Azealia Amanda Banks (/əˈiːə/ born May 31, 1991) is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Raised in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Banks pursued an interest in musical theatre at a young age, studying at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts before dropping out to focus on her musical career. In late 2008, she adopted the pseudonym "Miss Bank$", and began releasing music through MySpace, eventually being signed to XL Recordings at age 17. After signing a recording contract with Interscope and Polydor Records, Banks came to prominence by topping NME's Cool List in 2011 and finishing third in the Sound of 2012. Her debut single "212", first extended play 1991 (2012), and first mixtape Fantasea (2012) received critical acclaim. Banks' debut studio album Broke with Expensive Taste (2014) experienced several delays since its initial announcement before being unexpectedly released to online music stores.Baron, Zach (August 28, 2012). "The Making of Azealia Banks". Spin. Retrieved January 27, 2013. Robehmed, Natalie (February 14, 2014). "Azealia Banks: Hip-Hop Cash Princess". Forbes.
ContentsLife and career1.1 Early life and career beginnings1.2 2011–12: 1991 and Fantasea1.3 2013–present: Broke with Expensive Taste
Life and career
Early life and career beginnings
Azealia Amanda Banks was born on May 31, 1991 in Manhattan. Her mother raised her and two older sisters in Harlem, after their father died of pancreatic cancer when she was two years old. Following her father's death, Banks says that her mother "became really abusive—physically and verbally. Like she would hit me and my sisters with baseball bats, bang our heads up against walls, and she would always tell me I was ugly. I remember once she threw out all the food in the fridge, just so we wouldn't have anything to eat." Due to escalating violence, Banks moved out of her mother's home at age 14 to live with her older sister.
At a young age Banks became interested in musical theater, dancing, acting and singing. Aged ten, she began performing in off-Broadway musicals with the Tada! Youth Theater in Lower Manhattan. She had lead roles in three productions (Rabbit Sense, Sleepover, and Heroes) in addition to performing as a soloist. Banks attended Catholic school in Harlem in her childhood, and danced with the National Dance Institute. As a teenager she trained in the performing arts at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. At the age of sixteen, Banks starred in a production of the comedy-noir musical City of Angels, where she was found by an agent and sent on auditions for TBS, Nickelodeon, and Law & Order, all without success. It was at this point that Banks decided to end her pursuit of an acting career, citing the large amount of competition and overall sense of unfulfillment as reasons for her retirement. Because of this, Banks began writing rap and R&B songs as a creative outlet. She never finished high school, instead choosing to follow her dream of becoming a recording artist.
Under the moniker 'Miss Bank$', she released her debut recording "Gimme a Chance" on to the internet on November 9, 2008. The recording was accompanied by the self-produced track "Seventeen", which sampled the Ladytron song of the same name. Banks sent both tracks to American DJ Diplo. Later that year, Banks signed a development deal with record label XL Recordings and began working with producer Richard Russell in London, leaving the label later that year due to conflicting ideas.
2011–12: 1991 and FantaseaMain articles: 1991 (EP) and Fantasea (mixtape)
"Richard [Russell] was cool, but as soon as I didn't want to use his beats, it got real sour. He wound up calling me 'amateur' and the XL interns started talking shit about me. It just got real fucking funny. I was like, 'I didn't come here for a date. I came here to cut some fucking records.' I got turned off on the music industry and disappeared for a bit. I went into a bit of a depression."—Banks talking of her departure from XL Recordings.
Following her departure from XL Recordings, Banks left behind the 'Miss Bank$' moniker and formally became Azealia Banks, which preceded a move to Montreal. Using YouTube as a portal, Banks uploaded several demo tracks—including "L8R" and a cover of "Slow Hands" by Interpol. After her Canadian visa expired, Banks returned to New York, where she sold key chains at a Manhattan jazz club and danced at a Queens strip club to make ends meet. "That's when I was really depressed", Banks says, "I don't have a manager, I don't have a boyfriend, I don't have any friends, I don't have any money. Here I am working at the strip club, trying not to say the wrong thing and get into fights with these girls who don't give a shit."
In September 2011, Banks released her debut single "212" as a free digital download from her website, which was subsequently released officially on December 6, 2011, as the lead single from her EP 1991. The track attained European chart success, peaking at number fourteen in the Netherlands, number twelve in the United Kingdom and at number seven in Ireland.
Though unsigned at the time, Banks began working with British producer Paul Epworth on a debut studio album. It was announced in December 2011 that Banks would feature on "Shady Love", a track from American band Scissor Sisters' fourth studio album Magic Hour, though the feature would remain uncredited. An accompanying music video was released in January 2012 following its radio première from Annie Mac (BBC Radio 1) on January 4, though the release of the single was cancelled for unconfirmed reasons. Banks released the track "NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND)" on the Internet on January 16, 2012, coinciding with what would have been the thirty-third birthday of the late singer Aaliyah, who is sampled on the track. A week later saw the emergence of a second track titled "Bambi", which having been produced by Paul Epworth, had been selected as the soundtrack for a Mugler fashion show in Paris. It was then in February that Banks revealed the title of her upcoming debut album, Broke with Expensive Taste.
In May 2012, Banks announced plans to release a mixtape—originally titled Fantastic—titled Fantasea. Preceding its release was the track "Jumanji", released online on May 11. A second track from the mixtape, "Aquababe", was made available online on June 13, while the third, "Nathan"—featuring rapper Styles P—was made available online on June 30. Fantasea was released via Banks' Twitter account on July 11, and was succeeded by the unveiling of Banks' online radio project, Kunt.FM the following week.
Banks' first extended play, 1991, was released in the United Kingdom on May 28 and in the United States the following day. The four-track play, of which "212" featured, was not eligible for the UK Albums Chart, but the title track charted at number seventy nine on the UK Singles Chart. It also reached 133 on the US Billboard 200, while reaching number seventeen on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, number twelve on the Rap Albums chart, and number one on the Heatseekers Albums chart. In 2013, 1991 was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).
Banks was scheduled to release her second single "Esta Noche", from the Fantasea mixtape, on September 25, 2012, but the track was pulled the day of its release due to sampling disputes between Banks and the track's producer Munchi. The next month, it was confirmed that Banks had worked with Lady Gaga on two tracks, titled "Ratchet" and "Red Flame" for Gaga's third studio album, Artpop (2013), however they did not make the final album cut, and have since not been released. Banks also revealed that she collaborated with Kanye West on G.O.O.D. Music's compilation album, Cruel Summer, but further clarified that ultimately, her contributions did not make the final cut of the album. On December 31, 2012, Banks released a track titled "BBD", which ultimately appeared on her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste.
2013–present: Broke with Expensive TasteMain article: Broke with Expensive Taste
Early in 2012, Banks revealed that her debut album would be called Broke with Expensive Taste, and said that the album would include contributions from various musicians including Toko Yasuda, Theophilus London, Kevin Hussein, and Ariel Pink. Banks initially announced that the album's lead single would be a track titled "Miss Amor," and that it would be accompanied by a B-side, "Miss Camaraderie," both produced by Lone. However, these plans changed when she later announced in January 2013 that the first official single from the album would be a song called "Yung Rapunxel," which was released in March 2013 through SoundCloud. In May 2013, Banks announced that the second single from Broke with Expensive Taste would be "ATM Jam", featuring Pharrell. The next month, on June 29, Banks debuted the song in a performance at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival, with New York City radio station Hot 97 premiering a clean, shortened version of the studio recording three days later on July 2. On July 11, 2013, the full studio version of "ATM Jam" was released on BBC Radio 1, and was released for digital download on August 30, 2013. Banks later confirmed in November 2013 that "ATM Jam" would not be appearing on Broke with Expensive Taste due to poor sales.
Banks announced in mid-July that after a long battle, she had parted ways with Universal Music Group. Banks reportedly has possession and the rights to the work she released with Interscope. On July 28, 2014, Banks released the official second single from Broke with Expensive Taste, titled "Heavy Metal and Reflective", on her own label, Azealia Banks Records. This was followed by "Chasing Time", the third single from the project, on September 22.
Banks surprise-released her debut studio album, Broke with Expensive Taste on to iTunes, on November 7, 2014, while the album got its physical release on March 3, 2015. In an interview for NME Magazine, Banks revealed that her second studio album, titled Fantasea II: The Second Wave, would be released in mid-2015, followed by her third album Business and Pleasure, set to be released sometime in 2016. On February 10, 2015 Banks revealed she would like to release Fantasea II: The Second Wave as a double disc album, with the first CD being the original Fantasea mixtape. On May 10, Banks revealed she had created a mixtape of Jay-Z remixes and covers, titled Slay-Z, and said that she may possibly release it.Diep, Eric (May 31, 2013). "Today in Hip-Hop: Azealia Banks Celebrates 22nd Birthday". XXL. Retrieved August 17, 2013. Chandler, D.L. (December 24, 2012). "Azealia Banks Hints at Retirement, Promises 2 LPs in 2013 [VIDEO]". Hip-Hop Wired. Retrieved December 30, 2012. Ortved, John (February 1, 2012). "Azealia Banks, a Young Rapper Taking Cues From the Street". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved November 17, 2012. Betiku, Fehintola (August 16, 2012). "Hip-hop wild child Azealia Banks blows up a condom on controversial magazine cover that's been banned in seven countries". DailyMail. Retrieved June 24, 2013. Rosen, Christopher (December 19, 2014). "Azealia Banks' Emotional Explanation For Her Problem With Iggy Azalea". The Huffington Post. Cite error: The named reference baronspinissuestory was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Azealia Banks interview – BBC Sound of 2012". YouTube.com. Retrieved January 27, 2013. MTV. "Azealia Banks Interview". Retrieved August 12, 2013. "BBC Sound of 2012 – Artist Profile – Azealia Banks". BBC. January 4, 2012. "Azealia Banks has pop at XL Recordings". The Quietus. January 5, 2012. "Azealia Banks – '212' – Digital Download". iTunes (UK). Retrieved June 14, 2012. "Dutch 100 Chart Information". Hit Parade. April 7, 2012. "GFK Chart Track". Irish Recorded Music Association. March 30, 2012. "UK Singles Chart Archive". April 9, 2012. Cragg, Michael (December 19, 2011). "New music: Azealia Banks – Liquorice". The Guardian. Retrieved July 6, 2013. Corner, Lewis (January 3, 2012). "Scissor Sisters reveal new single 'Shady Love' music video". Digital Spy. "Azealia Banks – NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND) > featuring Aaliyah". Crack in the Road. January 16, 2012. Breihan, Tom (January 27, 2011). "Azealia Banks – "Bambi"". Stereogum. Ahmed, Insanul (February 14, 2012). "Who is Azealia Banks?". Complex. "Hot Tracks" profile, Lisa Robinson, Vanity Fair, June 2012 (p. 90) Corner, Lewis (May 10, 2012). "Azealia Banks confirms new mixtape 'Fantastic' for summer release". Digital Spy. Corner, Lewis (May 11, 2012). "Azealia Banks debuts new track 'Jumanji' – listen". Digital Spy. Corner, Lewis (June 13, 2012). "Azealia Banks debuts new track, 'Aquababe' – listen". Digital Spy. Daw, Robbie (June 30, 2012). "Azealia Banks' Catty "Nathan" Single Artwork". Idolator. Battan, Carrie (July 11, 2012). "Azealia Banks Shares Fantasea Mixtape". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved August 18, 2013. Intern Christina (August 2, 2012). "Have You Eargasmed Today? Azaelia Banks Launches Kunt.Fm". BUST. Retrieved August 17, 2013. "Azealia Banks – 1991 – Digital EP". iTunes (UK). Retrieved June 13, 2012. "Official UK Singles Top 100". Official Charts Company. June 9, 2012. Archived from the original on June 7, 2012. Retrieved February 3, 2013. "Azealia Banks – Chart history – Billboard 200". Prometheus Global Media. Billboard. "Azealia Banks – Chart history – R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Prometheus Global Media. Billboard. "Azealia Banks – Chart history – Rap Albums". Prometheus Global Media. Billboard. "Azealia Banks – Chart history: Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved February 3, 2013. "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2013 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved May 20, 2013. Minsker, Evan (September 26, 2012). "Azealia Banks Pulls Single "Esta Noche" After Producer Munchi Denies Permission". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved August 18, 2013. Montgomery, James. "Azealia Banks Confirms Lady Gaga, Kanye West Collabos", MTV, October 25, 2012. fashion, ASOS. "Shop-along Hangout with Azealia Banks". YouTube.com. Retrieved November 30, 2012. Cite error: The named reference forbes.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Blistein, Jon (September 10, 2013). "Azealia Banks Posts 'Broke With Expensive Taste' Tracklist". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 13, 2013. "New Music: Azealia Banks – ‘BBD’". Rap-Up.com. Retrieved February 23, 2013. "Azealia Banks Unleashes 'Yung Rapunxel' on First Single". Rap-Up. Retrieved June 29, 2013. Minsker, Evan; Snapes, Laura (March 11, 2013). "Listen: Azealia Banks: "Yung Rapunxel"". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved July 6, 2013. Diep, Eric (May 7, 2013). "Azealia Banks Announces "ATM JAM" Single Featuring Pharrell". XXL. Retrieved August 20, 2013. "Azealia Banks Debuts 'ATM Jam' at Glastonbury". Rap-Up. June 29, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2013. Mr. North (July 2, 2013). "New Music: Azealia Banks Feat. Pharrell "#ATMJAM"". Miss Info. Retrieved July 2, 2013. "NEW MUSIC: AZEALIA BANKS F/ PHARRELL – ‘#ATMJAM’ [FULL]". Rap-Up. July 11, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2013. "ATM Jam (feat. Pharrell) – Single". iTunes. Retrieved August 24, 2013. "Azealia Banks says it's Pharrell's fault 'ATM Jam' was a flop". NME. November 12, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2014. Michaels, Sean. "Azealia Banks 'free' from record deal with Universal". The Guardian. "Broke with Expensive Taste – Album". iTunes Store (UK). Retrieved March 10, 2015. "Azealia Banks: Broke with Expensive Taste". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 7, 2015. "Azealia Banks Announces Double Disc Album, Fantasea". BET.com. February 10, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2015. "AZEALIA BANKS on Twitter". Twitter. May 10, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
Banks identifies as bisexual. During the few instances where she has discussed her sexuality with the press, Banks has expressed dissatisfaction with society's labeling of others based on sexual orientation. In an interview with The New York Times, Banks stated, "I'm not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don't live on other people's terms." Banks has been cited as a gay icon with a predominantly gay fan following. In February 2015, she attracted media attention for publicly criticizing the "gay white media", believing that it uses "homophobia as a means to try and victimize itself and scar the names of its opponents." She questioned why the gay press had heavily criticized her for using the term "faggot" while gay men colloquially refer to women as "bitches". Noting that both terms were associated with violent abuse, she asked "Do gay men get a special pass to say misogynist things simply because they like dick?".
Banks is known for publicly speaking out on African-American civil rights issues, with a commentator at Splice Today described Banks as having "that hot New York temper where she will pop off if you cross her the wrong way". In December 2014 she called for over $100 trillion to be paid to African-Americans as financial reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors, citing U.S. reparations to Native American communities and the German reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust as a precedent. Using Twitter, she urged young African-Americans to take an interest in such issues, adding that "We are the children of the people who perished in the name of modern capitalism and we deserve a piece of that fucking pie." She added that reparations could be used to improve educational prospects for black Americans.Cite error: The named reference huffingtonpost.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference rollingstone was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Harmsworth, Andrei. "Hackney Weekend: Azealia Banks hits out at haters". Metro. Retrieved November 5, 2012. Cite error: The named reference nytimes1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Madison Moore (January 8, 2013). "Let's Talk About Azealia Banks". Splice Today. Kashmira Gander (5 February 2015). "Azealia Banks complains she can't use anti-gay slurs, when men can say 'b***h'". The Independent. Antonio Molloy (30 December 2014). "Azealia Banks calls for reparations for slavery: 'America owes black people over $100 trillion'". The Independent. Dean Van Nguyen (December 29, 2014). "Azealia Banks calls for $100 trillion in slave reparations".
Banks has said she admires American recording artists Beyoncé and Aaliyah stating the former "[is] the queen of everything. She's the most remarkable performer and musician. And this is just my humble opinion, but I just think she's better than everyone else making music right now." Banks also cites Bajan pop singer, Rihanna and house singer, Crystal Waters as influences. Banks is inspired by, and has drawn directly upon, black gay culture, such as the film Paris is Burning, in her music.
AllMusic characterizes Banks as "a stylish vocalist who combines hardcore hip-hop, indie pop, and dance music." Meanwhile, The Guardian 's John Robinson considered Banks' style "an appealing blend of Missy Elliott and dance-pop." In regards to her musical style, Banks has frequently been noted for the use of profanity in many of her songs, particularly her reclamation of the word "cunt", examples including her debut single "212", in which she uses the word more than ten times, or other songs such as "Fierce", in which she refers to herself as the "cunt queen". Banks attributes this to her upbringing in Harlem, saying, "...I'm from Harlem. I went to art school; I grew up with the cunts. And that term doesn't come from me! People think I invented it, but I didn't. To be cunty is to be feminine and to be, like, aware of yourself. Nobody's fucking with that inner strength and delicateness. The cunts, the gay men, adore that. My friends would say, 'Oh you need to cunt it up! You're being too banjee.' Banjee means unrefined and rough. You need your cunts: they fix your hair for you and do your makeup. They give you confidence and give you life." She is also known for her often fast-paced rapping, or "flow". In a review of Banks' debut EP 1991, Chris Dart of Exclaim! found Banks' rapping speed "remarkable", commenting that she "manages a feat that takes most rappers the better part of a career to master: the perfect marriage of bangin', club-friendly beats and smart, crisply delivered lyrics".
Since writing "212", Banks has adopted an alter-ego named "Yung Rapunxel". This alter-ego was adapted from Banks referring to herself as Rapunzel, due to a long weave she wore while working at Starbucks as a teenager. Banks discussed this with Rolling Stone saying, "Yung Rapunxel is that girl who pisses people off but doesn't really mean to. She's actually a sweetheart! But people are so taken aback that she's so herself; she's not even trying to be unique or different. She literally just lives in her head; she does what she wants to do. So, the lipstick is here for someone who is happy to be themself."Pitchfork (December 12, 2011). "The Top 100 Tracks of 2011". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved July 31, 2013. Nika, Colleen. "Q&A: Azealia Banks on Why the C-Word Is 'Feminine'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 5, 2012. Cite error: The named reference Moore was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Azealia Banks | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 23, 2015. Robinson, John (September 21, 2012). This week's new live music at the Wayback Machine (archived March 17, 2015). The Guardian. Self, Will (March 2, 2012). "Hothouse Flower". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2012. Wolfson, Sam (September 18, 2012). "Samantha Cameron loves rapper Azealia Banks: has she heard the lyrics?". The Guardian. Retrieved November 6, 2012. Empire, Kitty (March 3, 2012). "Azealia Banks; Sharon Van Etten – review – The Observer". The Guardian. Retrieved November 6, 2012. Banks, Azealia. "Azealia Banks – 212 – Lyrics". Tumblr. Retrieved June 27, 2013. Banks, Azealia. "Fierce – Lyrics". Tumblr. Retrieved June 27, 2013. Dart, Chris (June 13, 2012). "Azealia Banks – 1991". Exclaim!. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
ControversyMain article: List of Azealia Banks controversies
Banks has been known for her public disputes with other artists on social networks; she has had minor online disputes with Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique, Lil' Kim, Nicki Minaj, Jim Jones, Angel Haze, Baauer, Diplo, Rita Ora, ASAP Rocky, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, and Pharrell.Diep, Eric; Ortiz, Edwin (June 19, 2014). "A History of Azealia Banks' Twitter Beefs". Complex. Archived from the original on March 11, 2015.
HeadliningMermaid Ball (2012–2013)Broke with Expensive Taste Preview Tour (2014)Broke with Expensive Taste World Tour (2015)
Featured actShockWaves NME Awards Tour (2012) Maloney, Devon (June 4, 2012). "Azealia Banks' Mermaid Ball, By the Numbers". Spin. Archived April 5, 2013 at the Wayback Machine "Azealia Banks postpones UK tour dates". NME. March 14, 2014. Archived March 15, 2014 at the Wayback Machine