Azealia Banks
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Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks
Azealia Banks in a hat performing on stage.
Banks performing at the 2012 NME Awards
Born
Azealia Amanda Banks

(1991-05-31) May 31, 1991 (age 27)
Occupation
  • Rapper
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
Musical career
Miss Bank$
Genres
2008-present
Labels
Araabmuzik, Diplo, Kaytranada, Lone, Lunice, Machinedrum, Grimes
Websiteazealiabanks.com

Azealia Amanda Banks (; born May 31, 1991) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and actress. Raised in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, she began releasing music through Myspace in 2008 before being signed to XL Recordings when she was 17 years old.[2] In 2011, her song "212" went viral and entered several international charts. Banks subsequently signed with Interscope and Polydor Records.

Banks has released two mixtapes (Fantasea in 2012 and Slay-Z in 2016), one studio album (Broke with Expensive Taste in 2014), and one extended play (1991 in 2012). Her long-delayed second studio album, Fantasea II: The Second Wave, awaits release; the lead single, "Anna Wintour", was released in April 2018.[3]

Throughout her career, Banks' social media presence and outspoken views, specifically regarding U.S. politics and race, have attracted significant controversy, criticism, and media scrutiny.[4][5]

Life and career

Early life and career beginnings

Azealia Amanda Banks was born the youngest of three girls on May 31, 1991, in New York City's Manhattan borough.[6][7] Her mother raised her and two older sisters in Harlem, after their father died of pancreatic cancer when she was two years old.[8] 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.[9]

At a young age Banks became interested in musical theater, dancing, acting and singing. At the age of 16, 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.[2] 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.[10] 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.[6]

Under the moniker Miss Bank$, she released her debut recording "Gimme a Chance" online on November 9, 2008.[2] The recording was accompanied by the self-produced track "Seventeen", which sampled the Ladytron song of the same name. Banks sent both tracks to American DJ Diplo.[11] 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.[12][13]

2011-2012: 1991 and Fantasea

Richard [Russell] was cool, but as soon as I didn't want to use his beats, it got real sour. He wound up calling me "amateur" and the XL interns started talking shit about me. It just got real fucking funny. I was like, "I didn't come here for a date. I came here to cut some fucking records." I got turned off on the music industry and disappeared for a bit. I went into a bit of a depression.

--Banks talking of her departure from XL Recordings[13]

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.[2] "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."[2]

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.[14] The track attained European moderate chart success, peaking at #14 in the Netherlands, #12 in the United Kingdom and at #7 in Ireland.[15][16][17]

Banks performing at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2012.

Though unsigned at the time, Banks began working with British producer Paul Epworth on a debut studio album.[18] 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 premiere from Annie Mac (BBC Radio 1) on January 4,[19] 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 33rd birthday of the late singer Aaliyah, who is sampled on the track.[20] 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 Thierry Mugler fashion show in Paris.[21]

In May 2012, Banks announced plans to release a mixtape--originally titled Fantastic--titled Fantasea.[22] Preceding its release the tracks "Jumanji",[23] "Aquababe",[24] and "Nathan" (featuring rapper Styles P) were made available online.[25]Fantasea was released via Banks' Twitter account on July 11,[26] and was succeeded by the unveiling of Banks' online radio project, Kunt.FM the following week.[27]

Banks' first EP, 1991, was released in the UK on May 28 and in the US the following day.[28] The 4-track EP, which includes 212, was not eligible for the UK Albums chart, but the title track charted at #79 on the UK Singles chart.[29] It also reached 133 on the US 200,[30] while reaching #17 on the US R&B/Hip-Hop chart,[31] #12 on the US Rap chart,[32] and headin' US Heat chart.[33] In 2013, 1991 was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association.[34]

Banks was scheduled to release her second single "Esta Noche", from the Fantasea mixtape, 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.[35] The next month, it was confirmed that Banks had worked with Lady Gaga on two tracks, titled "Ratchet" and "Red Flame" for Gaga's third studio album, Artpop (2013); however, they did not make the final album cut, and have since not been released.[36] 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 cut of the album.[36][37] On December 31, 2012, Banks released a track titled "BBD", which ultimately appeared on her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste.

2013-2017: Broke with Expensive Taste, Slay-Z, and Love Beats Rhymes

Banks performing at Life Ball 2013.

Early in 2012, Banks revealed that her debut album would be called Broke with Expensive Taste, and said that the album would include contributions from various musicians including Toko Yasuda, Theophilus London, Kevin Hussein, and Ariel Pink.[38][39] 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.[40] 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.[41][42]

In May 2013, Banks announced that the second single from Broke with Expensive Taste would be "ATM Jam", featuring Pharrell.[43] The next month, on June 29, Banks debuted the song in a performance at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival,[44] with New York City radio station Hot 97 premiering a clean, shortened version of the studio recording three days later on July 2.[45] On July 11, 2013, the full studio version of "ATM Jam" was released on BBC Radio 1,[46] and was released for digital download on August 30, 2013.[47] Banks later confirmed in November 2013 that "ATM Jam" would not be appearing on Broke with Expensive Taste due to poor sales.[48]

Banks performing at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival.

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.[49] On July 28, 2014, Banks released the official second single from Broke with Expensive Taste, titled "Heavy Metal and Reflective", on her own label, Azealia Banks Records. This was followed by "Chasing Time", the third single from the project, on September 22.[]

Banks surprise-released her debut studio album, Broke with Expensive Taste on to iTunes, on November 7, 2014,[50] while the album got its physical release on March 3, 2015.[51] In February 2015, Banks posed nude for the April issue of Playboy, shot by Ellen von Unwerth.[52] In May 2015, it was announced that Banks would be making her acting debut as the main character in the RZA-directed musical drama film Coco (now known as Love Beats Rhymes).[53] Months later, Banks revealed that she was unable to release new music until March 2016,[54] however, as of February 2016 she is officially cleared of her contract and able to release new music. In February 2016, Banks released a new single, "The Big Big Beat", with its official video uploaded to Vevo in April.[55] Her mixtape, Slay-Z, was released March 24, 2016.[56] In July 2017, Banks' 2016 mixtape Slay-Z was reissued to iTunes, Spotify, and other online music stores under her independent record label Chaos & Glory Recordings.

In late 2016, Banks announced her business endeavors by opening up an online shopping store called CheapyXo. Banks sells skin-care products, clothing, and celebrity merchandise through the website.[57] After a year long hiatus from touring, Banks returned to New York City to embark on a North American tour with 20 dates across the U.S. and Canada. The tour began on October 4 in Chicago and concluded on October 31 in San Francisco.[58] Banks also performed across Europe in a handful of shows during 2017.

2018: Fantasea II: The Second Wave and Icy Colors Change EP

Banks announced that her next project will be Fantasea II: The Second Wave, a follow-up to her 2012 mixtape Fantasea.[59] On February 17, 2017, Banks released a Lunice collaboration, titled "Crown", to music-streaming service SoundCloud as a promotional single, before the release of her sophomore album.[60] On June 5, 2017, Banks released the song "Chi Chi".[61] On June 26, 2017, Banks released another promotional single from her third mixtape to SoundCloud titled, "Escapades".[62]

On January 31, 2018, Banks announced that she had signed a $1 million record deal with Entertainment One.[63] On March 9, 2018, she released "Movin' On Up", which featured Newbody, to iTunes and other streaming platforms as the 4th promotional single from Fantasea II: The Second Wave.[64]

In March 2018, she announced that the first official single from her forthcoming album would be "Anna Wintour". It was released on April 6, 2018, and the official music video for the single was released on May 24, 2018.[65][66]

On July 6, a second single, "Treasure Island", was released.[67][68]

In November, Banks announced on her Instagram account that she would be releasing an Christmas Themed Extended Play on December 7, 2018 named "Icy Colors Change". A demo of the title track was released in December 2017. The project will follow more jazz oriented sounds.

Personal life

Banks identifies as bisexual.[69] 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."[8]

Banks is known for publicly speaking out on African-American civil rights issues, with a commentator at Splice Today describing Banks as having "that hot New York temper where she will pop off if you cross her the wrong way".[70][71] 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.[71][72] 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."[71][72] She added that reparations could be used to improve educational prospects for black Americans.[71]

In 2016, Banks took to Twitter to express her endorsement of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, clarifying that "I have no hope for America...I think Donald Trump is evil like America is evil and in order for America to keep up with itself it needs him...politicians are inherently evil, I trust the one who is most transparent."[73] Banks retracted her endorsement of Trump in October 2016, posting on Facebook, "i made a major mistake endorsing toupey-toupee. Womens rights are important and we must protect them."[74] After Trump won the presidency, Banks posted "He is my fucking hero right now. I am elated."[75]

In July 2016, Banks admitted to lightening her skin and defended the process of skin bleaching.[76]

In December 2016, Banks posted that she had a miscarriage and that she was "pretty taken aback by it all."[77] She went on to ask her fans for advice and support, posting, "Has anyone else had this same experience who cares to share some words of wisdom or words of anything regarding this topic?"[77]

Artistry

Banks has said she admires American recording artists Beyoncé, Britney Spears[] 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."[69] Banks is inspired by, and has drawn directly upon, black gay culture, such as the film Paris is Burning, in her music.[70]

AllMusic characterizes Banks as "a stylish vocalist who combines hardcore hip-hop, indie pop, and dance music."[79] Meanwhile, The Guardians John Robinson considered Banks' style "an appealing blend of Missy Elliott and dance-pop."[80] 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",[81][82][83] 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".[84][85] 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."[69] She is also known for her often fast-paced rapping, or "flow".[83] 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".[86]

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."[69]

Controversies

Banks has developed a reputation for disputes with public figures on social media,[5] particularly Twitter, with Complex noting that "she gets more attention for her public feuds than she does for her music".[4] She has had feuds with people such as Cardi B, Zayn Malik, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, Action Bronson, Lil' Kim, Skai Jackson, Rita Ora, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams and Angel Haze.[87]

On September 22, 2015, Banks became involved in a confrontation with a fellow passenger and the flight crew while attempting to exit a Delta Air Lines flight that had just landed in Los Angeles. According to witnesses, Banks was attempting to squeeze past other passengers to disembark the plane more quickly, when a French man blocked her path. Banks reacted by spitting in the man's face, punching him, and clawing at his shirt. Subsequently, a flight attendant stepped in and demanded that Banks calm down. This resulted in Banks forcefully arguing with the flight attendant, in which she at one point called the Delta employee a "fucking faggot".[88] On November 10, 2015, it was reported Banks was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department following an altercation involving the rapper and a security guard at L.A. club Break Room 86.[89] Later that year, Banks was arrested in New York after attacking a female security guard.[90]

In March 2016, Sarah Palin threatened a lawsuit against Banks in response to a series of tweets where she attacked the politician, calling for "the biggest burliest blackest negroes" to "run a train on her", and for someone to "film it and put it on worldstar."[91] Banks later apologized and said that her outburst was a result of her mistaking a fictional interview with Palin as a real event.[92] In the satirical article, Palin is quoted as saying "Negroes loved being slaves."[93]

In May 2016, Banks was dropped by her UK booking agency and removed from headlining the grime and hip-hop festival Born & Bred following racist and homophobic tweets to Zayn Malik. Her Twitter account was also blocked after a succession of tweets directed at Malik.[94]

In October 2016, Banks attended a party hosted by Russell Crowe as a guest of RZA. She filed a police report against Crowe, claiming that he choked her, spat on her, and called her a nigger.[95] RZA later claimed that Banks instigated the incident, and denied hearing Crowe call her a nigger.[96] A year after the incident, RZA admitted that Crowe did spit towards Banks.[97]

Discography

Studio albums

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2005 The American Ruling Class Empire Falls Singer and Dancer Feature film
2017 Love Beats Rhymes Coco Feature film

Tours

Headlining

Featured act

  • ShockWaves NME Awards Tour (2012)

Awards and nominations

Year Organization Award Work Result
2011 BBC Sound of 2012[12] Herself Third
Rober Awards Music Poll Most Promising New Artist Won
Best Dance Anthem "212"
2012 NME Awards Dancefloor Anthem Nominated
Philip Hall Radar Award[12] Herself Won
mtvU Woodie Awards The Breaking Woodie Nominated
O Music Awards Best Web-Born Artist[101]
Urban Music Awards Best Single[102][103] "212" Won
Best International Artist[102] Herself Nominated
Artist of the Year[102]
MOBO Awards Best International Act[104]
2013 NME Awards Villain of the Year[105]
UK Music Video Awards Best Urban Video - Budget "Atlantis"
BET Awards Best Female Hip Hop Artist[106] Herself
Best New Artist[106]
International Dance Music Awards Best Rap/Hip-Hop Dance Track "212"
2014 Billboard.com Mid-Year Music Awards Most Memorable Feud Herself vs T.I.
Rober Awards Music Poll Best R&B Herself
2015 BET Awards Best Female Hip Hop Artist[107]
International Dance Music Awards Best Rap/Hip-Hop/Trap Dance Track "Heavy Metal and Reflective"
A2IM Libera Awards Groundbreaking Album of the Year Broke with Expensive Taste
Rober Awards Music Poll Floorfiller of the Year "Trap Queen" (with Fetty Wap) (Remix with Quavo & Gucci Mane)
2016 Music Society Awards Hip-Hop Recording of the Year "Ice Princess"
Hip-Hop Album of the Year Broke with Expensive Taste
2017 Slay-Z
Best Urban Album
Best Hip-Hop Recording of the Year "The Big Big Beat"
Artist of the Year, Female - Hip-Hop Herself

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