The Wrong Conversations Are Being Had About Azealia Banks

I’ve had my issues with Azealia Banks over the years. I used to be an avid fan of hers but lost interest a couple of years ago after several instances of her popping off at the mouth on Twitter. If it had been the normal shit-talking that I’ll even admit to participating in, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Sadly Azealia’s shit-talking on several occasions delved deeply into trans phobia. It was a really disappointing, because I really enjoyed getting to see a dark-skinned black girl be both talented and outspoken in an industry that likes to pretend we don’t even exist anymore. But even the most outspoken #problackgirl can quickly lose my interest when she reveals herself to be trans phobic and unapologetic about it.
Over the past few months the idea of being a fan of Azealia has rocked back and forth in my head a few times. The release of ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ reminded me of why I liked her in the first place. Azealia is a talented rapper lyricist with a style that is influenced by Hip-Hop, Caribbean music and NY Ball culture. In the prism of Black Cool, Azealia has found her niche and is good at what she does. Her presence on twitter however, will have moments of genius awareness before sliding back down to being seriously offensive.
Last week during an interview with Hot 97, Azealia broke into tears at least two times when asked about her feelings on the cultural appropriation of hip-hop music. During the interview Azealia breaks down in her own words how appropriation is slowly erasing blackfolks out of hip-hop, specifically black women. Those with less fluency in issues like this were quick to paint the interview as Azealia being jealous of Iggy, including the pop artist herself who called Azealia a bigot on twitter.
It’s hard to explain to those who aren’t familiar with or fluent in the lives of black women that Azealia Banks is trying to express her frustration with a world that wants her creativity but doesn’t want her. She’s fighting an uphill battle, and every time she speaks up about it she gets backlash that is highly racialized, especially when it comes to her “feud” with Iggy Azalea. In the interview she points out the Forbes article from earlier this year that claims that Hip-Hop is becoming a white dominated genre of music as an example of how the media is trying to erase black people from it. Forbes also claimed that Iggy was running Hip-Hop this year, and proceeded to say that Nicki Minaj deciding to stop making Pop/Top 40 centered music left “a void to be filled by none other than Iggy.” That statement alone derides Hip-Hop as a genre of music and places it’s value only in what could be sold on Pop charts. Even now in 2014 in order for black artists to be legitimate they need to cross over into the white dominated pop charts and in order for black music to be appreciated it needs to be performed by white musicians. It’s a larger problem that will be ignored in order to paint Azealia Banks as an aggressive, angry black woman and belittle her talent.
That isn’t to say that Azealia doesn’t have anything that needs to be critiqued. Her above mentioned trans phobia as well as her recent tweets about Bill Cosby are beyond problematic, they’re just plain wrong. People do have a right to be upset and not listen to her because of it. If she is going to be critiqued she should be critiqued for that and not for page clicks.

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