Azealia Banks has made some pretty accurate points of late about the inconsistencies in the music industry and her experiences as a female rapper, after having been shut out of the mainstream due to what can only be explained as ‘controversy after controversy’. In an interview with XXL mag, she spoke about double standards in the treatment of female hiphop artists.
In reference to the way we separate the artist from the art despite their shitty actions, she listed some of the excuses we give for male rappers.“Kanye West is saying all that because he’s crazy” or “okay, yeah, R. Kelly raped a girl but damn, he makes some good music.”
She also spit some truth bombs on Periscope live about white female rappers, name dropping Iggy Azalea (frustrated with her caricature-like depiction of black women), and touched on the ‘fake feminism’ of Lana Del Rey, who made headlines after claiming to hex Donald Trump. Azealia Banks, who was criticised for previously supporting Donald Trump, questioned the authenticity of Lana’s altruism for the cause of womankind. In particular, she questioned why the pop singer supports rappers such as ASAP Rocky–who stars in music videos smacking women in the ass–and then turns around and acts out against misogyny. Is it that she only cares about the treatment of white women? The very same women who are seldom the ones being portrayed with such violent imagery in the videos of rap artists like ASAP Rocky? That’s what Azealia Banks suggests. And honestly, is she wrong this time?
She also touched on the gatekeeping and censorship she believes white PR and managerial types subject even the most liberated black female artists like Beyoncé and Solange to, diluting their message to appeal to a mainstream audience. Whether she’s right about that or not, these narratives speak of at least her experience as a black woman in the music industry. She even addressed the fact that she never realised the extent of racism’s power until she entered this field and was made aware of artists such as Lana Del Rey, and the financial benefits and accolades they are more readily able to reap compared to her.
Some of Azealia’s other statements are simply indefensible, ignorant, offensive and cannot be justified. But I’m not here to defend the shit she’s said. Why should we have to justify her problematic tirades in order to appreciate her music and talent as an artist when we ignore or defend the horrendous words and actions of male rappers and musicians all the time? Why is it that our culture allows these men to get away with their despicable words and actions– ranging from shitty tweets to literal assault, battery, even rape? When someone like Azealia Banks has been ostracised by the industry and the media (dating back to some unwarranted Twitter beef at the dawn of her career in the public eye). It’s not difficult to conclude that the mass rallying against Azealia Banks for each word she speaks out of place, and the resentment directed towards her uncensored, unapologetic presence, is heightened as a result of her blackness, her femaleness and her mental illness– all of which have been used to ridicule and silence her across her entire career.
It’s not fair that Azealia Banks has been completely pushed aside in the industry, and left out of conversations in hip hop, when she’s clearly miles ahead of a lot of these monotonous male artists dominating the charts. It’s not fair that artists like XXXtentacion who have been accused of assaulting women are doing so well despite the violence they’re brand is associated with, while Azealia Banks’s career is easilyquashed by the fury spawned by scandals involving chickens and homophobic slurs. It’s not fair that almost every celebrated male rapper has used homophobic language or punchlines in their music, on top of expected displays of misogyny and violence, while Azealia Banks was crucified by the public and even her peers for using those same insults.
As I made clear before, of course, we can’t ignore the garbage that’s slipped out of her mouth in the past (and the garbage that or may not continue to come). Nor should we consider her exempt from criticism when she hurdles into a problematic rant just because she’s said some ‘woke’ things either. But that doesn’t mean we should silence her artistry either, especially when we have no problem with supporting out favourite male rappers who have said and done far worse things than Azealia Banks could ever fathom.