Friday, July 11, 2014

Azealia Banks and the What the Future SHOULD Hold

The following is an opinion piece/think piece over Harlem, NY rap phenomenon Azealia Banks.

A huge amount has happened since I last touched on the career thus far of Azealia Banks in Post 9 of the W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. series. As of July 10th, 2014 she is no longer with Universal Records [the "head" label of Interscope Records (U.S.)/Polydor Records(U.K.)]

Long before and well after this, she had long been considered a troublemaker and shit-stirrer with many of the celebrity world. When news broke that she had been freed from her contract with Universal, it wasn't until late into the night, after celebrating the thought that her much anticipated debut effort Broke With Expensive Taste might finally have more confirmed details [other than a never happened leak or vague summer release] a slight issue arose.
What would happen to her intended mixtape sequel Fantasea II: The Second Wave and its known single "Count Contessa"? Let's start by analyzing the events before being freed from the label.

It started in January 2014, when Banks made it known through her Twitter account that she was "in hell" having no material released since "ATM JAM" [the song then being scrapped from any incarnation of the intended album due to poor reception by fans]. She would later relay her regret of not signing with Sony Records as it was apparent that something of a bidding war had happened between Interscope and Sony for Banks.
June 8th rolls around; her gig at Los Angeles PRIDE though met with polarizing impact upon announcement received rave reviews from the crowd [specifically for her covering of the Robin S. song "Show Me Love"]. Days later another Twitter feud with Atlanta rapper T.I. ended up creating more buzz that the U.S. had become more familiar with more so than her music...

This entailed the uneven reputation Banks ended up with. Europe audiences have seen and heard a lot more music than any U.S. market has. For posterity, L.A. PRIDE was her first major U.S. event since Coachella 2012 [she did perform at a Forever 21 held "Cranechella" recently, but we are talking major events]. For a stretch of time, she performed at the Glastonbury, Reading, 1Xtra Live, Frauenfeld and MELT! festivals in the U.K., Switzerland and Germany respectively [her Twitter account has many more European dates and international travel dates].

With new found freedom, speculation turns to these main concerns: Will Broke With Expensive Taste see the light of day? Did she retain intellectual property rights to her only previously released label work the EP, 1991? How long is she going to be in "indie world" before another label signs her [if she wants to have label representation again; if say Sony signs her to their label]? Is she going to rap again? All of these questions, naturally have complicated answers.
First, there will be some incarnation of BWET released. Yet it is unclear if Banks even retained the rights to the material that was eventually going to end up on the album. If she did, the album might be released under a different name or as a mixtape whose name could be even more unclear than that.
Second, there is a 50/50 possibility that Banks was able to retain any rights to 1991. Even with scant promotion as an EP, it peaked at #133 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Heatseekers Album charts. The chart positions might have been enough for Banks to retain her material for other use at her discretion, but this is pure speculation.
Third, the ball is in the middle of the court as far as any label offering representation and Banks' desire to be on a label after the struggle with Universal. The only other known label that she had ever expressed wanting to be a part of was Sony. It is unclear if Sony will consider opening up any offer it had with her or even if Banks would reach out to Sony to look into the offer they had so long ago.

As far as the fourth question, it takes a studious fan of Banks to know where the hell her musical style will end up. In an appearance on Hot 97 personality Peter Rosenberg's Complex Magazine YouTube series, The Process, it was revealed that Banks had long considered herself a better singer than rapper. Fans of hers know of her singing ability due to the fact that in addition to rapping, singing appears on damn near all of her tracks. The cuts with pure singing to almost pure singing include "Luxury", covers of "Slow Hands" by Interpol and "Barely Legal" by The Strokes.
Banks also stated that before she had even made "212", she had been a musical theater girl and had been something of a "Broadway Baby" hopeful... [The Process | Azealia Banks]

If any incarnation of BWET is released, it seems like it's going to be most of the stuff fans of hers already know about her. There might be a chance that XL Recordings era single "L8R" might make an appearance. As for her known BWET material that hasn't already been scrapped, "Yung Rapunxel" is still going to be on the album. However, she might create entirely new material and scrap the entire album herself [again, pure speculation; this cannot be confirmed.]
"Count Contessa" on the other hand might be included on a deluxe incarnation of BWET should it ever see the light if Fantasea II: The Second Wave gets scrapped to make up for BWET to get the release it should have years ago. If not, "Count Contessa" might not even be on any album [pure speculation given the history of her discography].

Now let's talk about what needs to happen as far as Azealia Banks in the now. Should Sony Records scoops Azealia Banks up, they better promote her music on U.S. radio. Seriously, she's "written off" for no reason Stateside because Universal either didn't or wouldn't let Interscope promote her stuff in the U.S. Why else was she limited to Europe? Doing Glastonbury to MELT! festivals in Europe is OK thanks to YouTube.
However, none of her stuff was really promoted for U.S. markets. Why else were "1991", "Luxury", "Jumanji", "212" ft. Lazy Jay and a whole shitload of songs NEVER added to her YouTube/VEVO account?

The only songs that even got the "VEVO Seal of Approval" via the YouTube joint VEVO w/o fuckups were "ATM JAM" and "Yung Rapunxel". "Van Vogue" got flagged enough for it to be censored unless you happen to have an account on YouTube. Even worse, "Liquorice" was originally published under the misspelled "AzaeliaBanksVEVO" channel [the "pre-migration" count being 2,149,498 views] *For the record, the video has 7,379,322 views as of 1:38 AM, today July 11th*

Here's a reminder/newsflash: every released single for radio she's had has been for the international markets of the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Australia. "212" ended up a Top 15 hit in the UK and Netherlands (#12 and #14 respectively), a Top 10 hit in Ireland at #7, a Top 20 hit in the Flanders region of Belgium (#17), a Top 40 hit in the Wallonia region of Belgium (#34) and a Top 100 hit in Australia (#68). "Liquorice" only went to #73 in Flemish Belgium; "Yung Rapunxel" only went to #152 in the UK; "ATM JAM" despite being her second Top 40 Walloon Belgium hit, was scrapped from the album most likely compounded by the Flemish peak of #55 and UK peak of #169.
She's never had singles serviced for U.S. radio on any level. There is a great deal of potential for her to have that radio breakthrough to add to her viral sensation from 2011, "212".

That being said, it is going to take a lot more than corrected business savvy on any U.S. label end. Banks herself needs to continue the positive spin she's built for herself from L.A. PRIDE. Long before her reputation sat in limbo [specifically with the LGBT community] she inspired people as a hardcore East Coast rapper who openly identified as bisexual...

Before this same author of the article link would go on to express disappointment in Banks for her future attitude, there has been est. connection of a U.S. fanbase. Why Universal/Interscope never used this as leverage to spread her music to mainstream radio is simply baffling.

What can be summated is this; Azealia Banks' future in the music industry can go many directions after being freed from Universal. The next move can be made in a matter of seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. with her. Somebody needs to make the move soon and hopefully restore the potential Banks showed merely 2-3 years ago.


  1. This is a very well thought out analysis. I linked to it in my blog--hope that's all right :)