When she first arrived in the United States in 2006, she stayed in Miami, Florida, and afterwards lived briefly in Houston, Texas. Azalea settled for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia, working with a member of the Dungeon Family named Backbone. During that period, she met future collaborators FKi and Natalie Sims. She took her stage name from the name of her childhood dog, Iggy, and the street she grew up on, Azalea Street, where her family lives to this day. She said people would laugh at her because “they thought my raps sucked.” But having grown up getting laughed at, she was able to shrug it off. Meanwhile, she’d met someone from Interscope Records who encouraged her to move to Los Angeles, and so in the summer of 2010, she decided to do so. She was briefly managed by Interscope.
On 27 September 2011, Azalea released her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Ignorant Art, saying she made it “with the intent to make people question and redefine old ideals”. Her song “Pu$$y“, was included on the mixed tape and features guest appearances from YG, Joe Moses, Chevy Jones, and Problem. In November 2011, she released a music video for her song “My World“, directed by Alex/2tone. The video features a cameo appearance from character actor and former wrestler Tiny Lister, which earned her more attention due to its rising popularity online. “It’s supposed to have like, all the ridiculousness of a big-budget ’90s video, but then chopped and screwed,” said Azalea, of the video. In December 2011, Azalea revealed she would release her debut studio album, entitled The New Classic, as soon as she signed a major record label deal: “Once that’s sorted out and I establish an overall sound and direction for the album, I will be able to know what artists would make for a dynamic collaboration“. On 11 January 2012, Azalea released the music video for “The Last Song“, her third video from Ignorant Art. In an interview with Billboard, released on 27 January, Azalea hinted at an Interscope Records signing, while also revealing hopes of releasing The New Classic in June, and for her debut single to precede it in March.
Azalea reached out to Southern rapper T.I., for the direction of her debut album. T.I. was set to executive produce The New Classic, soon after a phone call the two had. At the time, Azalea was eyeing a summer release for The New Classic: “Hopefully if all goes to plan, my album will be out in June and I’ll have it recorded by the end of the month.” However, after Interscope did not allow T.I. to be an ongoing part of her deal, Azalea opted not to sign with the major label and stay independently signed to Grand Hustle Records, until the release of her first album, which had then been postponed. In early 2012, Azalea was featured on the cover of XXL, as part of its annual “Top 10 Freshman List”, along with fellow up-and-coming rappers French Montana, MGK, Danny Brown, Hopsin, and Roscoe Dash. On 1 March 2012, T.I. announced he signed Azalea to Grand Hustle Records, along with rappers Chip and Trae tha Truth. On 26 March 2012, Azalea posted “Murda Bizness“, the intended lead single for The New Classic, on her YouTube account. The song was produced by Bei Maejor and features a verse from her Grand Hustle label-boss T.I.. Around this time, Azalea also caused controversy for her 2011 song “D.R.U.G.S“, a remix of Kendrick Lamar’s “Look Out for Detox”, having adapted one of its lyrics to “When the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave / Master,” leading her to release a letter online apologizing, stating that it was a “tacky and careless thing to say.”
In April 2012, via her Twitter feed, Azalea announced plans to release an extended play (EP) entitled Glory, later in May: “I’m just onto something right now, the last two weeks and it’s glory. Azaleans need something new.” Also in April, Azalea starred alongside Grammy-nominated producer Diplo and FKi in the world’s first fully interactive ‘shoppable’ music video for Canadian fashion retailer, SSENSE. In May 2012, it was confirmed by T.I., on MTV’s HipHopPov, that Azalea had not yet secured distribution for her deal with Grand Hustle Records, and was described by T.I. as a “free agent”. It was later revealed in the interview that she was in negotiation with labels other than Interscope, possibly Def Jam Recordings (wherein Bu Thiam, whom of which originally placed a bid to sign her is VP of A&R). Azalea was also featured on Steve Aoki and Angger Dimas’ collaborative electronic track “Beat Down“, which was released on 31 May 2012.
On 24 June 2012, Azalea released “Millionaire Misfits“, the second offering from her EP Glory; the first being “Murda Bizness“. On 21 July, the official music video for “Murda Bizness” was released online. Glory, although not released in May, as it was originally scheduled, was released 30 July 2012. Azalea was also one of the acts on MTV’s 2012 Closer to My Dreams Tour, along with Tyga and Kirko Bangz. On 28 September 2012, Azalea announced she would be releasing her second mixtape on 11 October 2012. Titling it TrapGold, the mixtape was produced entirely by Diplo and FKi. She later premiered teaser visuals for the track “Bac 2 Tha Future (My Time)“. On 9 October 2012, Azalea made her US national television debut, appearing alongside T.I., B.o.B and other Grand Hustle artists in a cypher, at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards. Later that month, she embarked on yet another North American mini-concert tour with Roc Nation singer-songwriter Rita Ora, on her Ora Tour. Azalea then headlined a tour in Europe to support TrapGold. On 16 December 2012, Azalea performed live alongside Natasha Bedingfield and Bootsy Collins, covering Deee-Lite’s 1990 hit disco song “Groove Is in the Heart”, on the annual television series VH1 Divas.
In January and February 2013, Azalea worked on tour while still in progress on her upcoming singles and summer release of The New Classic. She was the opening act for Rita Ora’s Radioactive Tour, in the United Kingdom. As part of her set for Ora’s Radioactive Tour, Azalea premiered her commercial debut single “Work“, which also serves as the lead single for her debut album. The single premiered on BBC Radio 1Xtra on 11 February 2013. On 13 February 2013, it was announced Azalea had signed a record deal with Mercury Records. The music video for her debut single “Work“, was directed by Jonas & François and released 13 March 2013. In March 2013, Azalea also joined renowned East Coast rapper Nas, on the European leg of his Life Is Good Tour.
On 15 April 2013, Vevo announced Azalea as its second LIFT artist of 2013 and that she would film live festival performances, fashion and style pieces and behind-the-scenes interviews as part of the eight-week-long campaign. It was also revealed that the music video for her second single “Bounce“, would premiere on Vevo at the end of the month. On 16 March 2013, it was announced that Azalea would perform in the beneficent concert “Chime for Change”, scheduled to take place on 1 June in London, alongside Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and others. On 23 April 2013, Azalea announced that she had signed a solo record deal with Island Def Jam. On 26 April 2013, Azalea’s second European single “Bounce“, premiered on BBC Radio 1. She also noted that the third international single taken from her debut album is entitled “Change Your Life” and features a verse from T.I.. Azalea also confirmed that she is not signed to Grand Hustle Records; however, heavily affiliated with the label.
On 25 May 2013, Azalea, as part of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Londonderry, performed an acclaimed carnival themed set on the In New Music We Trust stage. The setlist contained songs from previous EP’s and album material such as “Bounce” and “Work“. The show was the start of a short set of UK pre-album promotional appearances. In June 2013, Azalea confirmed that the album was nearly finished and that it’s slated for release in September 2013. On 29 July 2013, Azalea revealed she will be opening for Beyoncé on the 17-date Australia leg of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in October and November. The third single from The New Classic, titled “Change Your Life“, was premiered by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s MistaJam, on 19 August 2013. On 3 October 2013, Azalea made her first appearance on BET’s 106 & Park, where she was interviewed and performed “Change Your Life“, alongside T.I.
Azalea’s debut album was slated for an October release but in an interview with Australia’s Herald Sun, she revealed due to other commitments such as supporting Beyoncé on her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour her record label would not allow her to release The New Classic until March 2014. She said: “The official date? Fucked if I know! It’s done, it’s so depressing to say this but it’s the beginning of March, it’s so far away but I just have to accept that.” She explained the reasons behind the delay: “It was supposed to be October but obviously I’m going on tour with Beyoncé and they said I’m not allowed to put an album out while I’m on tour because I’ll be trapped in Australia and I won’t be able to do any TV appearances and I thought that’s fair enough, that’s three weeks and then they said ‘You can’t put an album out around Christmas time, that’s a bad time’ and I said ‘What about January?’ ‘Well nobody gets back off holidays and then it’s the BRIT Awards, you can’t release an album, it’s terrible for marketing’ which brings me to February.” On 10 November, Azalea performed “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards.
On 5 December 2013, an unfinished song by Azalea titled “Leave It” and the tag produced by DJ Mustard”, was leaked. Azalea later revealed the song was in fact produced by The Invisible Men and The Arcade, whom she collaborated with on the entire album. In February 2014, Azalea announced that she would be releasing a new single titled “Fancy“, featuring English singer-songwriter Charli XCX. The song was premiered on BBC Radio 1 Xtra at 7 pm GMT on 6 February 2014. After the song’s premiere, it was revealed “Fancy” was the song that had leaked titled “Leave It“. On 17 February 2014, the song was serviced to urban contemporary radio in the United Kingdom as the album’s fourth single and became her highest charting song at the time. The music video for “Fancy“, inspired by the 1995 American comedy film Clueless was released on 4 March. “Fancy” went on to become Azalea’s most successful single to date, becoming her first single to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number-one on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart, as well as number-one the US Dance Club Play chart.
Azalea’s often-delayed and long-awaited debut album, The New Classic, was released on 21 April 2014. Upon its release, the album debuted at number-three on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 52,000 copies in the United States. The New Classic was the highest-charting female rap album since American rapper Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012). Azalea also logs the highest bow for a female rapper’s debut album since Pink Friday (2010), which had entered at number-two with 375,000 copies sold. Azalea was then featured on American singer Ariana Grande’s single “Problem“, which was released on 28 April 2014. The song was released as the lead single from Grande’s second studio album. Shortly after, Azalea also appeared on Jennifer Lopez’s single “Booty“.
On 28 May 2014, The New Classic‘s fourth single “Fancy“, reached number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with Azalea being the fourth solo female rapper ever to top the Hot 100. On the same day, “Problem” rose to number-two on the Hot 100, with Azalea becoming the only artist since The Beatles, to rank at numbers one and two simultaneously, with their first two respective Hot 100 entries. “Fancy” also topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. On 24 June 2014, Azalea’s song “Black Widow“, featuring Rita Ora, was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio, as her debut album’s fifth single in the US. It eventually peaked at number-three on the Billboard Hot 100. A reissue of The New Classic, titled Reclassified, was released in November 2014; featuring five new songs, including new singles “Beg for It” and “Trouble“.
On 10 December 2014, when reflecting on the year she’s had and the struggles she faced in the years before, Azalea announced plans of an arena tour for 2015 and a second studio album via her Twitter account. The same day, she revealed the title of the tour, The Great Escape Tour, and the concept behind it, which is Azalea picturing herself as “a musical escape artist for people.” Azalea also stated that the name of the tour went along with the title of her upcoming second studio album, which would also be promoted on the tour. Azalea declared she had started to work on her second studio album in January 2015. On 4 May 2015, she released a duet with Britney Spears titled “Pretty Girls.” On 29 May 2015, it was reported The Great Escape Tour had been canceled and there would be a new tour planned around Azalea’s new album to be released in 2016. Azalea later clarified she “had a different creative change of heart” and would also be taking a break to figure out the progression she wanted for her sound and visuals. In June, when asked details on her new music, she explained she had scrapped six months of work to start from scratch. On 30 August, Azalea performed “Cool for the Summer” with Demi Lovato at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, after a collaboration between the two was announced for Lovato’s fifth studio album Confident.
In October 2015, Azalea revealed the initial title of her second album to be Digital Distortion. A buzz track off the album, “Azillion“, was made available for free streaming on SoundCloud on 9 January 2016. The project’s lead single “Team” was released on 18 March 2016 along with a dance video. An accompanying music video premiered on 31 March. In March 2016, Azalea revealed she had started a production company, having “bought the rights to a couple of books that I really like, and also some television shows from Australia that I really believed in and was a fan of when I was a kid, and I had some ideas to rework [them].” In July 2016, she announced that her company, Azalea Street Productions, had signed a deal to create original content for NBCUniversal.
On 12 June 2016, Seven Network revealed that Azalea had signed on to be a judge on The X Factor Australia for its eighth season, broadcast from October to November 2016. In September 2016, Azalea explained she was delaying the release of her album to 2017, despite it initially being set for July 2016, after ending the relationship with her fiancé, “[I] just needed to have some me time to get my life in order and process the changes that are happening in my private life,” and wanting to record new songs that reflected her mindset: “when I wrote [my album] I was about to get married … I don’t want to go and promote my album and get asked about my relationship that has just crumbled.” Azalea released two singles, “Mo Bounce” and “Switch“, on 24 March 2017 and 19 May 2017 respectively. The latter track features Brazilian singer Anitta. Azalea promoted “Switch” through a performance on the 2017 iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards. On 7 November 2017, Azalea stated that she isn’t allowed to release music until January 2018, as she signed with a new label. She additionally announced the new title of her second album, Surviving the Summer, and put four new tracks for free download via WeTransfer. The media has dubbed the songs as a four-track mixtape or EP called 4 My Ratz. In January 2018, Azalea announced the title of the lead single from Surviving the Summer, “Savior” featuring Quavo, which was released on 2 February 2018.