Thoroughly Modern Azealia
Pop culture has a short memory. My year started with a YouTube discovery of a girl in a Mickey Mouse sweater speaking my life over a dance beat. “212” was the perfect anthem for the awakening I was having in Harlem. Lip-syncing for my life on my morning commutes; I relished that intimate time right before an artist blows up, when they feel like a friend who passed you their demo. Then, came the noise.
She fired mangers and tweeted about it.
Bloggers couldn’t stand her. Their comment sections followed suit. Who was this ungrateful wretch and why wasn’t she perfectly packaged to please us? Apparently, being a good girl had suddenly become the ticket to making it in rap.
A young girl who doesn’t shy away from sharing her opinion or leaving the sugar coating off her truth may have been at home in the streets of New York, but the blogosphere wasn’t impressed.
Banks’ talents aren’t up for debate. She sings as well as she raps. She melds hip hop and dance without sacrificing the grit and funk of either. Her verses are freeform, imaginative, and hard to get on the first listen – inherently feminine. A breath of fresh air we were poised to lose before it really started because voices on blogs and Twitter, bastions of the well-mannered and respectful, thought her attitude needed adjusting.
Just when the backlash reached a fever pitch, the talent caught up with the hype. An EP, a mixtape, and stylish videos were released. In the face of 90’s beats, brash delivery and quirky style, the chorus changed its tune. The same bloggers who doubted her potential are now posting about her every career move like nothing happened.
Maybe she knew everyone would come around. Save a tantrum of deleting her Twitter account and dumping the title of rapper in favor of “dance artist,” she seems unfazed by the turning tides of public opinion. Or, maybe she was clear on the road she was taking. The cries of urban bloggers fell on deaf ears as Banks sidestepped the traditional route to rap success. Instead opting for her own approach, winning over tastemakers (one of her first gigs was at Karl Lagerfeld’s house) with DIY videos and promotion.
Banks possesses fierceness beyond her years. She makes a clear distinction many artists dance around. Her career positions her as a product for public consumption, but she doesn’t exist for the public’s approval.
“Not to be funny but I am a musician,” she tweeted. “It’s not in my job description to be liked personally. My job is to make music. I don’t want to be nice. Nice girls can only get what they’re offered.”
On the surface it seems contradictory. We usually try to please those who can make us successful. But, is it necessary? As old folks say, cream always rises to the top. It’s hard for anyone to turn his or her back on a good thing. Banks in her ebony glory, frolicking in her videos sans crew, is a good thing.
It takes a resolute type of faith in yourself and your purpose to stand by who you are, when everyone says it’s wrong. The same kind of faith that gives a girl the gall to drop out of high school to pursue a dream or write “212” while on the brink of giving up on that dream.
With her album “Broke With Expensive Taste” set to drop in February, I’m looking forward to seeing Banks and her personality quirks evolve to the next phase of her career. Think of it, an unapologetically imperfect woman, not a caricature, just a real girl growing into the feminine force she’s meant to be, can be a star. What a modern concept.