Mish Stampfli • 21 July 2012

Azealia Banks is so hot she leaves a burning trail of fire behind her wherever she goes. The 21 year old rap sensation is on her way to Australia for the first time for ‘Splendour In The Grass’. Groupie decided to take a look at the girl behind the buzz, who will no doubt be one of the star attractions at this year’s festival.

Harlem Hussy

It may seem like Azealia Banks appeared overnight from nowhere, but she’s been slogging it out as performer since a kid. Raised by a single mother in Harlem, Azealia showed an aptitude for performing. She attended Manhattan’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and spent much of her teen years acting, but soon turned her sights to music. As a 16 year old, in 2008, she hooked up with production guru Diplo and released the single ‘Seventeen’. The Ladytron-sampling track caught the attention of record label XL and she soon inked a deal. But things with the record company didn’t work out. Feeling lost and alone Banks drew on the inspiration of these failed attempts and came up with ‘212’ …

212, F-You

The track ‘212’ is a ‘fuck you’ to everyone who didn’t believe in her, built around driving dance production and utilizing a sample of Lazy Jay’s ‘Float My Boat’. But it’s the rude girl lyrics that catch the attention. The song contains some of the most sexually provocative lines heard in ages, one can’t sing ‘212’ at mums house for instance. But dropping the c-bomb and not letting it take away from what you’re trying to say actually takes, weirdly, a lot of grace.  For all the trash talk however, the sung chorus, ‘why you procrastinating girl,’ shows chinks in the ‘rude bitch’ armour, revealing the young girl who wants to make it big. The track featured on many ‘best of 2011’ lists including Pitchfork and NME, and The Guardian described it as “a startling three and a half minutes of attitude”. Azealia is magnetic because she’s rude, vitriolic and angry, but she does it in a way that’s not just about the shock value. Her cuss words almost get lost in the smoothness of her flow, and as a rapper complete with a good singing voice, its apparent, as Nas has said, that “she’s the total package.”

Mickey Mouse Club

Azealia didn’t just demand attention cause she’s a self-confessed rude bitch. Her personality did it too. We were all completely captivated by the brutally honest and self-assured 21 year-old in the black and white clip for ‘212’. Banks’ look is all childish fashion, uber long hair and lip gloss. Her toothy smile and cutesy outfit is the antithesis of a dirty-mouth rap star – and part of the reason why everyone has embraced her. While she may say ‘I’m going to ruin you c*nt’, it’s juxtaposed by the Mickey Mouse jumpers, silk blouses, popsicles and pastel coloured bikes that is her style. In her interviews, she talks more like a teenager than a hardened rap star, more likely to drop a billion ‘likes’ into a conversation than an expletive. And it’s working. The clip has over 21 million views on youtube and it’s no thing to grab t-shirts featuring ‘212’s naughtiest lyrics emblazoned on the front. The fashionistas are embracing her too, recently French magazine ‘Dossier Journal’ photographer Michael Flores shot Banks in a 50’s sexy housewife look, while Lady Gaga’s style guru Nicola Formichetti styled recent video ‘Liquorice’.

The year of the Banks

Appearing on this year’s BBC’s Sound of 2012 list gave weight to the fact that the music world viewed Banks as more than a one hit wonder. Now signed to Universal, respected producer Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence & The Machine) is on board to produce her debut long player, due out later this year.

But it’s Banks’ confidence that is the greatest indicator of her ability to go far, as she told Self Titled mag “I really feel like I’m going to change the scope of pop music.” And when asked by GQ who she is listening to as inspiration for her first album she said: “Everyone, but mostly Azealia Banks”. And it’s not everyday a brand new artist to the scene would reveal their bisexuality, self assuredly saying “I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don’t live on other people’s terms”

Which seems to sum up this fierce ingénue, she’s not doing what other people have done before her, and we for one, can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

Catch Azealia Banks at Splendour In The Grass, July 27 – 29, Belongil Fields Byron Bay. 
1991 - EP - Azealia Banks