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In a fair amount of ways, Azealia Banks and I have had similar life trajectories.
Bear with me here. I am by no means claiming that I could have become an infamous black sheep artist – anybody who’s ever heard me get a little too jiggy with my Spotify playlist knows that a record deal is not in the cards for me. But a Black girl who grows up in an environment with very heavy Hispanic influences, adjacent to Washington Heights? I get that. I grew up only a handful of blocks away from her. We even went to the same magnet school in the same school district.
In that vein, a lot of her present day brash “giveth-of-no-fucks” attitude is something that is just very reminiscent of the neighborhood we grew up in. The abrasiveness she constantly presents the public with is something that I see every time I’m walking up 155th street when I visit my mom, or when I’m taking the 1 train and overhearing teenage drama that Xiomara can’t seem to express at a coherent decibel level. The fact of the matter is that folks I went to middle school with and grew up around acted just like her; and, to be honest, a lot of them still act like that and they’re closer to thirty now. I ultimately attributed a lot of Azealia’s blunders to her immaturity and lack of real media training and I figured that in time, she would get over the antics and focus on keeping her fan base happy over everything else.
It’s been a few years now, and things haven’t changed. Not only has her attitude remained, but her problematic commentary continues to ruin any goodwill that she has started to regain.
Azealia has gotten a fair amount of internet high fives in recent days for rightfully pointing out that the Iggy Azalea machine has profited off and has been celebrated for a mimicry of Black culture. When TI clapped back at her harshly, Azealia continued to have a point when she mentioned that TI has never attacked another person as aggressively when defending Iggy – namely when Snoop went on his inexplicable social media smear of her. Azealia even coined the moniker Igloo Australia, for which I will forever be thankful.
In the same breath as her tearfully defending Black music and Black culture with all the CAPS CAPS CAPS that 140 characters can offer, she continues to abandon all nuance and conflate issues that have absolutely nothing to do with each other by inserting the recent Bill Cosby allegations into the erasure of Black history. This is not the first time she’s done so. She’s discredited all of the valid criticisms that she’s had of Perez Hilton by leveling very homophobic insults his way, and the amount of insignificant beefs with other artists that she’s instigated are too many to count.
Twitter beefs aside, lumping Bill Cosby’s rape allegations into Macklemore winning a Grammy and Iggy being able to call herself a “runaway slave master” without much backlash is just irresponsible. Tacking on Bill Cosby’s chickens coming home to roost to the recent deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown – especially when Beverly Johnson so astutely dissected why it did not apply – continues to show that while there is value in asking celebrities to speak up on social issues, these subjects sometimes have a complexity that takes a bit more nuance then they’re willing to offer.
I’m not interested in propping up the whims of an artist who is unable to really parse through the nuance of the racial topics she claims to be fighting for. She claims the “the blogs just don’t want to keep it on the music”, but at what point will she take ownership of her insistence on fanning the flames of discontent contributing to stalling her music career? Victim shaming and homophobia don’t help her make her case as her being miscast as the “bitter black woman” – and frankly, even when she discusses points that she is on the money on, more than two follow-up questions have her veering so far off the tracks that you regret engaging her in the first place.
Azealia Banks continues to demand others take accountability for their actions while simultaneously refusing to heed her own mantra. This obstinate lack of self cognizance will continue to be an albatross on her career until she realizes that no matter the intent, being strong and wrong does not provide an incentive for potential new fans to be invested in her success.