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Azealia Banks’ Attack of Ballroom Music Is Cheap and Ahistorical

Azealia Banks

Looks like Miss Azealia “Pick A Fight With Literally Anyone On This Earth” Banks is back and is ready for her latest tête-à-tête. In a series of posts to her Instagram story Monday, the rapper goes from airing out some “shady industry shit” on Teyana Taylor’s team (apparently they were trying to get “Anna Wintour” producer Junior Sanchez to remix “WTP” when Banks feels they should just give her a feature instead) to taking a few shots at the commentators of the ballroom scene. Tragic.

“That’s why the ballroom girls are mad,” she said in the dimly lit video.“I already took it and I gave y’all literature; I gave the ballroom girls literature. I gave you ‘Bambi belle of the ball, banji better than ‘em all, never been a flaw,’ That’s why all the [DJ] Mike Qs, and all them girls, that’s why they can’t fuckin’ take me. That’s why they mad at me. Because I gave them more than hat-tada-tat-da-dat-tat-tat and cun-cu-cu-cunt cu-cunt-cunt-cunt.” For his part, Mike Q has not only chopped and screwed the audio from the post into a track but alluded to some behind the scenes drama with he and Azealia.

With her last line, Banks was referencing a common style of ballroom commentation, arguably popularized by Ranika Prodigy, where at times instead of actually coming up with lyrics, commentators essentially emote on the mic, providing their own sound effects along with the track. The style requires the person on the mic to understand the nuances of performance, essentially providing simply energy for whoever is walking to vibe off of. Which, to be frank, is actually not easy to do well.

“Literally the art of the ‘ballroom song’ is in my hand. It’s been in my hand for a long time. I ate the girls with ‘what you gon’ do when I appear? When I premiere?!’ They’re mad,” she continued. “I’m really the top poet; the top ballroom poet. You see all the new gay rappers, they all got Azealia Banks flow. They all got Azealia Banks flow and they’re not eating it. I brought musicality to it. The girls just be on Tina talking ‘bout ‘hrrraaat-ka-ka-kat rrraa-ka-ka.”

But that’s not true, and Banks knows it. Though emoting or percussion commentating is popular, ballroom has a long and storied past with narrative commentation. It, like any other genre, is an art form with many subgenres. MC Debra, Dashaun Lanvin and Precious Ebony freestyle with the best of them, taking something that happens in real time and turning it into a chant. At the aftermath for the Latex Ball in 2018, when someone spilled water on the floor halting a category, Dashaun turned it into a song. That happened this weekend as well when Jack Mizrahi (another lyricist) said someone’s underarms smelled and Precious turned that into a song.

Soundcloud and Spotify can prove a treasure trove for these types of tracks from the likes of Leggoh Labeija with his songs “I Chant, You Vogue” and “My Corridor (Too Many People In My House).” Outside of that, there’s tracks like “Three Blind Mice” and the ballroom diss track “Serious.” I’ve heard commentations about hookups gone awry, about getting scammed out of coin and let us not forget “Bubble Drip” with Precious and the late legendary Kassandra Ebony.

It’s curious that Azealia would attempt to punch down in this way, discarding the legacy of a subculture only because she has a larger platform. Particularly when she consistently, over the years, has shown love to the ballroom track “Feels Like A Fem Queen” which involves neither a tongue trill nor a “kat-kat.”  

So, what now?

RELATED | Miley Cyrus Is, Like, Totally Into Voguing Right Now

Tags: Music, Ballroom

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