Dear Azealia Banks,
Oh how we want to cheer for you. One who has risen from the belly of the beast to attain some semblance of status in a world that wishes to slap Black women with one hand, and molest them with the other. Oh, dear Azealia, with ebony skin as rich as North Carolina soil baked in the sun, and with a beautiful smile that reveals your beautifully imperfect ivory teeth. You with the verbal artistry and street-born confidence of a thousand lesser individuals. You present so many things for the world to embrace. However, we cannot help but ponder why you make it so damn hard to love you? Personally, I’ve gone back and forth regarding whether or not to cheer for you or leer at you.
Some will use your recent shenanigans as reason to not support you musically. While it may not be fair for some to equate one with the other, that’s just how things are. Back when you first released your single “212”, it seemed apparent to me that it wouldn’t be long before you were mentioned in the same sentence as some of the game’s best contemporary female emcees. Word play, confidence and stage presence were all welded with the precision of a master mic controller.
You were grinding like only a true New Yorker knows how. You kept your head low, scrapped up your dough and finally released NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND),which was pretty decent. And who could front on the resolve it took to drop a mixtape months later, one that caught fire overseas. You've charted in the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland.
Who can front on the type of resolve and persistence it took to do all of that on your own?
But just when it seemed like you were on the fast track to big time success in America, having collaborated with Lady Gaga on two tracks and contributed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music compilation, industry politics put a damper on things as the single off the compilation that may have proven to be your breakout hit was removed from the album.
Despite all that you had gone through at the early phase in your career, you have shown yourself to be incredibly resilient against all odds. I saw you going overseas to make a name for yourself. I saw you nominated for a MOBO Award and win both an Urban Music Award and a Billboard Award. I saw you, creating your own lane where there was no road. I saw you, going from naming your album “Broke with Expensive Tastes” in 2012 to making over $21,000 a concert in 2014.
Talk about pulling yourself up out of the mire. Azealia Banks is a prime example.
You went from living in an abusive household, to selling keychains, to being a stripper before ascending to hip-hop relevancy.
Despite all of the aforementioned testaments to your wisdom, strength, beauty and resolve, why is it so damn hard to love you? I can’t say it’s really your fault how people feel about you. Truthfully, that’s their problem.
But even your allies have to admit that some of your exploits are akin to pouring dumpster juice on a cow patty pancake- downright repulsive.
Beefs have been a part of hip-hop almost from the very beginning and has often been used as a way for the up and coming artists to supplant their more established contemporaries, as well as a way for the truly elite to decide who deserved to be at the top of the pile. Way back when, most of the beef was relegated to vinyl and CDs. But with the advent of popular hip-hop glossies like The Source and XXL came the media beef. Now the digital age has ushered in an entirely new era where an artist can potentially pick a fight any day if he or she so choses, and judging from your list of adversaries, it appears as though you’ve chosen to do just that.
I was riding with you early on, specifically your consternation regarding Def Jam artist Iggy Azalea. Though you share a similar moniker, the differences between you are noticeable. She’s a foreigner groomed by a platinum selling recording artist, you pulled yourself into the game with very little help from your American contemporaries.
First there was the Twitter misunderstanding between rapper Kreayshawn over a compliment that you mistook for a diss in January 2012, but it took you six months to apologize. Later that same year you went on Twitter to address XXL’s inclusion of Iggy Azalea as the only female on on their fifth annual Freshman cover considering she once called herself a “runaway slave master”. I was all in with you there for various reasons, including the tradition of whites usurping music created by individuals of African descent in a form of artistic blackface. I was like ‘go get her lil’ sis!’ And I doubly backed you when it was revealed that Iggy Azalea actually attacked you first and, to your credit, you didn’t even respond until the XXL issue was released months later.
You sounded awfully militant then and, while I couldn’t agree with admonishing an entire race for the sins of a few, I understood exactly where you were coming from. You even mentioned on Twitter how you were pro-black, something a relatively small percentage of your generation will verbalize. Since that time, you have spoken out frequently and accurately on issues of race and class in America, reparations and the manner in which gay men are able to use the term “bitch” to describe women but the term “faggot” draws immediate condemnation.
Again, I felt you were spot on in those assessments.
Being the younger brother of three beautiful dark skin Black women, I felt you when you had to admonish fellow rapper Angel Haze, who also has a dark complexion, for calling you out (again on Twitter) for being dark skin back in 2012, and you even have several recent Twitter posts in which you say men in general simply don’t like dark skin women. I vehemently disagree from a perspective of personal taste, but I know exactly where you’re coming from.
I don't care what anyone says: men in general despise dark skinned women.— AZEALIA BANKS (@AZEALIABANKS) February 18, 2015
With all that said, why do you make it so damn hard for people to love you? No, I’m not talking about those instances where you were simply exercising your First Amendment Rights, but those instances in which it appears you have gone out of your way to disrespect people. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you’re regurgitating the same defensive stance that your generation as a whole tends to take when admonished; ‘Who is this old ass n*gga and where does he get off? He don’t know me. He ain’t my Daddy. F*** him”, and you would be fully within your rights if that is how you felt.
But the types of fights that you pick would lead any elder of conscience and means to reach out, tap you on the shoulder, and simply ask “are you okay?”
That’s exactly what this is.
Your stance as a burgeoning Black nationalist became smudged like mascara in the rain when I watched the BBC video in which you said you prefer dating older white men. Not saying that one’s relationship preferences are any indicator on how one views race and class, but to go on BBC Radio and say “I generally go for older white guys”, then vocalize your angst of being a dark skinned Black woman on Twitter, sounds like you’re having an inner conflict you’re allowing to spill out into public view.
Then you go on your Black power kick again, using Twitter as your weapon, by demanding that slave owner descendant James DeWolf Perry reveal his financial details saying “I think white men all need to be locked away in a psych ward” and “someone should kick your ass, and punch you right in your stupid smiling cracker face.” I was like “Huh?” The same type of stupid smiling cracker face that you’re attracted to?
I understand where you were coming from with your beef against T.I. and Iggy Azalea, and I also agree that Perez Hilton should have minded his own gotdamn business, but you’ve gone at Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Jim Jones, Angel Haze, Baauer, Diplo, Rita Ora, Lady Gaga, Pharrell and now you’re getting into it with Erykah Badu? For what? It appears as if you’ve gone to the 50 Cent school of Twitter trolling and antagonizing.
Because it worked for him doesn’t mean it’s working for you.
Forgive me for being older than you. Forgive me for wanting to see you shine and please forgive me for believing that I’m seeing a young woman who may eventually Twitter herself right out of relevancy. While you have solidified your respective fan base, you’re losing some fans before they even get a chance to listen to your music. Of course, judging from your past battles, there’s a strong chance that you might take this the wrong way. It’s likely that this digital hug will be rejected with fury and fervor, and it’s your right to do so.But oftentimes discretion is the better part of valor.
If you’re going to fight, pick a battle that’s worth fighting. And like 90 percent of your battles were a waste of time.
A Media Man Who Gives a Damn