Iggy Azalea and Tinashe Talk Turkey on the Music Industry: ‘Nobody Knows What Works or What Doesn’t’

September 4, 2020

Read the full interview on Variety.com!

Five years after appearing together on “All Hands On Deck,” Tinashe and Iggy Azalea have re-teamed for the latter’s latest single, “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching.” An uptempo, feel-good, harmony-filled pop record, the song came about during quarantine and serves as a reminder to all who listen to live each day like your last.

The two have an undeniable chemistry which may have to do with the parallel tracks their careers have taken. Both were signed to major labels and are now independent. Tinashe is currently managed by Roc Nation, and recently released her own bop titled “Rascal (Superstar)” following her “Songs For You” album which dropped last year; Iggy signed with EMPIRE and released the EP “Wicked Lips” last November.Variety caught up with Iggy and Tinashe at the Kandypens house in Los Angeles to reminisce on the evolution of their careers, as they also bonded over their love for Miley Cyrus’ new single “Midnight Sky” and the awareness of female sexuality prompted by Cardi B’s “WAP.”

How did you guys meet initially?
Tinashe: Was it in Dubai? It was in the airport, but really brief.

Iggy: Actually, the first time I ever saw you was in the airport. After that, I saw you at the Jeremy Scott afterparty for the MTV Awards in 2015. I was eating chicken wings. I’m always eating appetizers.

Iggy, you said that “Hands on Deck” was one of your favorite moments. How so?
Iggy: Those were the first times of any big acknowledgment. That’s always really fun, when something unexpected happens. There were lots of firsts.

Tinashe: Going to new countries, meeting new people.

Iggy: Traveling to new places, meeting so many creative people, being able to step into the fashion world and learn about things I wasn’t really exposed to where I’m from. Even small things being able to order whatever food I wanted to eat — go out and eat at some master chef’s restaurant, little things I thought were so cool.

Tinashe: I was on tour literally the entire year. I went on my own tour beginning of the year, then I went on Nicki Minaj tour that summer, then I went on Katy Perry tour that fall. Boom, boom, boom.

Iggy: I got to open up for Beyonce on her arena tour, one of the best moments of my life.

Were you nervous opening for those big names?
Iggy: I was so happy that someone really big knew who I was, first of all, and thought I could do a good job. I remember being so blown away by how extravagant the backstage setup was.

Tinashe: Her backstage is nuts.

Iggy: It’s like a mini-hotel that follows her around and gets set up every time. They have catering like a buffet at a 5-star hotel, layers and layers. It looks like Marie Antoinette’s luncheon. Everyone’s so nice. It was pretty epic.

How did the idea for “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” come about?
Iggy: I wrote the hook with this girl called HAVEN, she’s really cool. I wanted to do something that represents not giving a f– and letting go. We were talking about what songs we could write that everybody would relate to at the moment with everything going on — being stuck in the house, it can feel depressing — but sometimes I feel really happy or excited about what I’m managing to get done in that restrictive environment. That breeds more creativity for me. Everyone’s struggling but there’s an element of me that feels happy creatively. I wanted to write something that reflects that, that could make other people feel that happiness too.

… What are we doing in this situation? I walk around my house and twerk in my bedroom, dance around to songs on Spotify. Live my best life. I really wanted to play the record for Tinashe. I knew she’d love it. And watching [her] videos all the time, [she’s] such a good performer. I might be dancing around in my bedroom, I can’t dance for s—.

You can twerk though!
Iggy: I can twerk, but she can dance. … I love the idea of escapism, that’s what really made me want to be an artist. I’m from a small town, I’d be so invested in watching these videos of other worlds and wanting to go there to that place. A lot of people don’t put that much effort into videos still and I still feel like a little kid when I watch your videos because it makes me feel like it’s another world.

Tinashe: The feeling’s mutual, honestly your visuals are amazing. That’s why I think this is so exciting!

I’m surprised it took another five years to collaborate again.
Iggy: I’m not because that remix was really successful, it charted at No. 13 which is really high. I get nervous to follow successful things up because I don’t want it to be lesser than something already so great. We’ve evolved so much that whatever we do is going to be so different that it’s worthy of coming back and revisiting.

Tinashe: The time feels right now; it’s perfect.

Tinashe, what was your reaction when you first heard it?
Tinashe: I’m like “OK, this is the one!” I felt it right away. I said, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Iggy: 48 hours later, she came to the studio with her engineer. I didn’t hear you do it, I like to step outside the room because I can feel funny about trying different melodies with people I don’t usually work with. I stepped out because I know that you’re playing around with your stuff. When I came back in, you had created so many more layers and it was its own thing.

Tinashe: It’s always cool to hear the record for the first time because you never get that experience again, especially as an artist. You listen to a record as it’s being made for hours so you never get the experience of hearing it fresh.

Iggy: We see it go through so many stages before somebody hears it.

You recorded at Westlake in Los Angles, what was the vibe of the studio?
Tinashe: It was honestly my first time in a studio during quarantine, outside my house. I’m like “whoa what’s going to happen?” But it was super empty, super quiet.

Iggy: It’s really quiet there. Been recording there for the last four months, there’s rarely anybody else in the building.

Do you prefer that?
Iggy: I like it better actually. Big recording studios, I don’t like going through the hallways and seeing all these other people. It can be good because collaboration could come that way. You can meet new people, become friends with other artists. It has its positive elements but I really like to isolate and be to myself.

Tinashe: I don’t want them to hear the songs that I’m working on!

Iggy: Same, they’re not done. I like that no one’s there right now, I prefer that. I don’t want to run into anybody.

Tinashe: I weirdly got more antisocial during quarantine too, leaned into my old ways. I worked on it for a couple years, honestly. “I’ma put myself out there, be more social.” I’d go out way more than I used to, I used to be mad antisocial. During quarantine, I’m reverted back to my old ways. Why would I go anywhere? See people? [Laughs]

Iggy: Same, I feel weird about going back to normal. I want to sit at home and come up with weird crazy ideas, stuff to dress up as and write songs.

What was the theme for the shoot?
Iggy: I wanted to do a clash of time periods: Steampunk meets renaissance Marie Antoinette-type vibe. I’d like the video to go into different time periods or aesthetics, have them cross over each other. I wouldn’t go too deeply into it so it can be a surprise. We’re still figuring our creative ideas. It’s so hard to figure things out with quarantine because it takes so much longer to hear back from everyone. There are so many more things you have to organize.

Tinashe: There’s restrictions. I realized with quarantine, your concepts are limited. There’s a lot of recycled ideas thrown out there and it presents a challenge to keep it fresh.

Iggy: I like a challenge.

Favorite lines from the record?
Tinashe: “I’ma do it, do it for me!”

Iggy: I like the whole pre-hook, that’s my favorite part. That’s my vibe, that’s my energy in 2020. I really don’t give a f–, I’m doing whatever the f– I want.

What do you want fans to get from this one?
Iggy: I hope it could uplift them, make them be happy. I see so many people going through it on social media everyday. It connects us more than ever, even though we’re more separated than ever. If it can be a source of escapism where they have three minutes of happiness of enjoying yourself and letting go, de-stressing for the day.

Tinashe: Just have fun, that’s really important. It’s a collective energy about this year and it’s hard. It’s tough, there’s a lot of deep shit we’re going through. There’s a lot of drama we’re all experiencing collectively. As artists, I feel a really big responsibility and you clearly feel the same way, to bring some type of lightness to the world. Something, anything you can do.

Iggy: Right now is a really good place to be as an artist, it’s a moment in culture where so many great things in the next year will spawn from this period. Pop culture has been a little bit boring in the last few years. … I haven’t seen as many risks being taken, this forces you to do those things. I’m pushed more to do those things. I don’t mean risks as controversy, but creative risks. Pushing the boundaries in pop culture. … This could be a reset where we’re pushed to be more creative. This makes me have to confront myself more, think about who I am more deeply because I’m at home more. A lot of people probably have that reflection.

Tinashe: That’s a lesson of the year for a lot of people. One of the biggest things that happened this year is a disruption in our typical patterns, what we’ve typically done in every single way. Maybe that’s good sometimes.

Who were some of those artists you grew up to?
Iggy: I loved Missy Elliot and how out-of-the-box creative she was. She’d bring another universe to her music. I love Outkast and Andre 3000, he’s so poetic and left-field…. I miss those moments and songs that take a risk, don’t sound or look like anything else.

Tinashe: I’ve always wanted to collaborate with him. It’s insane how it could be so simple, yet so complex.

Who are some artists you’re into these days?
Iggy: I really love Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky.” It’s so beautiful. I’m, like, “Damn, this is really well-written!” I love her voice and even her mullet. I’ve never seen a mullet look so good.

What did you guys think of “WAP”?
Tinashe: I liked it; what’s not to like?

Iggy: People need to have fun injected into a grim situation. Seeing so many people doing the #WAPChallenge and enjoy themselves, we needed it. Women talking about their sexuality explicitly, that tickles me. Oh, men are really uncomfortable by this? Love that. …. It’s always good to make men uncomfortable, because women have to feel so uncomfortable every day in the way the male gaze is on us. It’s funny to do something so minute compared to what men do to women. To see them be so triggered and uncomfortable by it, I felt [joy].

Tinashe: All the politicians that were outraged, the Republic commentators. “This is the death of music!” I love to see it.

Biggest lessons you learned in the music industry thus far?
Tinashe: Do what you want to do, period. Case closed. End of story. Don’t listen to no exec; don’t listen to no fan.

Iggy: Do what the f– you want. No one really knows what the f–k they’re doing, that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned

Tinashe: That’s absolutely true, that’s why the only person you should follow is your own instinct.

Iggy: Everybody will always tell you they know some secret hidden information or the key to something, but nobody knows what works or what doesn’t. You should do what speaks to you.

Tinashe: What makes you happy will be way more fulfilling at the end of the day.

How much of a role did being signed to a major — Iggy to Def Jam and Tinashe to RCA — play in your success?
Iggy: I assume it was very helpful because they’re such a big giant platform. I stayed in my record deal longer than I should because I was so worried about what people would think about me going independent. People’s perception of, “Oh, she isn’t within the major anymore; her career’s over; no one cares about her.” Creatively, that wasn’t the right fit for me. I like to be my own one-man band and march to my own beat. With a major, it’s more collaborative with the decision making.

Tinashe: Everything has to be signed off [on], it’s amazing how much you end up compromising.

Iggy: You compromise a lot. I didn’t feel 100% happy with what I was making. I sat on a shelf longer than I wanted to, battling other people’s ideas and not being able to find a common ground. I let people’s perception stop me in my tracks longer than I should have, until I didn’t care, because I didn’t feel happy about what I was making.

Tinashe: I agree. I didn’t see it as an option as much because I had such a long-term contract. I had many albums left, something I didn’t think I could do. You try to make the best of your situation and end up trying to work through things. By doing so, you end up compromising a lot of things. It’s made me so much happier, which is so important and underrated. You could be successful, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy or fulfilled.

Iggy: To be proud of your work, to be able to stand by behind it. I want to have a legacy of things I feel proud of. I’m really proud of my videos and what I’ve been doing lately, so I’m glad I made that decision.

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