The World of Azealia Banks

Photo via Facebook

On November 6, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, reignited his long-dormant Twitter account to update fans on his new projects. In one tweet, he listed his favorite artists, only to finish with the line, “But Azealia is the best.” Twitter quickly erupted. He could not be talking about that Azealia. He could not be talking about the Azealia who called Zayn Malik a barrage of homophobic slurs before saying he was a “token” in One Direction. He could not be talking about the Azealia that asked an Irish fan “don’t you have a famine to go die in?”

He could not be talking about the Azealia who called Cardi B a “poor man’s Nicki Minaj,” or the Azealia who encouraged Iggy Azalea to commit suicide on Instagram, and he was definitely not talking about the Azealia who told A$AP Rocky to get out of the closet. There was no way. However, he was talking about that Azealia, Azealia Banks, who has managed to reach significant critical acclaim despite her never-ending list of scandals.  

“I’ma ruin you, c*nt.” That is one of the final lines in Banks’ now-iconic debut single, “212.” Banks, a native New Yorker from Harlem, first hit the music scene through MySpace in 2008 when she was still a teenager. Her first song to breakthrough, “212,” became a flashpoint for the rest of her career. The song, with its obnoxiously loud bass and instantly quotable lyrics, encapsulates the best parts of Banks’ talent.

Her music soon drew a large audience within the black LGBTQ+ community, especially due to the Vogue-esque beats that inspired her act. Banks herself has credited media such as “Paris is Burning” for helping her to hone her artistry. Her songs soon found homes in high fashion runway shows, such as the Mugler show during the 2011 Paris Fashion Week.

There was almost nobody like her in the 2010s pop music industry, and her uniqueness allowed her to work with Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Pharell, among others. She performed at Glastonbury in 2013 and Coachella in 2015. In 2016, she released another iconic single, “The Big Big Beat,” which was such an homage to late 20th-century black queer culture that it was later (allegedly) stolen by RuPaul in his 2017 hit “Call Me Mother.” In 2018, Banks released “Anna Wintour,” an anthem to Vogue’s longtime editor-in-chief, which featured multiple flows and beat changes while also maintaining the iconic Azealia Banks baseline. At just 29 years old, Banks has a huge catalog of music and experience behind her, and the fans to back it up.

Banks’ fan base encompasses a large cross-section of people who all share the same main interest. Chaos. And as fans of Banks, there is never a lack of it. Banks never backs down from sicking her fans towards an object of her loathing and often turns that loathing onto her own fans. Banks’ mostly LGBTQ+ fanbase often take the brunt of her abuse, whether it be in the comment sections of her Instagram, or through hour-long tweetstorms. While her rage is often laced with obscenities, many of her fans have pointed out the true statements that lie if you dig deep enough.

As a dark skin black woman herself, Banks often points out the double standards she faces in the rap industry, especially juxtaposed with the experience of dark skin black men and light skin black women. After her feud with Cardi B, people were quick to point out that Cardi B has had her share of controversies and offensive choices, however, she has never been wholly written off by the industry in the same way that Azealia Banks has. 

Another facet of Banks’ persona is her serious, and public, battles with mental illness. In August of this year, Banks posted a series of Instagram stories where she claimed she was looking into euthanasia, and that “life is harder than its worth.” However, her battles with mental illness are rarely cited after she lashes out, while it is often attributed to an “attitude problem.”

As many have pointed out, Banks is a once in a generation talent. She has created a rap portfolio that mixes the best parts of art of those who came before her with modern sounds, and her artistry has only grown in the last decade she has been active. However, everything else about her image often overshadows her immense ability.


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