The danger of having one of the best songs of the year is that Azealia Banks is and will probably be known for a long time as the rapper who did “212.” Everything she has done in 2012 since signing to a label, from ubiquitous guest spots to fashion forays, is an attempt to eventually be known for something other than “212.” That’s all well and good–certainly she’s released some decent music in the process–until it involves disowning rap, or at least identifying as a rapper, entirely. From Banks’ Tumblr, which is now the de facto replacement for her Twitter:
no longer wishing to be a rapper.
i never was…. and as soon as i started paying attention to bullshit urban media, i started getting myself in trouble. From now on i’m a vocalist, and will not be associating myself with the “rap game”… or whatever the fuck that means…
It’s not hard to see Banks’ reasoning here–feuding with Kreayshawn is as good a sign as any that you’re on the wrong track–but more than anything, this looks like the standard process of new artists discovering, honing and positioning their skills, except it isn’t happening in an A&R department or the proverbial bedroom studio / cabin in the woods, but online in the open. It’s probably a longer process for Azealia Banks. “212,” containing both laconic, assonant rap and an equally competent R&B bridge, was the sort of work you’d normally assign to two separate people. And her subsequent repertoire’s so omnivorous that she can be the guest singer on a Scissor Singers track where they rap, essay some throwback, Aaliyah-sampling R&B and go the full-on rap assault route and have all three seem like plausible career directions.
Banks has lots of options, in other words, and she wouldn’t be the first to decide “vocalist who can rap” is more marketable than “rapper who can sing.” It’s the music-world equivalent of identity politics; to identify as a hip-hop artist means something different than to identify as a pop act, or crossover, or iconoclast, even though none of these are mutually exclusive. When blurring these lines can result in hand-wringing like the Nicki Minaj Summer Jam incident and all the accompanying arguments about who gets to be “real hip hop” (or, in other arguments, “pure pop” or “legitimate R&B” or “true rock” or whatever) it starts to look really tempting simply to bow out.
That said, everything you just read was bullshit. Just listen to Azealia:
DON’T READ the blogs….
the people who write on them don’t have real jobs.
form your own opinions.
Make your own decisions.
Got it. While I question how I pay my rent without a real job, you go make your own decisions about Azealia Banks. We trust it won’t be editorializing to provide some material.