can't.

    • Anonymous

      "Well the writers for this site know nothing about the music industry.... All hits are made by radio stations being paid and told to play certain records... This isn't even a question... " What did he say that was wrong. You don't have to be in the record business to understand this. It's a fact. Please explain Two Chains music being played all over the country. It's for retards. Which is the only music that gets played on the big stations 24/7. There was a movement by the music industry to play dumbbed down music over a decade ago. Kendrick breaking through was only a phenomenon. When back in the day songs like his High Powered would have been a national hit on hip hop stations. But since they are all corporate owned no way in hell they are going send a message out on the radio that wakes people the fuck up. If you can't see that no talent dummbed down music is being pushed to the masses your an idiot. There is a reason for this. See Drake. If I can sell you a guy with no talent why do I have to find the next Nas. Those guys are one in a 300 million. If I can make a Drake, Britney Spears, Iggy. It makes the job easier. If I can turn anyone I want into a star by forcing their simple music down your ears who needs to find real talent like an Alicia Keys. When you dance to the mindless music of Beyonce. Like I said. That decision was made almost 15 years ago.

    • DX Staff

      You're not in the industry, otherwise you wouldn't be commenting. Execs don't have time for such things. The only thing you've seen is the one man, one jar video several thousand times.

  • Anonymous


  • lindaehoffman

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,, ========================= WWW.MUMJOB.COM =========================

  • Anonymous

    Great article, thanks DX

  • Money First

    @Washington Post & HHDX---This article is dumb as hell...Payola? Is that what you're really trying to say?....This shit has been going on for years and has never stopped....Its real simple: "Either get with the program or get the hell away from it!"......Real damn simple!!!

  • Anonymous

    I miss Meka's commentary and Aliya's infectious good nature,

  • Theo Huxtable

    I seriously doubt that one radio station made "Fancy" a hit, if that was possible all of Troy Ave's songs would be number 1 on the charts.

  • Anonymous

    "Not one of our stars werent handpicked by someone, somewhere with the power and connections to see them through." This is not true. Most artists that are popular now got popular before they were signed. Justin Bieber was already popular before he was signed. In hip hop, people like Young Thug make their careers based on mixtapes, YouTube, and independent singles. People wanna complain about communities being lied to or gooned by big corporations but the fact of the matter is most tastemaking cities/states elect their own celebrities that THEN get signed once they're ALREADY popular or on the rise.

    • Anonymous

      Also let's talk about what constitutes a "label" or a "mentor," because you have BET and Source and all these other focused magazines being tastemakers for everyone else, doing their Freshman lists and unsigned hype and everything, and they have the power to make careers. Are they corporate? Technically yes, so is Hot 97, but they don't seem like it. A lot of people wanna imagine "the man" as some old white jewish man, because that's the boogeyman people want to imagine as governing the parts of hip hop people don't like. Lollipop had to be shoved down our throats by someone who doesn't understand! yeah well then why is Riff Raff doing so well? He's a laughingstock but he's building his own thing despite having no mentoring or label backing. We can say the same for Gucci Mane. If Sony and Universal had such a foolproof plan no artist would ever flop. We're dealing with an oldhead mentality where "they" are pumping out music, and that was the case when terrestrial radio and music video networks were in charge. You could buy your way into that. You can't buy yourself viral fame, that takes work and talent and knowing what your audience wants. It could be argued that it takes more work for less reward but it also prohibits the gaming of the system. I think people just don't wanna admit that white people, black people, asian people, and everyone just wanna see this random white girl twerk. Women, too. This period in hip hop is being defined by female listenership which, by large, tends to be more casual. Like how female demographics love mobile gaming but don't like console or PC gaming: it's just a culture thing, they don't wanna dissect Wu Tang lyrics. Nobody had to barge her into the culture, she is EXACTLY what people are craving, and this is EXACTLY the shit they are playing in clubs to get girls dancing and this is playing in their cars. This is hip hop's disco period, look around: this shit is happening everywhere.

    • Dre Grant

      I'm not sure if that's really the case. The folks you mentioned, Justin Bieber and Young Thug, were being mentored by very famous people in the industry before they made the mainstream. In J's case, Scooter Braun and Usher molded an already prodigous talent, but not one that was already making waves. Thugger caught the eye of Gucci pretty early as well. And although 1017 Thug was a banger last year, I Came From Nothing in 2011 didn't garner the same kind of attention at all. I'll agree that some buzz must be happening to even get looked at as an artist, but does not follow necessarily follow that local celebrities become mainstream stars. We appreciate the thoughtful commentary as well. Thanks for reading.

  • capt obvious

    what?!? huge record labels manufacturing artists and paying radio stations to over play their song??? what has this industry become?? :(

    • Dre Grant

      Ha. Thanks for the commentary, Captain Obvious. We thought this was a particularly interesting case considering this program is pretty much on front street. But the sarcasm is understood. Thanks for reading.

  • Anonymous

    Wow thanks for the break down HHDX dumb asses act like the case of "Fancy" being a hit single isn't the same for any other artist having a hit.

  • Anonymous

    Playaz Club>>>>anything Drake has done Though 4 Tay only had 2 hits and 1 collabo hit