Holler If Ya Hear Me, the musical inspired by the late Tupac Shakur was a Broadway failure; it closed last weekend after just one month and 55 performances. But who’s to blame for the show’s lackluster showing?
In an interview posted on Monday by Rolling Stone, the show’s lead, actor-singer Saul Williams, pointed the finger at a certain blonde Aussie rapper. Yes, that would be Iggy Azalea, who has taken the world by storm with her chart-topping single, “Fancy.”
While Williams acknowledged, “Every day at rehearsal, [producer] Kenny Leon was saying, ‘Let's be very clear with the fact that this play is probably going to be hated coming out the gates,’” the actor added that he thinks it’s no coincidence that the edgy musical failed given the state of today’s rap music.
“I think it's something deeper,” Williams said. “There is no disconnect between this and Iggy Azalea, an Australian girl rapping with a southern accent, being Number One on the charts. It's all related to where we are right now as a culture and within the culture of the arts.”
There’s no denying that rap music has changed since Shakur’s 1996 death, but is it fair to place the blame on the failed musical on any one rapper?
While Azalea has been criticized for her Southern black rap act, her smash single “Fancy” has been deemed the song of the summer, so she clearly stands out. Still, critics have routinely called out the 24-year-old superstar for her unauthentic sound and she’s had to defend herself over and over again.
Interestingly, Azalea has never rapped in her Australian accent. In an interview last year with Complex she said, “Of course I’ve asked myself, “Does that make me fake? I don’t think the voice makes me fake; it makes me an artist. Voice is my medium.”
Azalea previously told The Sydney Morning Herald that she was schooled by the music of the New York based Beastie Boys, but added that Southern-style rap reminds her of her Australian hometown. “Southern rap made me realize the country is cool. Southern America reminds me more of being in Mullumbimby than coming to Sydney does,” she said.
Of course, don’t expect this white female rapper to acknowledge that her sound is too Southern—or too anything else. In an interview last year with BET she said, "I think this idea of 'rap should be Black' or 'rap should be this or that' is worrying to me because it's like segregation. ... If we have something in music that is unifying, that other cultures are drawn to ... then it should be a positive thing."