20-year-old rapper Azealia Banks from Harlem in New York has attracted worldwide attention since 12th September 2011, when she uploaded a song to YouTube called ‘212’ featuring Lazy Jay. Since it was posted on the internet, it has amassed over 1.4 million views and captured the attention of music lovers everywhere. In fact, this single has had so much of an impact that Azealia topped NME’s ‘Cool List’ in November and has made it to the top 15 of the BBC’s Sound of 2012 shortlist.
So where exactly has Azealia Banks suddenly appeared from? Her first release was in 2008, a single called ‘Seventeen’ produced by Diplo, which excited many music critics. This resulted in her signing to XL in 2009 where Richard Russell — who is responsible for some of the music from Radiohead, The White Stripes, Dizzee Rascal, M.I.A and The Prodigy — started writing for her. After a few months, however, Azealia did not like the direction in which he was trying to take her and ended up scrapping her record deal.
Since then, Azealia Banks has been working in a coffee shop in New York and recording music independently, which has led to ‘212’. In recent months she has begun working with producer Paul Epworth on new singles and a debut album, which has resulted in her latest single ‘Liquorice’ which samples ‘Pineapple Crush’ by Lone. In an interview with Azealia Banks on music website Pitchfork in November, she stated that her album would be a mix of “212-style, house-heavy pop” along with some “rap-bitch shit” and “winter wonderland R&B that’s kind of like Aaliyah”.
Although many people have criticised Azealia Banks for the obscene language in her music (she swears over 40 times in the three-minute 26-second ‘212’!), record companies have been fighting to sign her. In December she hinted on her Twitter page that she’d signed to Kanye West’s label GOOD Music, but previous rumours stated that she had already signed to another “major label”.
Azealia Banks will be performing as part of the NME Tour which hits Bournemouth on 22nd February 2012 where she will be supporting Tribes, Metronomy and Two Door Cinema Club.