Azealia Banks Goes on Racist Rant Against Zayn, Gets Booted From U.K. Festival
Despite Banks' incendiary Twitter persona, she rallied a group of staunch defenders with her outspoken demeanor since her arrival. In a moving interview on Hot 97 in December 2014, Banks showed an understanding of systemic racism that moved her to tears, possibly explaining her aggressive honesty. "I feel like in this country, whenever it comes to our things, like black issues or black politics or black music or whatever, there’s always this undercurrent of kind of like a 'f--k you.' ...’Y’all don’t really own shit," she said, before speaking about cultural appropriation and centuries worth of racism. "Everybody knows the basis of modern capitalism is slave labor. There are major corporations caking off slave labor. Until y’all are ready to talk about what you owe me...at the very f--king least, you owe me the right to my f--king identity."
Fearlessness to say whatever she wanted was part of what made her so endearing, especially when she was rallying against what the restraints of the business. She fought for her release from Interscope Records in 2014 before teaming with Prospect Park for the release of Expensive Taste. But in July 2015, she and Prospect Park split ways. While she announced that she was a "free agent," the company released a statement saying that she was no longer represented by the management team, but that she was still signed to the label. Last August, she tweeted that the label held her album under contract until February, which could explain why Slay-Z didn’t drop until this March. "Pain from the game… i guess i was so desperate to get my album out that i took a bad business deal," she soon admitted on Twitter.
Billboard Cover: Azealia Banks on Why No One Really Wants to See Her Naked, Her Impure Thoughts About Barack Obama and Why She's 'Not Here to Be Your Idol'
But instead of turning the odds in her favor, her life in the spotlight seemed to be in virtual disarray. Banks seemed to collect different online foes regularly, including Iggy Azalea, Perez Hilton, an associate editor at Vice, Lil Kim amid a few digs at Béyonce. Too often, her insults weren’t whimsical jokes but rather hurtful, racist and homophobic slurs, breeding a hatred that affected everyone who read them, not just those the tweets were directed at.
At this point, the cycle was like clockwork: Banks would tweet a bigoted remark, get called out for it and often unsuccessfully defend herself by bringing up pro-black messages that sometimes didn’t apply. Many of her defenders, this writer included, feel like they’ve been played -- from protecting one of our own to enabling destructive behavior from someone who took such defense for granted.
Along with the stream of slurs on her account, Banks also went after Erykah Badu in February 2015. When Badu admitted that she didn’t listen to Banks' music, Banks accused her of being jealous of her future success. "When artists grow old and begin to recognize their own mortality they throw shade at younger spirits," Banks tweeted. Coming for black music royalty like Badu only hurt the support she received from fans who thought she needed to respect her predecessors (one Twitter user offered, "@AzealiaBanks is so f---ing corny, why would @ErykahBadu be jealous of you? Check her resume,then check yours. Enough said.")
The two artists resolved their beef publicly on Twitter, but just last month, Banks also accused Béyonce of trying to "capitalize on a national conversation" with her "Formation" video and Super Bowl performance. For every fire Banks puts out, she starts another one -- or five. And when she isn’t spewing insults, she’s spending too much time fighting with fan favorites instead of focusing on the music that deserves a place alongside them.
Azealia Banks Returns to Twitter, Delivers Download Link to Her 'Slay-Z' Mixtape
In comparison to other disputes, though, Banks' tirades against Zayn Malik, Skai Jackson, and the UK grime scene this week cost her a check: UK radio station RinseFM removed her from her headlining stint at their Born & Bred Festival. The Twitter time-out gives her the best chance to rebuild her music career with the potential she showed less than a handful of years ago. Artists use social media to help boost their careers or visibility but there is still value in silence -- especially when running to a keyboard results in losing potential fans versus gaining them.
When it comes to her next move, apologies from Banks may come across as insincere, especially when she continued to beat her chest on Instagram following the suspension. (The one she attempted right before her account was suspended also fell flat, though the hashtag #AzealiaGotSuspendedParty was born.) Ignoring the backlash wouldn't help either and could come across as inconsiderate and irresponsible. Even if Banks were to shockingly abstain from all Twitter beef for the next year, the fallout would still have her mentions loaded with angry, resentful critics reminding her of past offenses.
Perhaps, Banks’ best bet is to take the suspension as a cue for a self-imposed social media sabbatical. In a non-stop media cycle where backlash from celebrity posts may only last a few days (examples include 50 Cent and Ted Nugent), this suspension and a break from Banks' Twitter behavior may accomplish what she couldn’t do herself: returning the focus to the music.
The repercussion of Azealia Banks’ unfiltered Twitter voice may block her from receiving any plaques in the immediate future but she could still learn a lot from her public blunders. When music was all the internet had from Banks, many craved more material. If she can stay off timelines, lay low for a while and steadily deliver stellar songs, maybe she can earn fans’ trust back and bring attention back to the incredible talent that made supporters embrace her in the first place.