Azealia Banks is not a role model. Earlier this year, while at least half a million women traveled to Washington, D.C. to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, she was doubling down on her support for the president and offering to host his inauguration with professional shithead Milo Yabbadabbadopolous. A few months before that, she earned the dubious distinction of losing a public relations battle with famed phone-hurler Russell Crowe, both of whom claimed to have been assaulted by the other at a private party with the RZA (seriously, you can’t make this shit up). Hell, this very week she seems to have decided to usher in Women’s History Month in her own inimitable way, by failing to show up to a court appearance for a 2015 incident in which she allegedly bit a female nightclub bouncer’s breast.
In short, Azealia Banks is a disaster. She’s as messy as those cheap-ass weaves she wears: like Kanye West on steroids, but without the occasional flashes of humility. For every time she authentically speaks truth to power–or at least Iggy Azalea–there are a dozen other times when she comes out in support of skin bleaching, or claims that as a woman she should be able to use homophobic slurs, or uses white supremacy as an excuse to hurl racial invective at the Muslim kid from One Direction. And yet, for better or worse, I just can’t quit her. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no longer following her on social media, and am generally trying to ignore her antics until she puts out some more good music. But I also can’t help but maintain a grudging admiration for the sheer paucity of fucks she gives. Banks’ brand of feminism may be just a hair shy of nihilism, but she’s a defiant, unruly woman in a culture that still demands feminine propriety, and for that, at least, she has my respect.
And then, of course, there’s “212”: Banks’ 2011 debut single, a breakout so impressive it almost–almost–justifies the ensuing six years of self-sabotage. This is everything I love about Azealia Banks, minus the bullshit. It’s brazen, raunchy, and drops the “C-word” like most rappers drop the “N-word.” Banks claims the title of “rude bitch” and wears it like a badge of honor, employing the kind of weaponized hypersexuality that tends to make straight men squirm; in the music video, she’s shown shouting the lyrics directly into the ear of a nerdy, white blogger type (I don’t take it personally). It’s also an effortless showcase of her versatility as a performer: she can rap and sing, and does both with a manic energy that is as infectious as it is, in retrospect, a little scary. Does “212” make up for the emotional and physical damage Azealia Banks has done, to herself and others? Emphatically, no; she’s still problematic as fuck. But problematic women are also worth discussing, and “212” just might be their anthem.
We’ll be back tomorrow with a (probably) less problematic woman to discuss. You can follow our Spotify and YouTube playlists below: