With three top 10 singles (including the Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “Fancy”) and two best-selling albums in a span of eight months, Iggy Azalea quickly rose to fame as Billboard’s 2014 top new artist in terms of chart performance.
But the first half of 2015 has been less than kind to the 25-year-old rapper. In the past month alone, Azalea has canceled her fall 2015 arena tour (citing a “creative change of heart”), pulled out of a scheduled performance at Pittsburgh Pride (over years-old homophobic Twitter remarks) and revealed to a fan on Twitter that she scrapped “six months’ work” on her second album — all that, on top of a skeptical-at-best reception from the hip-hop community throughout her career. What can Azalea do to avoid the pitfalls of those whose fame peaked too soon? Billboard spoke with industry veterans who provided four simple steps for Azalea to get back on track.
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Reconnect with your base. Debbie Gibson, whose own Electric Youth arena tour in the late 1980s declined from sellouts to 33 percent-capacity crowds, says Azalea should “come back with an indie-artist spirit: Play small venues and sell them out. If you can start over with who your fan base really needs to be, they’ll stick with you.”
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Make nice with the haters. “She and her team should tackle the perception that she is a cultural appropriator who hasn’t appropriately credited her musical inspirations,” says Dyana Williams, an artist development and media strategist who has worked with Chris Brown, Rihanna, T.I. and Pitbull. “She has engaged in Twitter spats with popular artists such as Snoop [Dogg] and Azealia Banks, and she got a serious hip-hop history lesson from Q-Tip. She should create strategic alliances with key influencers in the music business, and engage with viable community organizations that are making qualitative differences in people’s lives. She could study how Angelina Jolie Pitt turned her negative image as a Hollywood wild child into a respected human-rights champion.”
Hone your sound. Michael Pagnotta, an artist manager and former publicist for The Cure and Depeche Mode, recommends Azalea find a way to establish her own musical identity. “You can ride those duets up the charts, but that won’t put asses in seats,” he says. “She should focus on who she wants to be as an artist.”
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Dive head-first into wedding planning. In late May, Azalea announced her engagement to boyfriend Nick Young, 30, of the Los Angeles Lakers. Wedding planning is such an ordeal, says veteran publicist Susan Blond, that it will “make [Azalea] run back to show business quickly and do what she’s really great at. I’ve been married four times, so I’m a real expert at this.”
This story originally appeared in the June 27 issue of Billboard.