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The many beefs of Azealia Banks: or, how Harlem’s hottest rapper is swiftly becoming its most boring

Written by FACT Team on Monday, May 7 2012

The many beefs of Azealia Banks: or, how Harlem's hottest rapper is switfly becoming its most boring

New York rapper Azealia Banks, who made a gigantic splash with last year’s ‘212’ single and was swiftly signed to Universal for the release of her forthcoming debut album (titled Broke with Expensive Taste and produced by Paul Epworth, whose current midas touch in the studio extends to Florence and Adele), has spent the majority of the weekend fighting on Twitter.

The target of Banks’ ire on this occasion, following public Twitter spats with Kreayshawn, Iggy Azalia and T.I. (not to mention countless fans of the aforementioned three), was veteran rapper Lil Kim. Also female and from New York, Kim had been targeted by Azealia for a potential collaboration, only for the offer – for whatever reason; naturally, both camps have different stories – to be knocked back.

The fall-out was predictable, bordering on inevitable, and as with Banks’ past feuds, at least 90% of the words exchanged – in the public domain at least – came from Azealia’s side. Which begs the question: when did arguably New York’s most promising young rapper become so dull all of a sudden?

If that statement sounds like an exaggeration, we shouldn’t forget what a breath of fresh air Azealia Banks was when ‘212’ emerged. Here was a female rapper delivering rhymes about cunnilingus with shark-eyed seriousness, and who had more interest in collaborating with underground artists like Lunice, Lone and Machinedrum than chart hit-makers like RedOne or Dr. Luke. Within six months of ‘212’ surfacing, she’d topped the NME’s yearly cool list, and in early interviews, Banks seemed grateful for her hype yet confident and determined, and ‘NEEDSUMLUV’, released earlier this year, proved that she was no one hit wonder either.

“It’s rare that Kreayshawn or Iggy Azalia – both far less talented rappers than Banks, and hardly mature or sensitive public figures – come across as the bigger person”

In the months since, however, Banks has become best known for feuds and extra-curricular issues. Signing with Lady Gaga’s management is just about the definition of a good look, but then publicly slating her old management after pulling a slew of Summer festival spots (“they were all prematurely booked by my old management without any consideration for me and the album I need to finish”) is a needless airing of public laundry. Considering how long the shows had been advertised for, and the timing of the announcement (shortly after a decent, but lukewarm Coachella appearance), it also seems a pretty questionable excuse.

Between not being able to balance live shows with making an album and Banks’ latest EP (originally a full release for ‘212’, now something called 1991) having to be constantly pushed back, you’d think now more than ever, there’d be an incentive to get off Twitter and into the studio. After all, it’s rare that Kreayshawn or Iggy Azalia – both far less talented rappers than Banks, and hardly mature or sensitive public figures – come across as the bigger person in an exchange with anybody, but Kreayshawn in particular simply seemed to be targeted by an oversensitive brat with little cause to take such offence. Oh, and it should go without saying, nothing makes you come across worse than publicly arguing with your rivals’ fans.

Azealia Banks certainly isn’t the first artist to have turned people off of her music through her public presence (hands up who couldn’t stand following Tyler, the Creator’s Twitter for more than a week) and she won’t be the last, but it’ll be a real shame if someone who originally seemed so refreshing ends up stale, and simply the latest in a long line of female rappers more interested in fighting than making decent music, before her debut album even comes out. Still, if Banks’ focus remains on weekly beefs and not her record, then maybe Broke with Expensive Taste won’t materialise regardless.

Tom Lea

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