If you want to see artistry at its best, you should watch Azealia Banks's mesmerizing performance at this year's Coachella Music Festival, where she nimbly bopped about on stage as she sang and rapped with an ease reserved for a talented few (I'd like to think that the New York City native is chief among them). The roughly hour-long session was aided by the delicious rhythms of her long-awaited debut studio album Broke With Expensive Taste, which I happily own and blare on a semi-regular basis. Try listening to "Wallace" without moving your shoulders to the beat. If you remain stationary, though, just humor me for the sake of this piece.
But if you want to see ignorance at its best, you should watch the brief clip currently circulating the Web that shows Azealia Banks shouting the word "faggot" at a white Delta Airlines flight attendant earlier this week. It's the latest incident to plague the acclaimed performer and much-maligned media persona whose name is frequently accompanied with a sigh and lingering eye-roll, particularly among gay men, because of her persistent use of the derogatory slur despite repeated pleas to stop.
I met these various shades of "Yung Rapunxel" during an in-depth conversation in February for SiriusXM's LGBT channel (a portion of which can be heard below), where we specifically address her use of the word "faggot." The diminutive starlet, who was fully aware of the outlet with which she was speaking to, cautiously entered the studio with a multi-colored, ruffled jacket that framed the words "I Have No Tits" on her short black tank top. It became immediately clear that homegirl came to play.
Now I was chosen to interview Miss Banks for several reasons: I'm a legitimate fan of her work (see: "Wallace" above); we're close in age; and as a fellow queer person of color, she'd likely find comfort in our exchange. And we actually hit it off quite early in our chat, talking about the effect New York City and ball culture have each had on her art. Oh, and we found out we're neighbors--go figure!
Yet I don't think that connection, how ever deep it went, influenced her candor, especially when I transitioned from praising her music to dissecting her Twitter troubles. Say what you want about the bisexual rapper, but she was definitely born with an insane ability to speak her mind freely and bulldoze those who obstruct her individuality, which I respect as a non-confrontational person, myself. Azealia, quite simply, just doesn't give a fuck.
In response to my questioning, she was quick to point out that she consciously taunts white gay men with the word "faggot" because she feels excluded by them as a member of the LGBT community. But she also claims to reserve the epithet for misogynists, no matter their sexual orientation. In fact, Azealia credits her mother with defining "faggots" as "men who just want to bring women down and...control them," or those who refuse to let women be independent.
As she aggressively made her points to me, her blunt bangs perfectly in place the entire time, I knew that she was convinced by this argument, which she eagerly made in the presence of an openly gay friend whose facial expressions remained muted. So when I asked her if she's homophobic because of her pejorative language, the then-23-year-old refused to accept the label that many online would find fitting considering her behavior.
But I agree with her. Azealia Banks is not a homophobic young woman--she's just a bratty, politically-incorrect one who has so far been incapable of finding a productive way to criticize people who have offended her. As she tweeted on Tuesday, "should I erase, fuck, shit, nigger, cunt from my vocabulary as well?" Even if we asked her to, she wouldn't. Call it defiance. Call it immaturity. Just call it the Azealia Banks way.
After about ten minutes on the topic, we took a break in our conversation. In an effort to gauge her state-of-mind (since I still had a half-hour with her), I leaned in and asked if she was alright, to which she nodded and removed her ruffled coat as if to finally settle down.
Once we concluded the interview and took a quick photo, I knew that we had an engaging discussion that absolutely did nothing to sway her. I mean, as evidenced by her tarmac tantrum, she still uses "faggot" and openly slams those who mock her for it. Others have just ignored her entirely, though they'll jam out to '212' when it comes out in the club because, let's be real, it's a really great song.
But I must note that Azealia seemingly only uses "faggot" when angered by white people. The millennial has been vocal about race relations in this country and how it's positioned her as an African-American woman looking for both success and stardom. While she makes very keen observations, her bombastic nature ruins their validity and ultimately her credibility among fans and non-fans alike.
I walked out of my interview with Azealia Banks completely fascinated by her ability to both frustrate and entertain me. And she even acknowledges her polarizing abilities, taking to Twitteron Tuesday to apologize for "the feelings of the people who enjoy my music and hate seeing me in drama."
Track 2 on 'Broke with Expensive Taste' is titled 'Gimme a Chance.' But is it too late?