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Making Rihanna “Rated R” Fenty look like Taylor Swift is no easy task, but the brilliantly foul-mouthed rapper Azealia Banks managed it with the deliciously obscene ‘212’. The 21 year-old Harlemite tells Celina Murphy all about fancying Paul Banks – and why that Nickelodeon audition never worked out.
Celina Murphy, 16 Jan 2012
“I wrote ‘212’ after being dropped from XL,” Banks tells me, speaking from her home in New York, “after firing my manager and firing my lawyer. I decided that I didn’t want to do music anymore because all these people just wanted to live vicariously through me. I felt like I really needed to step away and build a shell around myself. ‘212’ came out of that rejection and betrayal. It was just me laughing about it, having a bit of fun after being fucked around and kind of realising that all of the power really rested in me. That’s why that song is being listened to by so many people. Even if people can’t relate to me as an artist, they can relate to rejection. You know, like, ‘Who the fuck are you? You don’t do shit for me! Who the fuck are you to tell me what I can and can’t do? You can’t rap, asshole! I’m the rapper! I’m the musician! I have the power!’ I mean, there are some really awesome people in the music industry, but generally speaking, I have a really sour taste in my mouth.”
This is one of several times Banks gets a little, er, worked up over the course of our fabulous 40-minute conversation, during which she effortlessly lives up to her self-imposed title of “the rap Larry David”. And so what if Banks loves a good moan? Like David, her tirades are mostly justified, and always entertaining.
“I’m fucking insane,” she raves. “The music industry has fucking made me insane. When I first came up in this shit, everybody was looking at me with some other fucking shit in their eye, dollar signs in their eye, pussy in their eye… everybody was trying to get everything else from me but fucking music. And when it came down to the music, if I didn’t want to work with a certain producer or use a certain beat, then I was an amateur. There was all this mindfuckery. Like, this is the reason why geniuses like Dave Chappelle and Lauryn Hill disappear: there’s so much stupid shit. I could have easily fucking crumbled too, but I don’t do drugs. I smoke weed and I drink but I don’t do drugs, and I’m not out here trying to live a life that doesn’t need to be lived. There’s a monster inside of me right now, it’s not even me, and that monster is ready to tear shit up over the next couple of years.”