A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘azealia banks

[MUSIC] Azealia Banks, “212”

The Azealia Banks song “212” is as fantastic a song now as it was at the end of 2011 when it was released. It’s fresh, sonically complex, and does a brilliant job of portraying Banks’ skills as a lyricist and as a vocal performer both singing and rapping.

Back in October 2012, I was in rhapsodies about Banks and her song. I predicted big things for this defiantly energetic, decidedly out queer star. I wanted them.

And then, well, we didn’t get those particular big things, of a stardom to rival Nicki Minaj. Her Wikipedia article contains an extended multi-paragraph passage about the various controversies she has been involved in, some involving people outside of the music world like Sarah Palin (!), almost all dealing with Twitter and Instagram. Four of the first ten links pulled up Google search relate to the various scandals. Billboard examined her most notable fights on Twitter recently, but Banks has even gotten into fights on her Instagram account. (That last baffles me. I don’t know how you get into flamewars on Instagram.) I ended up unfollowing her account on YouTube after she came out with statements encouraging the election of Donald Trump.

I don’t know what happened. Is this a case of an excessively familiar–excessively uninhibited–use of social networking technologies undoing a nascent star, making someone on the brink of becoming big poisonous? Does this reflect deeper issues, mental illness perhaps or racism in American society? (Banks’ support of Trump apparently does reflect an apocalyptic tinge in African-American society, a hostility towards a structurally racist society that remains so despite everything.) Am I actually well-positioned, as a cisgender gay white man, to ask these questions? I don’t know.

I’m left with Banks’ music. I still love “212”; I still hope she can be a star. Can she? I can only hope so. “212” is so good that it simply cannot stand alone in any artist’s songbook.


Written by Randy McDonald

January 25, 2018 at 11:59 pm

[OBSCURA] Azealia Banks on Donald Trump on the cover of Time

Rapper Azealia Banks had the best response to Donald Trump’s pride in his Time cover story.

Found on Tumblr, via lazy-native from doritolocostacosupreme.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the import, or lack thereof, of Azealia Banks’ Twitter fight

Azealia Banks, the talented rapper whose brilliant song “212” was a summer anthem and contributed guest vocals to (among others) the Scissor Sisters’ track “Shady Love”, got into a lot of trouble over a fight on Twitter.

One of the biggest gay advocacy organisations in the US has criticised Azealia Banks for her use of a homophobic slur. Banks, who called blogger Perez Hilton “a messy faggot”, had initially refused to retract the remark: “Really not as moved by this ‘f word’ thing as u all want me to be,” she wrote. “I meant what I meant.” She did, however, say sorry: “My most sincere apologies to anyone who was indirectly offended by my foul language.”

The offensive remark came at the end of a week that saw two relative peers, rappers Banks and Angel Haze, lashing out at each other in a pair of diss tracks. Hilton took Haze’s side in the fight, prompting Banks to get ugly. “@PerezHilton lol what a messy faggot you are,” she tweeted.

After Hilton and other observers decried Banks’s language, she became indignant. “A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There’s a BIG difference,” she wrote. “As a bisexual person I knew what I meant when I used that word … When I said acts like a female I should’ve said acts like a cunt.” Her only apology was appended with a “lol”.

That’s when the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glaad) entered the fray. Despite having hailed Banks as a “notable coming-out story”, it condemned her use of the f-word. “Regardless of [Azealia’s] intent or her personal definition … there are gay kids who follow her on Twitter who hear this word in an entirely different context,” wrote associate director Matt Kane. “This word is used almost universally by bullies, often as part of a larger verbal or physical assault. This word hurts those kids, no matter what Banks meant by it.”

Reports on gossip websites suggested that the remarks may have led to Banks being dropped by her US label Interscope. However a spokesman for the rapper denied this was the case, saying: “Azealia Banks is currently in the studio recording her debut album, which will be released this year through Interscope in the US and Polydor in the UK.”

I agree with the sentiments Keo Nozari’s Huffington Post article.

GLAAD is obviously an important organization in battling true homophobia and celebrating those who encourage gay equality. But when they involve themselves in things of this nature they diminish their considerable cache. We can’t be outraged when a 34-year-old gay man who built his career on bullying is in turn ‘bullied’ by a 21-year-old bisexual woman employing his same methods. It was, after all, just in June 2009 that Hilton himself called will.i.am a “f*****” to his face. Defending Hilton is the equivalent of coming to defend sextape-made-me-famous Kim Kardashian if she claimed to be a victim of someone showing her some porn.

Hilton has talked a lot of his intention to change his tone online this past year, including an Oprah appearance on her “Life Class” show along with Deepak Chopra. Many had hoped this was a genuine shift in consciousness for him. However, would Winfrey and Chopra have conducted themselves like this, inserting themselves into a rapper’s cat fight? Would they then have tweeted other celebrities to attempt to involve them, claim victimhood and escalate the feud? An argument could be made this type of bad behavior is far more detrimental to gay people than Azealia’s actual use of a gay slur.

One celebrity who chose to run to Hilton’s defense — and to the tune of great irony — was Scissor Sister’s frontman Jake Shears. He tweeted: “Oh yeah. ‘F*****.’ Totally cool. Give me a fucking break.” Yet Shears himself somehow found the word fine to use in his own song “Step Aside a Man”? Sure the context is different, but he’s still choosing to propagate the ugly and hurtful word himself (even if it’s under the guise of ‘reclaiming’ the word). It’s equally sad to see him so easily throw his collaborator under the bus. (Banks guested on an album track of his just last year.)

Oddly enough, the only voice of reason to chime into the argument was the notoriously snarky Gawker. In Rich Juzwiak’s piece, he clearly makes a case that while Banks is reckless, she is no homophobe. But it’s a sad day when Gawker is the voice of reason in the gay community.

The teachable moment here isn’t ‘sensitizing’ Banks or for that matter Hilton to the error of their ways. They are likely not to change because these types of feuds are hallmarks in their careers. Instead, it’s about the need for gay people and their organizations to learn to pick their battles. “Ladies, play nice,” would have been a far more appropriate comment for GLAAD to make for the level of maturity these folks are acting from. It’s like when a foul-mouthed drag queen makes an inappropriate aside, you’re not meant to get ‘offended’ by what they say. As Bill Maher argued brilliantly in a New York Times Op-ed piece last year, America gets ‘offended’ way too easily. He suggests we need to learn instead to co-exist with each other and people that have different opinions that we do. And in this spirit of co-existing, the gay community needs some sober, mature, thoughtful leaders who are able to transcend the silliness that the far too often permeates gay life and get on with the real issues.


Written by Randy McDonald

January 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm

[MUSIC] Azealia Banks, “212” feat. Lazy Jay

New York City rapper Azealia Banks‘ 2012 song “212” is brilliant.

Let’s leave aside the music, a brilliantly skronky track by one Lazy Jay that’s itself an achievement. Banks’ astonishingly adept delivery in multiple voices (sung, rapped) of her wonderfully complex and alternatively clever and crude lyrics–see Rapgenius.com’s detailed line-by-line analysis of “212”–makes the song one I keep revisiting. Banks is on the verge of becoming a superstar; certainly Lana del Rey and Lady Gaga, both of whom have collaborated with Banks on tracks, recognize it. I hear the song on radio in Toronto, though with certain of choicer words bleeped out. (The staccato delivery of Banks’ “cunt” helps make the song, I think.)

“212” is one of the queerest songs I’ve heard. Banks herself, as Xtra!‘s Lisa Foad noted, is out as bisexual.

It was in February that Banks breezily came out during an interview with John Ortved, of The New York Times. Ortved positioned the queer reveal in relation to “212” – in which Banks taunts a male rival with the fact that his girlfriend would rather be fucking Banks: “Kick it with ya bitch who come from Parisian / She know where I get mine from, and the season / Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening / And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in / I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten.”

Wrote Ortved, “Ms. Banks considers herself bisexual, but, she said: ‘I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don’t live on other people’s terms.’”

Critics and fans were left goggle-eyed by her revelation. Suddenly, Banks’s name came with a built-in hashtag (#bisexual), “is-she-or-isn’t-she” inquiry (Banks was dating a boy), and the notion of “conundrum” (her sexuality as both riddle and dilemma).

Even now, there’s a gap in how Banks’s sexuality is understood. Her queer sensibility has been called “innovative” – but it’s also been misread as “hag mode.”

This inability to understand bisexuality is, as Huffington Post’s Amy Andre points out, in part due to the “monosexual” eye with which we’re “train[ed]” to understand sexuality.

“Monosexuality,” says Andre, “conflates the idea of being and doing” – who someone does becomes who someone is (same-sex couplings = homo; opposite-sex couplings = straight). Within this paradigm, bisexuality is rendered invisible and, therefore, invalid.

Witness the oddity, notes Andre, in “describ[ing Banks] as someone who ‘considers herself’ bisexual, rather than just as someone who is bisexual.” Indeed, this phrasing suggests Banks’s claim to bisexuality is speculative, inconclusive and to that end, debatable.

A recent Bitch Magazine article by Lindsay Zoladz notes Banks’ usage of “cunt” as a landmark for its particularly queer contexts.

Banks is right: For at least two decades, in the queer subculture centered around voguing, drag houses, and ball culture, “cunt” (and its variant, “kunt”) has been used as a slang term meant to describe something beautiful, delicate, and soft. Recently, underground rappers like Cakes Da Killa and Antonio Blair have begun to use “cunt”/“kunt” to describe the music they make: a gritty-yet-glossy, sexually charged microgenre of queer rap. (A search on Soundcloud for tracks tagged “kunt” yields more than 500 unique results.) In music and in life, queering “cunt” expands and redefines the word’s meaning once again—it becomes an embrace of the liberating notion that one needn’t have a biological cunt to be feminine or female. Banks has repeatedly noted ball culture’s influence on her music and style, which means that the most famous lines of “212” showcase a young artist not responding to the word’s derogatory meaning so much as sidestepping it completely; “212” is perhaps the first example of the queer definition of “cunt” going mainstream.

I like it that this song is a global hit, opening up Banks’ career and spawning a video that has received over 36 million views. I like this mainstreaming of queer content and culture.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 19, 2012 at 3:16 am

[MUSIC] Scissor Sisters vs Krystal Pepsy, “Shady Love”

I’m not sure what I think of the Scissor Sisters song “Shady Love”, featuring the guest vocals (sung) of rapper Azealia Banks alongside Jake Shears’ rapping. NME‘s take is a worthy starting point.

[T]heir new single is the first pop stonker of the New Year. Whatever you were expecting from Scissor Sisters in 2012, this isn’t it. For a start, it’s got Jake Shears rapping his peachy little ass off about drink, drugs and “this bitch I met out in Boston”. Apparently “she gon’ vote for Obama and she likes to dance to Madonna.” Whoever she is, she sounds like our kinda gal.

Of course, there’s more to ‘Shady Love’ than Jake and his cod Latino flow. It’s produced by Alex ‘Boyz Noise’ Ridha and co-written with Azealia ‘Cool List’ Banks, who’s also kind enough to contribute vocals and crafty enough to nab a “vs.” credit under the guise of “Krystal Pepsy”. Maybe you had to be there? Anyway, thepoint is that ‘Shady Love’ pulls off a pretty nifty trick: it sounds like no other Scissor Sisters track, but still sounds unmistakably like Scissor Sisters. Respect.

I’m not sure if it is very much like the Scissor Sisters, though. It sounds Top 40 to me. Is this non-album single an attempt by the Scissor Sisters to break through into the United States market?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 16, 2012 at 4:00 am