Can Azealia Banks leave Lizzo and her Black identity alone?
In the wee hours of Thursday, Azealia Banks released her latest mixtape, Yung Rapunxel: Pt. II. As Fader notes, the project is a 30-minute track released via Soundcloud that features Banks rapping over a “over a pounding, relentless techno beat throughout.” Upon first listen, I’ll say that it is, uh, an interesting release.
No reasonable person should have ever questioned Banks’ abilities as a rapper, but sonically, this ain’t it for me. I respect everyone’s lifestyle choices, but for me, techno becomes repetitive about nine seconds into a given track. Needless to say, as someone who has monetarily supported Banks music in years’ past, I’ll stick to the 1991 EP or the Fantasea mixtape, thank you very much.
Even so, while I may not personally love Banks’ latest release, notice that I did not assign anything negative to Banks or her artistry—because this release simply is not for me. It’s a shame that Azealia Banks couldn’t extend that same courtesy to fellow female rapper, Lizzo. Banks, who chooses to never relish in the gift of silence, recently took shots at Lizzo under the false guise of “concern” regarding how another Black woman looks in front of white audiences.
After Lizzo become the sixth female rapper to be featured on a number one single on Billboard’s Hot 100, Banks took to Instagram to slam her.
“Lmao the fact that the public and the media has been keeping this fat girl joke going for so long is honestly peak boredom,” Banks wrote. “The song is not good, nor is the dumpy fat girl spectacle live set she does. Saddest bit is that the girl is legit talented and truly only being allowed to shine so long as she allows herself to be this millennial mammy of sorts.” Banks, who does not have any Billboard hit singles to her name, continued: “Queen Latifah was able to represent for larger women without being a disgusting or being a minstrel. So was Missy Elliot. Lmao Lizzo is really millennial mammy I’m ready this joke to be over.”
If you recall, in 2018, Banks branded Cardi B an “illiterate, untalented rat” and a “caricature of a Black woman.” At the time, many online reminded Banks of her not so distant past raving and dancing along to Cardi B’s breakout hit “Bodak Yellow” before she suddenly had a change of heart. Among the many things Cardi B said to Banks in response, one bit of advice stands out now: “I pray you find peace in your own heart and reason in your own mind! Pray for your own success before you pray for the downfall of others!” Obviously, Azealia Banks did not take Cardi B’s words of encouragement to heart.
However, I’m even more struck by the fact that Azealia Banks of all people had this to say about Lizzo: “She looks like she is making a fool of her Black self for a white American public.”
I have written about Azealia Banks since she first gained a national following, and during those initial years, what I struggled most with was the disparaging ways Azealia Banks talked about her own people. Here’s something I wrote about Banks in 2016: “Azealia Banks is the same person who asked that Black media not write about her, and in her very short career, has blasted Black radio, Black men, Black single moms, and gay Black men. Banks has also made no secret that she prefers the company of older white men in her relationships, and she’s gushed about white men repeatedly in interviews. Banks can date the whitest man alive, but what’s not going to happen is that someone who swags surfs in anti-Blackness trying to abandon ship and shimmy over to the side of those who constantly speak about the ills of white supremacy in society while still trying to generalize Black folks in the process, no less.”
Needless to say, when it comes to concerns about Black imagery, Azealia Banks is one of the last Black people on Earth to poll. Lizzo’s music may be an acquired taste for some, but the same can be said of Azealia Banks. However, I don’t recall Lizzo publicly bashing Black men, Black women, Black queer folk, Black radio, and Black publications. Moreover, while clearly a lot of white folks enjoy Lizzo (as evidenced by the number of times a day I hear her songs playing in the background of a commercial), I have never, ever heard Lizzo say anything that suggests she’s centering white people.
This may be a hard realization for Azealia Banks to have, but you know, not all of us Black folks out there are obsessed with what white people think of us. And by Banks’s own hollow metric, if she thinks Lizzo is a “mammy,” what imagery does she think her constant attacks of her peers conjures in the minds of people? Lizzo is necessary the same way Cardi B is necessary, and yes, the same way Azealia Banks is necessary.
Unfortunately, unlike them, Azealia Banks can’t recognize her purpose because she’s too busy obsessing over everyone else’s success. The road was paved for Banks to breakout, and she blew that. That failure is not the fault of Lizzo, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, or any of the other 10,000 people Banks has attacked online.
One day, maybe Azealia Banks will realize that the world would much rather hear her on a track than watch her pathetically troll the competition—but I doubt it.
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of the newly released book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.