Come out swinging: Square off, song-of-summer hopefuls: Hip-hop siren Iggy Azalea has entered the ring with two heavyweight contenders. The Australian rapper delivered a one-two punch with Fancy (with Charli XCX) and Ariana Grande's Problem (she's featured), which are reigning at Nos. 3 and 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. She's the third woman in Billboard history to have her first Hot 100 hits go to the top five at the same time (joining Ashanti and Dee Dee Sharp). With her album, The New Classic, she scored the best-selling debut by a female rapper since Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday.
No 'voice of an angel': Born Amethyst Amelia Kelly, Azalea hails from small-town Mullumbimby, Australia, where she grew up with musical aspirations and a love for Tupac Shakur and Missy Elliott. "I knew I didn't have the voice of an angel, so I thought, 'Well, maybe I can be a rapper, and it doesn't matter what my voice sounds like,' " says Azalea, 23. "As long as I could write a good song and be creative, I didn't have to have a voice like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston." At 16, she dropped out of high school and moved to Miami to pursue her hip-hop dreams, later relocating to Atlanta and Los Angeles and becoming a protégé of rapper T.I.
Ode to 'Clueless': After becoming the first female rapper to make XXL's Freshman Class in 2012 and picking up an artist-to-watch nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2013, Azalea scored her first breakout hit this spring with Fancy, which spawned a music-video homage to one of her favorite movies, Clueless. "I honestly can't tell you how many times I've seen it," Azalea says. "When I would watch that back home in Australia, I wondered, 'Is this how the girls there talk? Is this how L.A. is?' I was really mesmerized by it, not knowing how much of it was reality and how much was movie magic." The unexpected pairing of the teen flick's Valley-girl characters and Fancy's West Coast beat has since paid off in 41 million YouTube views and counting.
'Problem'-atic: Before Ariana Grande notched a radio hit with The Way last summer, she had reached out to Azalea about doing a song. "I was hesitant because I didn't realize she was actually a grown-up. She's so cute — I thought she was, like, 14," Azalea says. "So I said, 'Oh, no, I don't know if I can do a song with a teenager, I have all these songs that aren't kid-friendly.' " But once she heard more of Grande's music and realized she's an adult (Grande is 20), Azalea felt "terrible" for her assumption and got in touch about collaborating. "I truly believe she has one of the best voices of my generation that I've heard," Azalea says. "We had so much fun (doing Problem), and it shows."
All in the name: Her rap name was just Iggy (the name of her childhood dog) when she was starting out, but she later added Azalea (the street she grew up on) because it "felt like something that reminded me of home and my family," she says. It also "gave my name that feminine touch it was missing."
Patience is key: Azalea has earned "small doses of success" since her Ignorant Art mixtape turned heads nearly three years ago. "There's no one who just wakes up and has the right song, like, 'Oh, that's it! You're famous! You've reached the finish line!' " she says. "The stars just have to align for you to reach those levels of success, so I'm glad that it seems my stars are aligning at the moment."
so happy for her <3 proved all the naysayers wrong