20-year-old Azealia Banks is touted as the “next Nicki Minaj,” but disregarding her impish Barbie doll appearance, old-school Lil Kim vibe, and provocative flow (Banks salts explicit words throughout her rhymes), Banks is something wholly different.
The young Harlem-raised lyricist is a precocious fusion of rapid-fire rhyme spitting, mermaid hair and club-ready fashion, and provides the kind of ’90s rave scene vibe during her sets to back it up. One could easily imagine Banks being a steady attendant of the Limelight in New York during the infamous Michael Alig/Party Monster days.
Although Banks is signed to Interscope, working with Adele’s producer Paul Epworth, was put on the top of NME’s “Cool List” in 2011, and has hung out with fashion notables like Karl Lagerfield, there is still something raw and untainted about Banks. It might be her ready smile, her Yung Rapunzel moniker, her open sexuality, or her unfiltered usage of swear words and slang in her lyrics.
Despite the conservative adult set, the kids of Bank’s generation are just like banks; not afraid to say the “wrong” words, wear the “wrong” clothes, or dance it out to the “wrong” sounds. These same kids are listening to hip-hop as much as pop, rock as much as dance music, and combining all genres in their iPod playlists.
With red mermaid hair, a leather overall with one strap undone, a red fishnet shirt (black taped nipples included), and combat boots, Banks took her role as great music mediator with ease after an exciting introduction by DJ Cosmo from Montreal.
She was flanked by two dancers that looked like they could have easily shown up on the set of In Living Color or Paris Is Burning and vogued the night away. Banks even said that the female dancer dressed in a leather flame vest was the “new JLo.”
Even though Banks spits at an almost-Busta Rhymes-ish pace so it’s hard to understand her lyrics, her first song was too cacophonous; Banks made sure to tell the sound man to “fix the feedback.”
After that, Banks was fantastic. The Yung Rapunzel grinded and grabbed her lady parts. She rapped songs like “Barbie Sh*t,” “Runnin’,” “Bambi,” “L8R,” “Liquorice,” “1991,” (her birth year) and her hit song, “212.” In the middle of the set, her dancers did an entertaining dance interlude, Banks sang a soulful snippet of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie,” and ended her set, in true ’90s rave fashion, singing a part of Prodigy’s “Firestarter.”
And Banks did set fire to the Coachella landscape. Whether some consider it the end of feminism or the beginning of something more exciting, more libertine and liberating, Banks made the whole audience sing the “C”-word over and over again during her song “212.”
A friend noted that it took the first time, with people quietly singing along, for the audience to finally get comfortable saying the word. But once they did, it was all over. A girl waved a shirt around with the word; a bare-chested young man next to us hooted when Banks made reference to oral sex.
Banks encapsulated the feelings of teenagers and 20-something generations who were raised by and around the information “cesspool” that is the internet, but came out with interestingly evolved ways of communicating. And for a moment, Banks made it OK for her audience to say all the words and do all the things they were always told not to.
–Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles