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Azealia Banks' VIBE Cover Story

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.”

Right, but not every 21-year-old newbie has the balls to publicly mouth off at T.I. Were you raised to be this fearless?
My mother was always like, “Anybody say something you don’t like, punch them in the mouth. Do it!” [Laughs] If I had a fight, when she came home I would get another ass whupping just for being a little bird. And she’d be like, “Why you letting these people bring you down?” I was a really fresh little girl, always arguing back, trying lipstick on, trying to shake my ass—knowing in the back of my head I’m gonna get fucked up [by my mother]. But fuck it, I wanna get fucked up.

Do you think your American buzz so far has been built more off controversy than music?
Of course, because Americans are distracted by shit like that. It’s like, “Listen, T.I., if I was a fucking boy you wouldn’t say anything to me.” But when I’m a girl and I say something back, the media wants to turn it into all these different things. Rappers beef all the time. I said what I said about [Iggy Azalea] and kept it moving. Then a month later you said what you said. And it keeps coming up. Leave it alone. I didn’t say she couldn’t rap. I said something very real. Out of everything, she had to [call herself] “a runaway slave master”? C’mon, that’s not swag. That’s not fly shit.

Continue.
And that’s all it was. For T.I. to drag me through the dirt… It’s silly. In Europe they leave it alone and keep playing my songs on the radio and I keep getting booked for fashion shows because they’re about the art. All I’m doing is making myself look bad by getting engaged with y’all because no one in Europe gives a fuck about y’all. All I’m doing is giving y’all niggas exposure. So if you notice I’ve backed up off Twitter the past days [laughs].

Speaking of that wonderful social network, that’s the main thing you’re slammed for—calling out other artists on there.
Exactly. And that’s the only thing niggas could hold against me, because I’m hot. So you know what? I’ma back off and [tweet] about random shit and make these records. I’m trying to just reach out, do a little record…

Which brings us to Lil’ Kim. Why address her publicly instead of sending a private message or e-mail?
That’s what we did, and that shit is over. Yo, listen, [Lil’ Kim], this black cloud you got over you—don’t try to push that over me. You can keep that, because as soon as I released “Jumanji” is as soon everybody forgot about you. I have my hand on the dial; I can control how hot and cold you are right now. So I’m not even going to give it to you. I tried to make a legitimate track with you, tried to collaborate. I was bigging her up and she keeps throwing it back in my face. I tried.

Do you regret getting into these Twitter clashes?
Of course, because it’s e-thugging… Who wants to look like that? But how else am I gonna reach y’all? I don’t have a T.I. to get on a radio show and defend me; I’m the one behind me. Y’all expect me to agree like, “Oh yea, I’m wack. I only have one song.” That’s one song y’all niggas don’t fucking have. You might win some, but you just lost one.

Kanye certainly doesn’t think you’re wack. Tell me about the time you guys first met in London last year.
He hit me up like, “You’re mad talented. What do you eat for breakfast?” The whole conversation was pretty dense—two Geminis in one room. So it was so many ideas flying.

We spent the whole day together, but the best part was dinner. We’re eating out the same plates with chopsticks, and he’s freestyling for me. I was like, “Oh shit, this is real!” You know how you smile so much your face hurts? And you just feel so busted like… [screeches].

Ha, I do. Did you freestyle for him?
No! I was so nervous like, “Oh my God, I don’t want to say anything wack.” Like, I start rapping and he looks at me like, “Nah, bitch, chill, this is my show.”

[Laughs] I doubt that’d happen. Do you place a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s just you, the pen and the pad?
It depends. If it’s something really important where I’m asking someone to pay money, yeah. When you officially release something it has to be as good as it can be. And sometimes you have to move on or you’ll really drive yourself crazy, especially because you get self-conscious and think people won’t like something and talk shit. But I wanted my album to be really detailed, so I was ready to spend three weeks just on one song, like fuck it.

What are you doing during those three weeks?
Mapping out phonetically what I want [my flow] to sound like—shouting out syllables and consonants—then I’ll flirt with a few concepts. Once I pick a concept, I can finally finish the song. If you’re trying to build something that stands out, you have to create your own template. It takes patience and brainpower, and a lot of analyzing. But once I get it rhythmically and musically together I can do anything I want.

What do you find yourself analyzing the most?
Making sure I constantly try different things. Knowing the right time to put in repetition, stuff like that. Like on “212,” I’ll go on a vowel sound over and over because I feel like that’s what makes shit stick.

Ironically, the New York rappers earning the most success now are the ones who get criticized for abandoning their “roots.” How do you feel about that?
All of these New York niggas trying to rap on this “real New York” shit—none of these niggas going anywhere. The only nigga from New York who got on was [A$AP Rocky], doing some South shit. The only bitch who got on since Nicki Minaj was doing some Euro shit. Fuck y’all. New York is full of mad haters.

This seems to be the sentiment older, more elitist hip-hop heads share.
What the old heads don’t understand is that my generation grew up on AOL, so we had access to all of this shit. How the fuck you think I know about all these indie bands and every single music scene in the world? It’s called the Internet.

So you’re not weary of wavering between pop and hip-hop after seeing the side eyes Nicki received?
Not at all. The hip-hop world is used to a certain lifestyle that Nicki Minaj and me are trying to escape from. It’s weird because they like you when they can still see you, but once you try to ascend, it’s like, “What. The. Fuck?” Because they can’t reach you anymore, and they’re not rising with you. They miss that comfort and it takes a while to get used to it, but eventually they’ll understand. That’s the power of art. Art pushes culture and forward thinking. Right now, if you listen to Nicki, she’s really making good pop music and is definitely up there with Gaga and Katy—exactly where she wants to be. But the hip-hop world maybe didn’t know that’s where she wanted to be [laughs].

Tell me about the folks who get you—how would you describe your fans?
I think my true, hard-core fans are people who enjoy being bad. People who enjoy drinking and smoking, but wanna get it together and just don’t know how. When you really listen to my music you hear a girl who’s going through the motions. She’s experiencing men, having money, not having money, people who are trying to tell her she’s not cute, people telling her she can’t rap, she can’t dance… She’s really dealing with life. I’m not some little light-skinned bitch out here. It’s a young Black girl doing this for herself, by herself. Y’all can’t keep trying to pin me up against the wall. Hip-hop has to help me not let this slip through my hands.

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Over the weekend, as the East Coast was beating the heat, comic enthusiasts gathered in San Diego for Comic-Con 2019. On Saturday (July 20), Marvel Studios got movie-goers amped in standard form by announcing their slate of movie releases for the next few years, but threw an added surprise in the mix. Not only is the studio delivering a new version of Blade, but it will be fronted by none other than Mahershala Ali. The accomplished actor, who took home Oscars for both Moonlight and Greenbook, was on-hand to celebrate the moment.

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— Dustin Sandoval @ #SDCC (@DustinMSandoval) July 21, 2019

 

 

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Just announced in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios’ BLADE with Mahershala Ali. #SDCC

A post shared by Marvel Studios (@marvelstudios) on Jul 20, 2019 at 6:43pm PDT

After the triumph of Black Panther and a host of other inclusive super hero movies in the last couple years, Ali carrying the torch after Wesley Snipes immortalized the role is a win.

The Comic Con celebrations didn't stop there. Other major Marvel titles announced starring some of our faves included Eternals in 2020 (Brian Tyree Henry), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021 (Awkwafina), THOR: Love and Thunder in 2021 (Tessa Thompson), Black Widow in 2020, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021 in theaters, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in 2020 (Anthony Mackie), WANDAVISION in 2021 (Teyonah Parris), WHAT IF...? in 2021 (Jeffrey Wright), Hawkeye in 2021, and LOKI in 2021 for their Disney+ streaming service.

No release date for Blade has been announced.

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Michelle Obama Named Most Admired Woman In The World

Michelle Obama is the most admired woman in the world according to an annual survey conducted by research firm, YouGov.The former first lady beat out previous champion, Angelina Jolie, who slipped to third place behind Oprah Winfrey, while Queen Elizabeth and British actress Emma Watson rounded out the Top 5.

Fellow former first lady, Hilary Clinton, came in at No. 8, two spaces behind activist Mala Yousafzai, and ahead of Nobel Prize winning chemist Tu Youyou, Taylor Swift, and Madonna. Current first lady Melania Trump landed near the end of the list at No. 19.

Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates was again named the world’s most admired man, a title that he has won every time that the survey has been conducted. Former President Barack Obama came in second on the men’s roster followed by Jackie Chan, Chinese president  Xi Jinping and Chinese businessman Jack Ma. The Top 10 includes footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, the Dalai Lama, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and billionaire Warren Buffet. President Donald Trump is at No. 14 on the list behind Elon Musk and just ahead of Pope Francis.

Although the women’s list changed this year, the men’s list has remained the same since last year’s survey. For the first time ever, YouGov expanded its polling to more than 42,000 people across 41 countries. Participants are asked who they truly admire where they can choose multiple options, and “who do you MOST admire” where they can only pick one person. In December, YouGov collected “opened ended nominations” with the question: “Thinking about people alive in the world today, which [man or woman] do you most admire?” The nominations were used to compile a list of 20 men and women in at least four different countries.

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Rapper Tay-K 47, whose given name is Taymor McIntyre, is on trial for the capital murder of Ethan Walker during a botched home invasion. He pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery, but not guilty to the capital murder charge.
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Tay-K Facing Up To 99 Years In Prison After Being Found Guilty Of Murder

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The 19-year-old rapper, born Taymor McIntyre, is facing five to 99 years in prison but avoided a capitol murder conviction which would have ended in automatic life in prison. The jury will likely return a sentence Monday (July 22).

During a court hearing earlier in the week, Tay-K pleaded not guilty to the murder of 21-year-old, Ethan Walker, and guilty to aggravated robbery charges in relation to injuring two other victims. “The Race” rapper, who went on the run after the incident, is one of seven people charged in the fatal robbery. Tay-K's lawyers argued that the gun that killed Walker was fired by his accomplice, Latharian Merritt. But prosecutors argued against the notion that Tay-K had no involvement in the fatal robbery as he was armed at the time.

He also stands accused of robbing and killing a 23-year-old man at a Chick-fil-A, as well a attacking and robbing a 65-year-old man while on the run from authorities in 2017.

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