CAN’T TELL ME NOTHING
YOU MIGHT RECOGNIZE AZEALIA BANKS FOR HER ECCENTRIC GARBS AND TIT-FOR-TAT TWITTER BEEFS. BUT POP’S FEISTY YOUNG FIRECRACKER’S MUSIC IS HER MOST EXPLOSIVE ASSET. WATCH HER CATCH FIRE
Words: Tracy Garraud l Photos: Smallz and Raskind
ANY COMBINATION OF THE following is likely to occur during an Azealia Banks studio session: shouting bouts of random phonetics, conversations with herself (or alter-ego Mermaid Banks?), hysterical laughter, tears of frustration. There’s no entourage lounging—the 21-year-old Harlemite may even shoo the engineer (“Doing all kinds of weird shit, you don’t want anyone to see that,” she says). Syllables slowly become rhymes and—up to three weeks later—a twerk-happy rap track is born. It’s a meticulous, lengthy process, one that’s indicative of the singing rapper’s intense passion for her craft.
Yet, despite a Dr. Dre–lite precision and recording sessions that fall somewhere between sacred and psychotic, it’s Banks’ big mouth that’s drawing the most attention. The U.K.’s adopted darling has used Twitter as a blow horn to detail her repugnance for rivals Kreayshawn and Iggy Azalea. Brows hit the ceiling in April when she responded to T.I.’s on-air defense of his Grand Hustle artist Iggy by calling him a “fucking clown.” Another shot went off less than a month later, when she blasted Lil’ Kim for not fulfilling a collaboration request. Then, in June, Azealia fired her manager Troy Carter—Lady Gaga’s handler—adding a Twitter flip-off before (briefly) self-destructing her ever-ratchet @AzealiaBanks account. “I’m not getting the respect I deserve,” Banks adamantly stated in May, for her first VIBE cover interview. “I’m done trying to ask for it… because I don’t need it.”
When the conversation turns to her music, though, only the hearing impaired wouldn’t admit to the impulsive badass having an atypical, house-hop sound that’s completely infectious and particular to her. Azealia’s first single, “212,” and Fantasea mixtape prove that effortlessly, and when she’s not being carped, the wanderlust reveals herself to be quite charming. All reasons for why the new chick on the block graces the cover of VIBE’s 17th annual JUICE issue, sprawled in sand with frequent collaborator and Banks believer Diplo. Because once her debut LP Broke With Expensive Taste drops later this year, the music will surely play louder than the controversy. Until then, the young rogue has a candid message for naysayers and unfamiliars: “Y’all niggas just got a problem,” she declares. “And her name is Azealia Fucking Banks.”
VIBE: You’ve come a long way since riding the Uptown 4 train. How are your peers reacting to your early success?
AZEALIA BANKS: The energy I’m getting is kinda, “Yo, what up?” and keep it moving. There’s no like… I don’t know.
Why do you think there’s hesitance?
Because I’m kinda this UFO that floats above wide ground. And nobody really gets it, but they see this weird floating object there [laughs]. When I spoke to Missy, she was like, “Yo, where did you come from?” Because you usually see people on their come up.
And now people are waiting to see if the UFO will crash?
Sometimes it is scary because you drop down in this territory where people feel like it’s their space. So then it’s kinda like, “Errr, hi…” And they don’t know how to react to you, and you don’t really know how to react to them. But they like your shit and you respect their shit. And it’s cool.
Besides feeling territorial, there are folks who take the hierarchal, respect-your-elders adage very seriously. Is that voided once someone disses you?
When people come at my head it doesn’t faze me enough to be sad. It’s just, “Listen motherfucker, let me tell you about yourself and what I got and am about to get. You’re trying to knock me off my feet; I’m trying to stand tall, ’cause I’m here for a reason. I wasn’t even thinking about y’all, y’all came at me.”