I think it was late 2011 that a Hip-Hop blog called Herfection put me on to Azealia Banks. For me, I was reeled in by a song called “L8R” and “The Chill$,” but like many others, it wasn’t until I heard the track “212” that I knew homegirl was going to be a star. The song was infectious and raw at the same time, as the chick who called her self “Young Rapunxel” due to the long weaves sent out a warning to other women in the game: “What you gon’ do when I appear?/W-when-when I premiere/B***h, the end of your lives are near/This s**t been mine, mine!” To think back on my first experience listening to that track, letting the pulsating beat and lyrics give me goosebumps, it was all so refreshing, especially at a time when I was a bit over the whole Nicki Minaj adoration, wasn’t buying into the Iggy Azalea hype and felt as though the whole female Hip-Hop game was flatlining as a whole, especially when Lil Kim came back to do auto-tune. She could change things, I thought. After “212” came the whole 1991 EP, and more memorable joints. I was impressed because she was bold and different and could fit in with those who were all about gritty lyricism, and the white folks who live for that dance, techno ish. Oh yeah, she was different.
But in reality, she’s not as different as I once thought. In fact, as the buzz surrounding her name becomes more centered around negativity and beef every other week, I’ve learned that Azealia Banks is like any other rapper, if not one very famous rapper in particular. 50 Cent. They both have an undeniable love for drama that goes so far that after a while, it seems they only do it for attention and not principle, and at this point, it’s pretty tired. Especially when aside from those under 25, European kids and New York fans, when you bring up her name most people can only think of her mouth and not her music. And we see where being known for your mouth and not your craft got 50 after a while…in the land of irrelevancy (and yes, you can still be rich and irrelevant, fyi).
The list of people she has been at odds with is extremely long for no reason. It includes the aforementioned Iggy Azalea, T.I., Jim Jones, female rapper Kreayshawn, female rapper Angel Haze, Perez Hilton, producer Diplo, producer Baauer (behind that damn “Harlem Shake” craze), rock band Stone Roses, Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim (though both never jumped at her bait), her ex-boyfriend and manager, rapper Young Unique and as of late, Rita Ora of course. Most of the time, when I would watch Banks try to make a fool out of a colleague turned frenemy, or rant about something, I would just think to myself, “That’s just how Azealia is! She’s a firestarter!” However, after Sunday night’s drama with Ora, and Banks exposing a private conversation between the two on her social media, I couldn’t help but sit back and think, “Wow…what an a**hole.” And I only say that because just a week or so ago, Banks posted a picture of herself all hugged up with Ora, all while throwing shade her way by captioning the pic, “Me With The Third Lady Of Roc Nation.” I couldn’t help but let the “PHONY” bells ring out in my ears…
While her beefs have often made people laugh, and the one with Hilton allegedly even helped her sell more of her singles, I couldn’t help but feel that her antics with Ora crossed a line. She looked less like the talented Harlem-ite with the slick knack for words that I had come to be a fan of, and more of a big a** bully playing into some high school s**t who needed to be knocked down a few notches. In all honesty, for all the talent she has, she hasn’t come SO far that she can start burning bridges and pissing off people in the industry over the pettiest of things. For that reason alone, I’m starting to fear that Banks’ career could come to a screeching halt before it even gets started. If she’s not coming crazy at people for claiming New York, she’s arguing with others for their use of the word “vamp,” trying to tear down artists who are way more established than her (see her one-sided beef with Lil Kim) or publicly embarrassing producers who helped her put out some of her biggest hits. Bad idea. While it’s all good to “keep it real” on folks every once in a while, you never know who the people you cut off are connected to and what opportunities they can make or break for a sista in the future because of the negative reputation someone like her relishes in having (wonder if that alleged feature she did for the new Beyoncé album is really going to come to fruition now…). And if you don’t think being labeled as “difficult” can hold you back to the fullest, just ask ya boy Terrence Howard, who has been whining about people trying to “blacklist” him for years for being hardheaded on the set and behind-the-scenes of Iron Man.
While I’ve been riding for Banks for a minute now, I can say that a part of me wanted to throw in the towel this past weekend. I’m so tired of watching women in the music industry act as though there can only be one diva and feed into extra negative a** stereotypes of black women (as she does the angry one pretty well) and women as a whole. If she used all the energy she does trying to expose people’s emails and texts via Instagram and Twitter to finish an actual studio album, she would be on the top of the Hip-Hop game. However, she’s still putting together mixtapes, calling people all sorts of b***hes on social media and scaring away some she could use in her corner. Like rapper Eve, who might have said it best when it comes to Azealia Banks as a whole: “I like her wordplay. I think she actually can rhyme, I just don’t like the drama. That bothers me.” She might be making money, but she’s not making enough to keep on this negative path and thinking the mainstream will let her in. Most musicians are two steps away from living back with their mothers, jumping on reality TV as a safety net and ending up on our Where Are They Now? lists. By all means, I get that she doesn’t give a f**k, but it might be time that she starts before she sabotages her own greatness.