Whether they were thoughtful, cruel or some mixture of the two, Azalea's response to all these criticisms was roughly the same -- to dismiss them, and in many cases, fire back against them. She wrote off Q-Tip's lessons and cautions as "patronizing," taking offense at the assumption that she wouldn't have done her own research about the history of the genre she practiced. Mostly, she seemed determined not to let the disapproval derail her career momentum, continuing her plans for a tour and a new album the next year. But her first single of 2015, the Britney Spears-featuring "Pretty Girls," was met with a muted response, and both Azalea's new album and tour were postponed numerous times, the latter eventually being canceled. And just like that, Iggy Azalea's time as a mainstream-defining star was over.
Many of the biggest stars of this period experienced similar commercial humblings in the decade's second half. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took criticism from the hip-hop community much more to heart than Azalea, even including the sprawling, self-conscious "White Privilege II" on their next album, 2016's This Unruly Mess I've Made. But the album failed to produce a hit on the level of "Thrift Shop" or "Can't Hold Us," and the duo essentially returned to being a popular cult act. Miley Cyrus left hip-hop behind on her next few releases, but received lukewarm returns for her revamped sound, and outright frostiness for further comments made to Billboard in 2017 about her disillusionment with hip-hop ("It was too much 'Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my c--k' -- I am so not that") -- which many took as evidence that she never totally embraced or understood the culture in the first place. Even Katy Perry, once pop's most bulletproof hitmaker, hasn't scored a Hot 100 No. 1 since "Dark Horse. "
In the meantime, thanks in large part to to streaming bypassing radio's gatekeeper status to become the primary driving force in popular music, black artists have thankfully returned to the top of the pop charts -- and in 2018, all but one No. 1 single (Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next") featured an artist of color as either a lead or featured artist. Issues of white stars operating in black spaces without properly respecting the culture or acknowledging the place of privilege they operate from still persist -- such discussions have never been far from the discourse around contemporary superstar Post Malone, for instance, though they do not appear to have weighed down his career as they did some of his predecessors. But the days of white rap artists dominating on the charts and at award shows while the rest of the hip-hop community looks on anxiously from the sidelines appear, for now at least, to be largely in the rearview.
And for the rest of pop music, the discussion around appropriation in 2014 provided a valuable opportunity for everyone -- artists, execs, fans, critics, and all in between -- to take a long, hard look at their own cultural bad habits and blind spots as music creators and consumers, and hopefully attempt to be more sensitive, more conscientious, and just generally better in the future. As the decade ends, the system is still very far from fixed, but discussions about inclusivity, representation and general cultural thoughtfulness and respect are louder and more prevalent at all levels of popular music than they've ever been before.
Even Iggy Azalea, once brash and arrogant in fending off reprovals, has come to see that it's not always totally about her. "I have regrets, yes, tons, of course,” she told Billboard in 2018. "It’s hard to separate trolling from legitimate criticism... When you get thrown into the deep end, you have a natural inclination as a human to defend your character. There were times, in retrospect, where I was way too defensive."