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AZEALIA BANKS IS THE REAL DEAL

An Appreciation

Last week I went on a reconnaissance mission. Azealia Banks had scheduled a show in DTLA at Club Nokia, in between two very high-profile Coachella dates. Full disclosure: I’m a genuine fan since the 212 days. Her debut studio album Broke With Expensive Taste is a fabulous due to her genuine skill as a rapper, plus a Rihanna-level taste factor when it comes to beat selection and curation.

Not every artist is great at this, you know. Most of them are heavily A&R’d with teams of people who spend months taking meetings and seeking out beats, and even if “Artist A” wants a say, I’d say 80% of signed talent don’t have the instincts to be productive in that realm. Banks is not that. She’s an independent force of fuck-off-if-you-can’t-understand-it. Otherwise known as the Real Deal.

Part of the reason her new album received such glowing reviews is that the music is a direct extension of her, and it’s some exciting shit. Azealia's musical vibe is as hectic, exhilarating, brave and hardcore as she is. At the end of the day it’s a party, a great one, and you will dance and sing along with those hooks. She’s just dope. So I had to check her out in her natural environment—away from the hipster douchebags at the Coachella fashion show and among her own fans who paid to be there. I took my younger sister Jen who lives downtown and had never heard of Azealia, to gauge the impression on a newbie to the scene.

It was eye-opening, to say the least.

There’s a serious movement brewing around Ms. Banks. The attending audience said it all—she has a true connection with her fans—who are tastemakers in their own right. Peeps, I've spent waaaay too many years studying a crowd from my days as a DJ, program director, talent scout, blah-blah, onward—that I know how to read the tea leaves, and see the markings of something huge. That is exactly what is happening here: something fucking huge. The energy was crazy and FIRE all night.

Forming an opinion about this artist by peering through the lens of mainstream media—who report on her unfiltered, antagonistic rants and celebrity feuds on Twitter with a regularity typically reserved for the biggest of super stars—would be like taking a picture of a shadow to try and glimpse a true reflection.

It is a murky version of the whole.

Onstage Banks exuded power, confidence and unbelievable skill. Her music is edgy and aggressive, and backed by a live band she called “1500 or Nothing,” Banks mobbed through a nonstop stream of jams from her whole repertoire; music that encompasses a crazy range of genres from house to UK garage, punk, trance and trap music. All the hypest cuts from her EP 1991 and mixtape Fantasea were included, and of course she was killing every joint from Broke With Expensive Taste.

The attending throng was transformed into a hip-hop rave, leaping in the air in unison as Banks handled her business with precision, flow on fleek, over tracks that linger in the 125 BPM range. Theophilus London, who appears on the track “JFK,” made a special appearance onstage, and on “Yung Rapunxel” she belted out the hook into a megaphone—the extra theatrics being highly entertaining.

But what revealed the true nature of her the most are her FANS! This was the biggest shocker of all.

 Banks has been widely blasted as “homophobic,” ironic considering she’s bisexual but again, a reaction to her comments on social media. Miss Thing has indeed picked a fight with a gay or two—and reacted like any fierce drag queen would if you come for her—by reading them.

“Reading” for all you non-gay culture knowers or RuPaul’s Drag Race viewers, is defined as the following: to wittily and incisively expose a person's flaws (i.e. "reading them like a book") often exaggerating or elaborating on them; an advanced format of the insult. For more information on this drag dynamic, go to Netflix and watch the fantastic documentary Paris Is Burning.

If Banks is reacting with the personality of a drag queen—then maybe it’s her vernacular that’s misunderstood or taken out of context because we don't get intent behind it. She's reading these queens who come for her, and they feel some kinda way when she checks them. So? Have you ever tried to talk shit to a Black Queen? Honey. It will be the last time you do so, trust. Important to mention: this is a woman who affectionately calls her fans “Kunts."

The audience was a swirling mixture of young gay hipster kids and cutting edge straights of all races, evenly split between females and males, dressed in assorted creative expressions reminiscent of Gaga’s Little Monsters, communing in a spirit of utter devotion to their new high priestess of “Bitchcraft” (their word). Struck by what a stark contrast this crowd was to the controversial image of bigotry fixed to Banks these days, I began asking concertgoers what they love about her. Original, Unconventional, Fearless, and Realness were the common descriptors, all lovingly wrapped around the words "That Bitch."

Bottom line is these kids know exactly who she is and they Love her for it. And my sister Jen? She freaked out with excitement and immediately wanted to know everything about Azealia's music. New fan attained.

Watch out for this tsunami. The wave is rolling in and it will hell and high water when it finally hits.

That Bitch ain't playin'.

 

 

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