Azealia Banks: In Memoriam of Happier Times in Her Career

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Rapper Azealia Banks’ latest social media war—this time, with the way-more-established rapper T.I.—serves as the final epilogue on a novel-length manual in How to Ruin a Promising Career. But maybe your first reaction is, “Who the )!(@* is Azealia Banks?” In 2014, that’s a valid question—because the once-promising artist turned a prized on-the-verge perch into a Twitter punchline thanks to one of the worst, long-running abuses of social media ever. Artists, consider this a manual on what not to do, ever.


Yesterday’s war between Banks and T.I.—which sprawled across both Twitter and Instagram—stands as a sad artifact of struggle beef. Banks—more or lessout of nowhere—started insulting T.I.’s wife, Tiny, one of the most ride-or-die women ever. T.I., naturally, fired back, threatening to “end” Banks and clowning her just by posting this photo of her “seapunk” phase. (If you missed that whole microstyle that flourished on the internet, uh, just forget about it ’cause it was mostly a joke.)

It’s just the latest in a series of ill-advised Twitter wars Banks has started and always lost. Flavorwire even bestowed upon her the dubious distinction, last week, of one of the top celebrities who are "the absolute worst on social media."

But let’s remember some past moments when Banks actually had what looked like the beginnings of a legitimate career. This was a short but sweet time before the headlines she made were for casual use of choice words like "f*****." Somewhere, under all the ego and hubris, there’s some talent; it would just take a long internet break and a really good publicist to turn things back around.

This was her breakout song.

Wow, 2011 seems so long ago. But when this track first dropped on the internet, it was fire. You’d hear it at very club and pride parade. At this point, she’d already been kicking around the blogosphere, thanks to an early deal with XL that she scored off MySpace—but that summer not that long ago, “212” was inescapable. A lot of its flavor was thanks to the beat, cribbed from the earlier Lazy Jay house track “Float My Boat,” but Banks’ spit-fire delivery seemed so promising. It even cracked the Billboard Top 200.

Once, she was the better known azalea-influenced rapper.

Azaleas are flowers. Iggy Azalea is the blonde Australian currently ripping up the charts with “Fancy” and so on. Once upon a time, Azealia Banks could criticize Iggy for racism, draw support, and still get to plan to work with M.I.A. Those were the days…. For her.


For a brief moment, she was the high-fashion soundtrack of choice.


Every year, fashun likes to pick an underground, sassy-type artist as its falvor du jour. In 2012, that was Azealia Banks, who was lucky enough at the time to work with Paul Epworth, the producer of all those amazing Adele tracks like the Skyfall theme song. Their collab “Bambi” was big with Thierry Mugler in particular.

This song was good too.


This is “Esta Noche,” from 2012, which was based on a beat by moombahton producer Munchi, who in turn sampled “——.” Banks could have ridden the moombahton wave, if only she had asked Munchi for permission to use his beat before releasing it on her mixtape, Fantasea, which, unfortunately, she didn’t. Womp womp. Guess what she did afterwards? She yelled at Munchi on Twitter. Listen to this and imagine what could have been.

…That was all then, though. After some near-mainstream blips in 2012, Banks spent the following year alienating nearly everyone. This post from Stereogum rounds up some of the best in 2013 Azealia Banks beefs, in which she picked fights (which she lost) with everyone from Baauer to Lady Gaga to Pharrell to Disclosure.


Her long-delayed debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, is finally due out this summer, . Will anyone care? Well, if we can just hit rewind and hear more of ’11 or ’12-era Azealia, maybe the answer will be yes.

Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.