Azealia Banks is not the first artist to be a bit of a rabble-rouser, so it’s somewhat frustrating to see the reactions she garners over her ever-increasing number of public beefs. The latest involves fellow rapper Angel Haze, who should be known for pushing hip-hop into new terrain for rapping about her years of sexual abuse on her spin of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet,” but will more than likely be now known as the random rapper who referred to Banks, her friend-turned-adversary, as a “charcoal skinned bitch.”
Seriously, if you were not born and raised in NY.... DON'T CLAIM NY. YOU ARE NOT A NEW YORKER.— YUNG RAPUNXEL (@AZEALIABANKS) January 3, 2013
Their beef started over a general comment made by Banks that the Detroit-bred Haze seemingly took offense to. That led to Angel Haze recording diss record “On The Edge,” a track Azealia says was recorded months ago based on the word of producer Diplo. The following day Azealia released “No Problems,” which spurred Angel Haze to release yet another Bank-bashing track aptly titled “Shut The Fuck Up.”
Regardless of whomever you feel won the battle on wax, what irks me most about this exchange is its framing – that is, a continuation of the fallacious notion that Azealia Banks goes out of her way to initiate feuds with her contemporaries. Even if that were true, emcees ranging from Pastor Troy and 50 Cent, all the way back to Roxanne Shante, have used utilized that rap tradition to their advantage, so why is it such an issue for Azealia Banks? Nonetheless, note Banks’ battles all you’d like, so long as you do so accurately.
While it’s true that Azealia’s recklessness and short fuse prompted her rifts with the likes of Iggy Azalea and Lil’ Kim, her issues with Angel Haze highlight the reality that many rappers purposely pick a fight with her for attention. Not to mention the likes of T.I. and Jim Jones, who, too, have gone out of their way to unleash on the 20-year-old Harlem rapper. Had she been the female rapper that was apart of an all-male crew versus a standalone artist (a breakthrough Azealia doesn’t receive nearly enough credit for), they would’ve never attacked her so harshly. Now comes Haze, who clearly wanted to piggyback off of Azealia’s buzz to assist in the building of her own.
This doesn’t excuse all of Banks’ behavior. She is very much audacious and often too quick to fly off the handle. In other words, the sort of “no f*cks given” artist so many acts are only pretending to be. If you act like a provocateur, then you ought to expect the backlash that comes as part of the package. Still, much of Banks’ outbursts have been themed around issues related to race, culture, sexuality and sexism. At a time when people increasingly scream for attention without anything of note to actually say, it’s somewhat comforting to know in the midst of all the noise that Banks’ outbursts may generate, at least there’s something reminiscent of genuine thought behind it.
Unfortunately for her, this beef with Haze and the secondary beef it led to with online nuisance Perez Hilton, comes at the expense of what matters most: her music. Last week could’ve been about Banks’ impressive album track “BBD,” another string of well-receive works including the critically acclaimed 1991 EP and Fantasea mixtapes, but is instead shifted to familiar stories of squabbles.
Maybe that’ll change once she finally drops her debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. But even ithis is the story people want to stick to in the interim, again, tell it right.
Which brings me to the heat Azealia is taking for referring to Perez as a “faggot.” Her explanation may reek of bad gender politics, but that’s a testament to the issues – i.e. misogyny, shifting the context of slurs – that plague various minority communities. She isn’t a homophobe; merely a woman who went too far in her emulation of the gay Black men she takes cues from. It’s akin to Gwyneth Paltrow making the mistake of taking whatever pass her Black friends give her over the word “nigga” and taking it public.
Perez Hilton is a jackass who initially thought to call will.i.am. a nigger in anger, but instead opted to call him a faggot. He’s also someone who profited off the outing of gay men though now suddenly wants to appear “evolved” since that’s on trend. He, like Angel Haze, knew what he was doing in targeting Azealia Banks. But it’s up to her to realize when not to play along.