The news of Azealia Banks dropping new music just doesn't get us as excited as it once did. It's no wonder why: Her hostile words and actions toward the LGBTQIA community, abrupt split with her management, and constant personal drama (including one weird incident with Russell Crowe of all people) have combined to stunt the artist, whose talent behind the mic is still indisputable. Nevertheless, she's persisted. However, while new singles have come and gone without so much a Twitter Moment, this month's release, "Anna Wintour," has people listening again.
The day Banks dropped the song, I received texts upon texts upon tweets asking if I had listened. The answer, of course, was, "Obviously." I'm a big fan of Banks' music. I think she wears her influence on her sleeve without letting that sleeve wear her. She exudes the fierce kind of confidence I've only otherwise seen in some drag queens. She's fashion. She's a wordsmith. She's a bad bitch. But she's... problematic.
"I'm confused," a friend of mine said. "When did everyone suddenly forgive her?"
I'm not too sure we have forgiven her. It's hard to forget her calling Bauuer, Perez Hilton, and then a Delta employee a faggot. There was also that time she referred to the LGBTQIA community as "gay white KKK's." It took her five months to publically apologize to Zayn Malik for using a transphobic slur against him. She can apologize to her fans all she wants "for having let so many of [them] down over the years," but that kind of injury is forever, and her track record in that department isn't terribly cute. It's possible to forgive, but to forget? On the internet? No, ma'am.
With that said, Azealia Banks, the artist, is a force. Right from the get-go, Banks came through guns blazing. "212" is and will always be her defining song with its perfect switched-up ballroom beat and bars that find Banks' tongue planted firmly in her cheek. The 1991 EP is a modern classic thanks to the '90s house productions the fuel her cocky rhymes. Her 2012 Fantasea mixtape highlights her chameleonic chops, showing she can flex across all genres. It's a shame her debut album, 2014's Broke With Expensive Taste, was so delayed and clouded by her tabloid scandals, because excellent songs like "Chasing Time" (and its video featuring homages to Missy Elliott, TLC, Lil' Kim, and Michael and Janet Jackson) never got the love they deserved. For a minute, it seemed like Banks was going to be written off as one of those artists we quietly love but don't rally around. To which I say, if the artist was anyone other than Azealia Banks, fine.
Banks' talent is her saving grace. It's what keeps her afloat despite the industry being set up to tear her, a brazen queer black woman, down. That identity doesn't absolve her past transgressions, but her resilience to keep going and, as she alludes to in her "Anna Wintour" announcement, learn to use her platform for positive influence is something to admire.
Currently, Banks is operating under a million dollar record deal with Entertainment One and William Robillard-Cole, her new manager who also who handles Kaytranada. She's revealed the tracklist for her follow-up to Fantasea, which is slated for an early summer release date. The speed at which we "cancel" artists today is the tortoise to her ambition, talent, and innovation. Yes, it's hard to be a fan, but there's empathy to be had for her. Soon, the alarms will be ringing for her again: stronger and fiercer than before. She was right in "212": This shit's been hers all along.