American rapper Azealia Banks took the internet by storm back in 2011 when she released her debut single: “212“, which was accompanied by an extended play released the following year: “1991“. Both her single and EP received generally positive reviews, and Azealia dropped a mixtape entitled “Fantasea” in July of 2012. Things were looking upwards for Banks, and despite two years’ worth of Twitter rants and album delays, Banks surprise released her debut full length LP “Broke With Expensive Taste” on November 7th, 2014.
But a moderately successful career can come with its’ drawbacks, and Azealia appears to be the epitome of this.
In a year that should have been spent on tour or promoting her recently released album, Azealia took to social media to voice her distaste for…just about everything.
Banks is known for publicly speaking out on African-American civil rights issues, with a commentator at Splice Today described Banks as having “that hot New York temper where she will pop off if you cross her the wrong way”.
Well, that’s one way to put it. In December 2014 she called for over $100 trillion to be paid to African-Americans as financial reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors, citing U.S. reparations to Native American communities and the German reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust as a precedent. It should be noted that the financial position of the United States includes a net worth of at least $123.8 trillion (723% of GDP). To put this into perspective, Azealia Banks thinks that the United States should give up approximately 81% of its’ total net worth to the entire African American community in reparation for the enslavement of its’ peoples 150 years ago.
Banks has been known for her public disputes with other artists on social networks; with Complex magazine noting that “she gets more attention for her public feuds than she does for her music”. As of December 2015, Banks has blocked the writer of this article on Twitter because of an unwanted comparison to Beyonce. She has had online disputes with Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique, Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Jim Jones, Angel Haze, Baauer, Diplo, Rita Ora, ASAP Rocky, Lily Allen, Iggy Azalea, Action Bronson, T.I., Marina and the Diamonds and Pharrell.
Banks’ social media feeds have been an increasing source of controversy surrounding her, particularly some homophobic outbursts. In December 2014, she tweeted “them bitches frontin’ like they wasn’t trying to get some of that pudding pop!!!!”, a suggestion that women accusing Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them were fabricating their accounts in the hope of financial reward. Judd Apatow and Perez Hilton strongly criticized her in response. Later that month she tweeted that the descendants of prominent slave-trading families “should all have their houses burned and their finances seized.” She also sent direct messages to James DeWolf Perry, a descendant of James DeWolf, who was an eighteenth-century politician, and slave-owner, demanding details about his finances, adding “I think white men all need to be locked away in a psych ward… Considering the atrocities committed by white men ON THE WORLD”.
For some of her fans, that was the last straw. “No longer could we laugh off her behavior,” Vulture observed later.
Mitchell Sunderland, blogger and Vice associate editor, wrote a piece titled “My Bizarre Twitter Beef with Azealia Banks and Her Homophobia” about an exchange the two had. In response to the piece, The two engaged in a heated exchange and traded barbs over a period of days, with Banks stating, “and even if i am a homophobe… so wat? i still make more $ than you.. still have an extra hole.. and still own everything.” In response, Queerty posted an article titled “Azealia Banks Says She’s Too Rich To Care If You Think She’s A Homophobe“. Most of the responses Banks gave during the feud with Sunderland were received negatively, with the media calling them “anti-gay”.
After an airline incident the following September, Banks posted to her Instagram feed that she had “never felt the pain of not being white the way I’ve felt it since I’ve been a public figure.” That in itself was not controversial, but then a younger fan reminded her that “the vile things you say” about gays caused them just as much pain. Her response was a series of comments culminating in a suggestion that the original commenter would eventually end up “murdered and stuffed under a truck somewhere” after a Grindr date. Later she deleted the comments and apologized, but Vulture, pointing to recent artistic and commercial setbacks, saw it as “the increasingly desperate behavior of an artist who recognizes that her career is listing, badly … She’s falling fast, and no longer is anything about her spectacle entertaining.”
And it doesn’t stop there. Banks doesn’t just assault others verbally, it’s become a non-verbal issue as well.
On September 22, 2015, Banks became involved in a confrontation with a fellow passenger and the flight crew while attempting to exit a Delta Air Lines flight that had just landed in Los Angeles. According to witnesses, Banks was attempting to squeeze by others passengers to disembark the plane more quickly, when a French man blocked her path. Banks reacted by spitting in the man’s face, punching him, and clawing at his shirt.
Banks was informed that the police had been alerted and were in route to the scene. Banks then hastily departed the plane before police arrived, but police caught up with her in the baggage claim area. No charges have been filed, but Delta Airlines is investigating the incident.
On November 10, 2015, it was reported Banks was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department following an altercation involving the rapper and a security guard at L.A. club Break Room 86. And just last week, Banks was arrested in New York after attacking a yet another female security guard.
When the music can’t do the speaking, it seems as if Azealia Banks takes it upon herself to aggressively insert her opinion and viewpoints into areas where they are neither necessary nor wanted. This is incredibly unfortunate, seeing as Azealia’s music is actually quite good. Her most recent effort, “Broke With Expensive Taste“, received an 8/10 from our friends over at Pitchfork, an “A” from Cuepoint, and a 7/10 at NME. The album debuted within the Top 40 on Billboard’s album charts, and has sold close to 20,000 copies to date in the U.S. alone. On the list of 40 best rap albums of 2014 by Rolling Stone, “Broke with Expensive Taste” was placed at number 10; a reviewer from the magazine labelled the record “the sort of effortless triumph that deserves to outshine the Internet circus.”
Perhaps Ms. Banks should just let the music speak for itself.