Azealia Banks Channels Gay “Ball Culture” at the Mermaid Ball in L.A.

First sights upon walking into Azealia Banks’ Mermaid Ball: Gigantic seahorse balloons, choreographed dancers “reading” and “voguing” and gyrating go-go girls wearing nothing but flesh-colored spandex and shimmering pasties. Theatrical fog and flashing blue lights created flickering illusions of movement, and excited concert-goers in bikini tops, seashells and glitter further enhanced the underwater ambiance. Just when I was sure I’d hit visual overload, the DJ suddenly dropped the beat to Zebra Katz’s “I’ma Read” and out rushed Azealia Banks in a see-through jumpsuit with glow-in-the-dark patches covering her female anatomy. As Banks launched into her remixed version, the crowd grew more and more hyped with every flip of her long, magenta hair. However, what really sold me on the experience was when Banks’ “gave” the stage to one of her female dancers for a solo routine. As the nimble young dancer started to incorporate all of the popular “ball culture” dance moves such as the “catwalk”, the “dip” and “hands, I began to feel as if I’d fallen into a time warp and magically transported to one of the East Coast drag balls made popular during the 1960’s.

In a time where Hip-Hop is going through a radical period of cultural change – including widening acceptance of homosexuality – I think that Azealia Banks’ incorporation of drag culture is not only innovative, but fascinating as well. For many gay and transgendered men in the ‘60’s, participating in underground drag balls wasn’t just a creative mode of expression, it was a captivating blend of glitz, glamour, fashion, dance and camaraderie. The balls, which were primarily hosted in New York by popular “drag houses” such as “LaBeija” and “Xtravaganza”, were popularized by songs such as Madonna’s “Vogue” and the documentary film, “Paris is Burning.”

As Azealia continued to impress the crowd with fan favorites such as “Bambi” and “Runnin” – and amazingly never running out of breath even though spitting lightning-fast rhymes – it seemed like the spirit of the old drag balls had descended into modern times. Men danced and grinded on other men and so did the women. When Azealia started to rap “212”, the crowd erupted into chaos and started chanting “I guess that cunt’s gettin’ eatin” (one of Azealia’s popular yet raunchy lines). Towards the end of the song, Azealia’s colorful “Fantasea” balloon banner – along with hundreds of smaller balloons – dropped into the crowd and the sound of balloons bursting filled the theater. Then, with a pop of wild confetti, Azealia Banks ended her set and thanked her fans for coming out. As all the revelers streamed outside, I overheard someone say they couldn’t wait for next year’s Mermaid Ball. While I’m not sure if Azealia has any intentions of hosting another “Ball”, I, like the thrilled fan I overheard, am kind of hoping she does.

Check out Azealia's "1991" EP: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/1991-ep/id528698856

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Kodak Black Disses T.I. In New Song, "Expeditiously"

Kodak Black snapped back at T.I. and his family in his latest track, “Expeditiously.” In the song, which was released on Monday night (April 15), the Florida rapper also appears to send a few pointed words at fellow MC, The Game.

“Young n***a stickin' to the code, 'cause I don't condone snitching,” Kodak spits on the track. “I ain't going out like that rapper, I don't do no tippin’…”

“…When he said my name on the TV, that boy a bold witness/On the news, see T.I.P., that boy don't got no feelings,” he continues. “…They say The Game strippin', old heads ain't hitting on nothin’...”

Kodak also sends shots at Tip’s lady love Tiny, calling her a “b***h” and “ugly as hell.” He also claims on the song that T.I. never knew Hussle personally.

The diss comes after T.I. called out Kodak for his dispectful comments aimed at Lauren London, the longtime love of the late Nipsey Hussle. T.I. also teased his own Kodak diss track via social media, and removed an installation dedicated to Kodak from the Trap Music Museum.

Listen to the track above.

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Premiere: I DO Tackles Gun Violence In "Tears" Music Video

The United States' problem with gun violence has become one of its most daunting concerns, with statistics from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation stating that the country had 4.43 deaths due to gun violence for every 100,000 people in 2017. It's become so commonplace that many have become desensitized, but Los Angeles' duo I DO hopes to keep conversation around the topic alive in the new video for their song "Tears."

The Hector Felix-directed video illustrates three instances of gun violence: an argument between three men that ends up with a mother grieving the loss of her son, a white police officer who pulls over a car with two unarmed black men and shoots one of them, and a mass shooter who opens fire at a concert. The video also attempts to humanize immigrants. The song, performed by I DO – the duo of vocalist J. Lauryn and producer Trackdilla – is just as mournful. "How many times will it take for us to see freedom? Too many bodies on the floor," J. Lauryn sings.

“We hope 'Tears' is a song that connects with anyone who has lost a loved one or friend to gun violence,” I DO told VIBE in a shared statement. "'Tears' is a song with a message. A message that many are trying to push. How many voices does it take for change to happen?”

The Hawaiian-born J. Lauryn wrote on Ziggy Marley's Grammy-winning self-titled album, along with lending pen work to David Guetta and Ashanti. Trackdilla escaped violent conditions in Angola, Africa to arrive in the United States, where he has since produced and collaborated with 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Sean Paul and others. Together the two form I DO, a duo represented by Billboard Power 100 manager Dre London, who manages Post Malone and Tyla Yahweh.

Watch the music video for "Tears" above.

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Singer Ari Lennox performs onstage at the 2017 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca Cola at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 1, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival)
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Ari Lennox To Release Debut Album In May

Fans of singer-songwriter Ari Lennox can finally relax. The singer's debut album will be arriving the first week of May.

The "Whipped Cream" singer confirmed the release on Twitter Friday (April 12), while reacting to multiple dates of her Shea Butter Baby Tour selling out in a matter of hours. The singer has wrapped her melodic vocals around R&B lately with the release of the charting single, "Whipped Cream" as well as her standout verses on "Shea Butter Baby" with J.Cole.

Lennox has been signed to Cole's Dreamville Imprint since 2015 and released her label debut EP, PHO in 2016. Singles like "Backseat" featuring labelmate Cozz and "GOAT" were faves among critics as well as her soulful peers like Anderson .Paak.

After a successful set at J.Cole's Dreamville Festival last weekend, the singer is ready to embark on her upcoming Shae Butter Baby Tour. More importantly, she's ready to release her style of R&B flair to the masses.  “I just pray I can bring this sort of music back to a more mainstream level,” Lennox told Billboard for their latest issue. “These vibes can heal a lot of people.”

Shortly after the release of "Whipped Cream," the singer dropped a few loose singles like "Grampa," "Pedigree" and the sultry, "40 Shades Of Choke."

Check out the dates and get into these jams by Ari Lennox below.


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Excited to announce that @babyrosemusic @MikhalaJene and @rongilmorejr will be joining me on tour!! ❤️Also — New #SheaButterBaby tour info: LA and Santa Cruz have new dates (5.16 & 5.18); We’ve moved to bigger rooms in LA, NOLA, ATL, and the CHI; Charlotte & Toronto have been added as well as a 2nd NYC show. Tix on sale at 10AM • NYC on sale at 12PM! 👧🏾👶🏾

A post shared by Ari Lennox (@arilennox) on Apr 12, 2019 at 6:08am PDT

May 12 – Phoenix, AZ

May 13 – Santa Ana, CA

May 15 – Los Angeles, CA

May 16 – Santa Cruz

May 17 – Oakland, CA

May 21 – Denver, CO

May 24 – Dallas, TX

May 25 – Houston, TX

May 26 – New Orleans, LA

May 28 – Orlando, FL

May 29 – Atlanta, GA

May 31 – Virginia Beach, FL

June 1 – Roots Picnic

June 2 – Baltimore, MD

June 4 – New York, NY

June 5 – Boston, MA

June 7 – Grand Rapids, MI

June 9 – Chicago, IL

June 10 – Detroit, MI

June 11 – Cleveland, OH

June 14 – Washington, D.C.


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