New Artist Spotlight | Azealia Banks

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Azealia Banks! Man, I’ve heard this name drop so many times in the past few months. It took me until now to sit down and do a little bit of research on her background and music. Y’all have to pay attention to this one…

The 21 year old raptress hails from Harlem, where she was exposed to musical theatre, acting, and singing throughout her upbringing. She was one of the lucky ones to attend LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts to master her craft. Unfortunately Ms. Banks decided to not complete high school in order to follow her dream of becoming a recording artist (sounds like a segment from FAME! the Musical). That’s SO STUPID! Stay in school kids…

Previously signed to U.K.’s XL Records with Richard Russell under the name “Miss Bank$,” the now Azealia Banks increased her web presence by uploading several of her demo tracks to YouTube such as “L8R.” In September 2011, the controversial “212” was released as her debut single. From this point forward, people began noticing her in both the U.K. and the U.S.  There were rumors that Kanye West wanted to sign her to his label G.O.O.D., as he expressed that Banks was “the future of music.”  In January 2012, however, she was quickly off the market and swept by Interscope (U.S.) and Polydor (U.K.). After being garnered by many fashion designers to perform at their shows and Coachella this past April, she has gained a large enough fan base to announce her upcoming projects. This September, she will release her debut album, Broke with Expensive Taste.  Collaborations with Missy Elliott among other hip-hop trailblazers are expected to be showcased on the the debut record.

Although some people cannot wait long enough for her debut album to drop, she released an an EP, 1991 a few weeks ago that features four tracks: “212” feat. (Lazy Jay), “Van Vogue,” “1991,” and the acclaimed “Liquorice.” A video for “Liquorice” was recorded back in January/February. The track went abuzz when fans and critics found out that Lady Gaga‘s stylist Nicola Formichetti styled the video alongside fashion photographer Rankin. Banks also hired Gaga’s manager Troy Carter back in April to represent her, but they parted ways 2 months later.  In addition to an EP and debut album, Banks is also preparing a summer mixtape titled Fantasea, for a release date of July 4th. “Jumanji” is the lead single, followed by “Aquababe.”

Banks may seem cute and adorable on the outside, but if you listen to her closely, she makes explicit become “XXXplicit.” And that is definitely her signature… a kitten on the outside, but a wild tiger on the inside.  At the same time, she has fantastic vocals. When she splits from her rapping into a melodic hook, I can’t help but take a step back. It’s so different and refreshing.  In all the tracks she’s released so far, it’s a nice balance.  As you know, it’s really hard to be a female rapper and not be compared to the other ones out there. But I think Banks has her own unique style that Lil’ Kim or Nicki Minaj cannot replicate.  Banks expressed in an interview with BBC Radio 1:

People have their knives out, especially with the Nicki Minaj comparisons and all that other stuff.  They’re aiming at me and they’re ready to destroy me before I’ve even gotten to where I’m supposed to go. I definitely think I’m in a very fragile place since it’s the beginning (source).

But I guess she was right; she just couldn’t handle all the sh** people were saying about her on Twitter and other social media platforms (especially the feud between her and Kreayshawn and the beef with Iggy Azalea). As a result, Banks temporarily deleted her Twitter account:

No longer wishing to be a rapper. I never was…. and as soon as I started paying attention to bullshit urban media, I started getting myself in trouble. From now on I’m a vocalist, and will not be associating myself with the ‘rap game’… or whatever the fuck that means… no more Twitter for me… it makes me entirely too accessible. I’m still going to rap, I just don’t want the label and all the other crap that comes with the ‘rap game’… it’s boring. Rather be a dance artist… lol (source).

Despite all of this news, Yung Repunxel’s Twitter account was reactivated. I hope she didn’t mean all of that because her rapping style is really good… it’s versatile. It maintains an urban sound with a touch of funk, edge and dance. There’s a little bit for everyone. I like Azealia Banks and I hope she makes more commercial success. The fall is a perfect time to release a debut album.

Well that was the background, now here is the music! Below you’ll see an interview with BBC and a compilation of most of her released tracks. Let me know what you think of her! Do you like Azealia Banks music? 

BBC Sound of 2012 Interview


1991 EP Album Sampler