Banks performing at the 2012 NME Awards
|Birth name||Azealia Amanda Banks|
|Also known as||
May 31, 1991 |
Manhattan, New York, United States
Azealia Amanda Banks (// born May 31, 1991) is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Raised in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Banks pursued an interest in musical theatre at a young age, studying at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts before dropping out to focus on her musical career. In late 2008, she adopted the pseudonym "Miss Bank$", and began releasing music through MySpace, eventually being signed to XL Recordings at age 17. After signing a recording contract with Interscope and Polydor Records, Banks came to prominence by topping NME's Cool List in 2011 and finishing third in the Sound of 2012. Her debut single "212", first extended play 1991 (2012), and first mixtape Fantasea (2012) received critical acclaim. Banks' debut studio album Broke with Expensive Taste (2014) experienced several delays since its initial announcement before being unexpectedly released to online music stores.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Personal life
- 3 Artistry
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Discography
- 6 Tours
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Life and career
Early life and career beginnings
Azealia Amanda Banks was born on May 31, 1991. Her mother raised her and two older sisters in Harlem, after their father died of pancreatic cancer when she was two years old. Following her father's death, Banks says that her mother "became really abusive—physically and verbally. Like she would hit me and my sisters with baseball bats, bang our heads up against walls, and she would always tell me I was ugly. I remember once she threw out all the food in the fridge, just so we wouldn't have anything to eat." Due to escalating violence, Banks moved out of her mother's home at age 14 to live with her older sister.
At a young age Banks became interested in musical theater, dancing, acting and singing. Aged ten, she began performing in off-Broadway musicals with the Tada! Youth Theater in Lower Manhattan. She had lead roles in three productions (Rabbit Sense, Sleepover, and Heroes) in addition to performing as a soloist. Banks attended Catholic school in Harlem in her childhood, and danced with the National Dance Institute. As a teenager she trained in the performing arts at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. At the age of sixteen, Banks starred in a production of the comedy-noir musical City of Angels, where she was found by an agent and sent on auditions for TBS, Nickelodeon, and Law & Order, all without success. It was at this point that Banks decided to end her pursuit of an acting career, citing the large amount of competition and overall sense of unfulfillment as reasons for her retirement. Because of this, Banks began writing rap and R&B songs as a creative outlet. She never finished high school, instead choosing to follow her dream of becoming a recording artist.
Under the moniker 'Miss Bank$', she released her debut recording "Gimme a Chance" onto the internet on November 9, 2008. The recording was accompanied by the self-produced track "Seventeen", which, sampling the Ladytron song of the same name, Banks sent to American DJ Diplo. Later that year, Banks signed a development deal with record label XL Recordings and began working with producer Richard Russell in London, leaving the label later that year due to conflicting ideas.
2011–12: 1991 and Fantasea
Following her departure from XL Recordings, Banks left behind the 'Miss Bank$' moniker and formally became Azealia Banks, which preceded a move to Montreal. Using YouTube as a portal, Banks uploaded several demo tracks—including "L8R" and a cover of "Slow Hands" by Interpol. After her Canadian visa expired, Banks returned to New York, where she sold key chains at a Manhattan jazz club and danced at a Queens strip club to make ends meet. "That's when I was really depressed", Banks says, "I don't have a manager, I don't have a boyfriend, I don't have any friends, I don't have any money. Here I am working at the strip club, trying not to say the wrong thing and get into fights with these girls who don't give a shit." In September 2011, Banks released her debut single "212" as a free digital download from her website, which was subsequently released officially on December 6, 2011, as the lead single from her EP 1991. The track attained European chart success, peaking at number fourteen in the Netherlands, number twelve in the United Kingdom and at number seven in Ireland.
Though unsigned at the time, Banks began working with British producer Paul Epworth on a debut studio album. It was announced in December 2011 that Banks would feature on "Shady Love", a track from American band Scissor Sisters' fourth studio album Magic Hour, though the feature would remain uncredited. An accompanying music video was released in January 2012 following its radio première from Annie Mac (BBC Radio 1) on January 4, though the release of the single was cancelled for unconfirmed reasons. Banks released the track "NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND)" on the Internet on January 16, 2012, coinciding with what would have been the thirty-third birthday of the late singer Aaliyah, who is sampled on the track. A week later saw the emergence of a second track titled "Bambi", which having been produced by Paul Epworth, had been selected as the soundtrack for a Mugler fashion show in Paris. It was then in February that Banks revealed the title of her upcoming debut album, Broke with Expensive Taste.
In May 2012, Banks announced plans to release a mixtape—originally titled Fantastic—titled Fantasea. Preceding its release was the track "Jumanji", released online on May 11. A second track from the mixtape, "Aquababe", was made available online on June 13, while the third, "Nathan"—featuring rapper Styles P—was made available online on June 30. Fantasea was released via Banks' Twitter account on July 11, and was succeeded by the unveiling of Banks' online radio project, 'Kunt.FM' the following week. Banks' first extended play, 1991, was released in the United Kingdom on May 28 and in the United States the following day. The four-track play, of which "212" featured, was not eligible for the UK Albums Chart, but the title track charted at number seventy nine on the UK Singles Chart. It also reached 133 on the US Billboard 200, while reaching number seventeen on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, number twelve on the Rap Albums chart, and number one on the Heatseekers Albums chart. In 2013, 1991 was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).
Banks was scheduled to release her second single "Esta Noche" on September 25, 2012, but the track was pulled the day of its release due to sampling disputes between Banks and the track's producer Munchi. The next month, it was confirmed that Banks had worked with Lady Gaga on two tracks titled "Ratchet" and "Red Flame". Banks also revealed that she collaborated with Kanye West on G.O.O.D. Music's compilation album, Cruel Summer, but further clarified that, ultimately, her contributions did not make the final edition of the album. It is unknown if this collaboration will see future release. On December 31, 2012, Banks released a promotional track titled "BBD", set to appear on her upcoming album Broke with Expensive Taste. The song had been originally planned for release on November 28, but was pushed back for sample clearance. The beat contains a sample of "Trap Shit V9" by ƱZ.
2013–present: Broke with Expensive Taste
Early in 2012, Banks revealed that her debut album would be called Broke with Expensive Taste, stating that the album will include contributions from various musicians including Toko Yasuda, Theophilus London, Kevin Hussein, and Ariel Pink. Banks initially announced that the album's lead single would be a track titled "Miss Amor," and that it would be accompanied by a B-side, "Miss Camaraderie," both produced by Lone. However, these plans changed when she later announced in January 2013 that the first official single from the album would be a song called "Yung Rapunxel," which was released in March 2013 through SoundCloud.
In January 2013, rapper Angel Haze initiated a Twitter feud with Banks, referring to her as a "charcoal skinned bitch"; Banks responded by tweeting that "another young black woman is on twitter making fun of my skin color?", to which Haze apologized. Blogger Perez Hilton joined in the argument by siding with Haze, after which Banks characterized him as "a messy faggot." When queried on the use of this homophobic term, she tweeted that "A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There's a BIG difference... As a bisexual person I knew what I meant when I used that word." Banks' comment was criticized by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), who stated that regardless of her intent, Banks' use of the word could encourage homophobic bullying. Banks responded with the claim that GLAAD lacked integrity; she tweeted that they were "media whores" who were "picking and choosing when to be offended" by criticizing her while ignoring other musicians who used the term "faggot". She compared the public reaction to usage of "nigger" in hip-hop culture, stating, "Why are all these other things like murder, and sex, and violence, and all these other things accepted, but as soon as I call one gay white man a faggot, his feelings are more important." Banks was publicly backed on Twitter by black gay rappers Le1f and Mykki Blanco.
The following month, Banks was involved in another dispute over her posting a remix of American producer Baauer's song, "Harlem Shake", featuring her added vocals, which Baauer asked her to remove. After the remix was taken down, Banks later re-posted it along with emails showing Baauer had stated he liked her version, with Banks stating she was asked to take it down as Baauer did not wish to officially release her version, and he wanted to feature rapper Juicy J instead. After the feud, which included a tweet directed toward Baauer where Banks stated "may you drown in faggotry", LGBT publication The Advocate noted "The last time [she] used a gay slur on Twitter [...] her album sales went up by 18%." On June 8, 2014, Banks apologized for her use of the words on her Twitter account after performing at LA Pride.
In May 2013, Banks announced that the second single from Broke with Expensive Taste would be "ATM Jam", featuring Pharrell. The next month, on June 29, Banks debuted the song in a performance at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival, with New York City radio station Hot 97 premiering a clean, shortened version of the studio recording three days later on July 2. On July 11, 2013, the full studio version of "ATM Jam" was released on BBC Radio 1, and was released for digital download on September 29, 2013. Banks later confirmed in November 2013 that "ATM Jam" will not be appearing on Broke with Expensive Taste due to poor sales.
In late August 2013, Banks announced that she would be releasing a sequel to her 2012 mixtape Fantasea, titled Fantasea II: The Second Wave. The announcement was accompanied by a track entitled "Count Contessa" being posted to Banks' account on SoundCloud. In February 2014, Banks stated in an interview with Forbes that Broke with Expensive Taste would be officially released in summer 2014. Banks announced in mid-July that after a long battle, she had parted ways with Universal Music Group. Banks reportedly has possession and the rights to the work she released with Interscope.
On 28 July 2014 Banks released her new single "Heavy Metal and Reflective", on her own label, Azealia Banks Records. This was followed by "Chasing Time" on 22 September. Banks surprise-released her debut studio album, Broke with Expensive Taste on iTunes on November 6, 2014. In an interview for NME Magazine, Banks revealed that her third studio album, entitled Business and Pleasure, would be released in 2016, preceded by her second album Fantasea II: The Second Wave in mid 2015.
A commentator at Splice Today described Banks as having "that hot New York temper where she will pop off if you cross her the wrong way".
Banks identifies as bisexual. During the few instances where she has discussed her sexuality with the press, Banks has expressed dissatisfaction with society's labeling of others based on sexual orientation. In an interview with The New York Times, Banks stated, "I'm not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don't live on other people's terms." Banks has been cited as a gay icon with a predominantly gay fan following. In February 2015, she attracted media attention for publicly criticizing the "gay white media", believing that it uses "homophobia as a means to try and victimize itself and scar the names of its opponents." She questioned why the gay press had heavily criticized her for using the term "faggot" while gay men colloquially refer to women as "bitches". Noting that both terms were associated with violent abuse, she asked "Do gay men get a special pass to say misogynist things simply because they like dick?".
Banks is known for publicly speaking out on African-American civil rights issues. In December 2014 she called for over $100 trillion to be paid to African-Americans as financial reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors, citing U.S. reparations to Native American communities and the German reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust as a precedent. Using Twitter, she urged young African-Americans to take an interest in such issues, adding that "We are the children of the people who perished in the name of modern capitalism and we deserve a piece of that fucking pie." She added that reparations could be used to improve educational prospects for black Americans.
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Banks has said she admires American recording artists Beyoncé and Aaliyah stating the former "[is] the queen of everything. She's the most remarkable performer and musician. And this is just my humble opinion, but I just think she's better than everyone else making music right now." Banks also cites Bajan pop singer, Rihanna and house singer, Crystal Waters as influences. Banks is inspired by, and has drawn directly upon, black gay culture, such as the film Paris is Burning, in her music.
AllMusic characterizes Banks as "a stylish vocalist who combines hardcore hip-hop, indie pop, and dance music." In regards to her musical style, Banks has frequently been noted for the use of profanity in many of her songs, particularly her reclamation of the word "cunt", examples including her debut single "212", in which she uses the word more than ten times, or other songs such as "Fierce", in which she refers to herself as the "cunt queen". Banks attributes this to her upbringing in Harlem, saying, "...I'm from Harlem. I went to art school; I grew up with the cunts. And that term doesn't come from me! People think I invented it, but I didn't. To be cunty is to be feminine and to be, like, aware of yourself. Nobody's fucking with that inner strength and delicateness. The cunts, the gay men, adore that. My friends would say, 'Oh you need to cunt it up! You're being too banjee.' Banjee means unrefined and rough. You need your cunts: they fix your hair for you and do your makeup. They give you confidence and give you life." In addition, Banks uses the word as a term of endearment for her fanbase, known as the "Kunt Brigade". She is also known for her often fast-paced rapping, or "flow". In a review of Banks' debut EP 1991, Chris Dart of Exclaim! found Banks' rapping speed "remarkable", commenting that she "manages a feat that takes most rappers the better part of a career to master: the perfect marriage of bangin', club-friendly beats and smart, crisply delivered lyrics".
Since writing "212", Banks has adopted an alter-ego named "Yung Rapunxel". This alter-ego was adapted from Banks referring to herself as Rapunzel, due to a long weave she wore while working at Starbucks as a teenager. Banks discussed this with Rolling Stone saying, "Yung Rapunxel is that girl who pisses people off but doesn't really mean to. She's actually a sweetheart! But people are so taken aback that she's so herself; she's not even trying to be unique or different. She literally just lives in her head; she does what she wants to do. So, the lipstick is here for someone who is happy to be themself."
Banks has been involved in numerous public disputes with other artists, typically via social media.
After Iggy Azalea was featured on XXL magazine's fifth annual "Freshman cover", Azealia Banks responded with a series of tweets stating that their choice to include Iggy Azalea in their list was wrong in her opinion and that Iggy Azalea had tried to "trivialize very serious aspects" of African American culture by referring to herself as a "runaway slave master" among other things. Iggy Azalea responded with several tweets stating that she was "pro people".
After Banks' comments about Iggy Azalea, Azalea's co worker and fellow rapper T.I. defended Iggy Azalea and said that Banks should "hope to get shelved so she can wait around for next year’s Freshman cover". Banks responded with a paragraph that dissed T.I.'s involvement in the situation and also said that she was just questioning why other artists like Rapsody, Nitty Scott, and Angel Haze weren't included. Later on, T.I. said ""That's bitch shit, I'ma man. You ain't got no business addressing me. Get your man to address me, if you got a man, get him to address me and he and I can speak on it."
Mitchell Sunderland, blogger and Vice associate editor, wrote a piece titled "My Bizarre Twitter Beef with Azealia Banks and Her Homophobia." In response to the piece, Banks tweeted at Sunderland, "do you know that your mother pushed you out of a pussy?" The two engaged in a heated exchange and traded barbs over a period of days, with Banks stating, "and even if i am a homophobe… so wat? i still make more $ than you.. still have an extra hole.. and still own everything." In response, Queerty posted an article titled "Azealia Banks Says She’s Too Rich To Care If You Think She’s A Homophobe".
James DeWolf Perry
On December 26, 2014, Banks posted comments to her Twitter account, stating that the descendants of prominent slave-trading families "should all have their houses burned and their finances seized." She also sent direct messages to James DeWolf Perry, a descendant of James DeWolf, who was an eighteenth century politician, and slave-owner, demanding details about his finances, adding "I think white men all need to be locked away in a psych ward… Considering the atrocities committed by white men ON THE WORLD" and "someone should kick your ass, and punch you right in your stupid smiling cracker face."
Banks has also had minor online spats with Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique, Lil' Kim, Nicki Minaj, Jim Jones, Angel Haze, Baauer, Diplo, Rita Ora, ASAP Rocky, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, Pharrell, Action Bronson, Lupe Fiasco, and Perez Hilton.
- Broke with Expensive Taste (2014)
- Mermaid Ball (2012–2013)
- Broke with Expensive Taste Preview Tour (2014)
- Broke with Expensive Taste Tour (2015)
Awards and nominations
|2011||BBC Sound of 2012||Sound of 2012||Herself||Third|
|2012||NME Awards||Philip Hall Radar Award||Won|
|Billboard Awards||New Style Icon||Won|
|O Music Awards||Best Web-Born Artist||Nominated|
|Urban Music Awards||Best Single||"212"||Won|
|Best International Artist||Herself||Nominated|
|Artist of the Year||Nominated|
|MOBO Awards||Best International Act||Nominated|
|2013||NME Awards||Villain of the Year||Nominated|
|BET Awards||Best Female Hip Hop Artist||Nominated|
|Best New Artist||Nominated|
|Billboard Mid-Year Awards||Most Memorable Feud||Nominated|
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"May you drown in faggotry". [...] The last time bisexual rapper used a gay slur on Twitter [...] her album sales went up by 18% [...]
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