Azealia Banks is covering the new August/September 2012 issue of VIBE Magazine with producer Diplo.
During her interview with VIBE, the “Liquorice” rapper chatted on why not being light skinned affects how people perceive her, the first day she saw Kanye West, and regretting her Twitter fights with Lil Kim, T.I., Iggy Azalea & more.
You’ve come a long way since riding the Uptown 4 train. How are your peers reacting to your early success?
The energy I’m getting is kinda, “Yo, what up?” and keep it moving. There’s no like… I don’t know.
Besides feeling territorial, there are folks who take the hierarchal, respect-your-elders adage very seriously. Is that voided once someone disses you?
When people come at my head it doesn’t faze me enough to be sad. It’s just, “Listen motherfucker, let me tell you about yourself and what I got and am about to get. You’re trying to knock me off my feet; I’m trying to stand tall, ’cause I’m here for a reason. I wasn’t even thinking about y’all, y’all came at me.”
Right, but not every 21-year-old newbie has the balls to publicly mouth off at T.I. Were you raised to be this fearless?
My mother was always like, “Anybody say something you don’t like, punch them in the mouth. Do it!” [Laughs] If I had a fight, when she came home I would get another ass whupping just for being a little bird. And she’d be like, “Why you letting these people bring you down?” I was a really fresh little girl, always arguing back, trying lipstick on, trying to shake my ass—knowing in the back of my head I’m gonna get fucked up [by my mother]. But fuck it, I wanna get fucked up.
Do you think your American buzz so far has been built more off controversy than music?
Of course, because Americans are distracted by shit like that. It’s like, “Listen, T.I., if I was a fucking boy you wouldn’t say anything to me.” But when I’m a girl and I say something back, the media wants to turn it into all these different things. Rappers beef all the time. I said what I said about [Iggy Azalea] and kept it moving. Then a month later you said what you said. And it keeps coming up. Leave it alone. I didn’t say she couldn’t rap. I said something very real. Out of everything, she had to [call herself] “a runaway slave master”? C’mon, that’s not swag. That’s not fly shit.
And that’s all it was. For T.I. to drag me through the dirt… It’s silly. In Europe they leave it alone and keep playing my songs on the radio and I keep getting booked for fashion shows because they’re about the art. All I’m doing is making myself look bad by getting engaged with y’all because no one in Europe gives a fuck about y’all. All I’m doing is giving y’all niggas exposure. So if you notice I’ve backed up off Twitter the past days [laughs].
Speaking of that wonderful social network, that’s the main thing you’re slammed for—calling out other artists on there.
Exactly. And that’s the only thing niggas could hold against me, because I’m hot. So you know what? I’ma back off and about random shit and make these records. I’m trying to just reach out, do a little record…
Which brings us to Lil’ Kim. Why address her publicly instead of sending a private message or e-mail?
That’s what we did, and that shit is over. Yo, listen, [Lil’ Kim], this black cloud you got over you—don’t try to push that over me. You can keep that, because as soon as I released “Jumanji” is as soon everybody forgot about you. I have my hand on the dial; I can control how hot and cold you are right now. So I’m not even going to give it to you. I tried to make a legitimate track with you, tried to collaborate. I was bigging her up and she keeps throwing it back in my face. I tried.
Do you regret getting into these Twitter clashes?
Of course, because it’s e-thugging… Who wants to look like that? But how else am I gonna reach y’all? I don’t have a T.I. to get on a radio show and defend me; I’m the one behind me. Y’all expect me to agree like, “Oh yea, I’m wack. I only have one song.” That’s one song y’all niggas don’t fucking have. You might win some, but you just lost one.
Kanye certainly doesn’t think you’re wack. Tell me about the time you guys first met in London last year.
He hit me up like, “You’re mad talented. What do you eat for breakfast?” The whole conversation was pretty dense—two Geminis in one room. So it was so many ideas flying.We spent the whole day together, but the best part was dinner. We’re eating out the same plates with chopsticks, and he’s freestyling for me. I was like, “Oh shit, this is real!” You know how you smile so much your face hurts? And you just feel so busted like… [screeches].
Tell me about the folks who get you—how would you describe your fans?
I think my true, hard-core fans are people who enjoy being bad. People who enjoy drinking and smoking, but wanna get it together and just don’t know how. When you really listen to my music you hear a girl who’s going through the motions. She’s experiencing men, having money, not having money, people who are trying to tell her she’s not cute, people telling her she can’t rap, she can’t dance… She’s really dealing with life. I’m not some little light-skinned bitch out here. It’s a young Black girl doing this for herself, by herself. Y’all can’t keep trying to pin me up against the wall. Hip-hop has to help me not let this slip through my hands.
Because I’m kinda this UFO that floats above wide ground. And nobody really gets it, but they see this weird floating object there [laughs]. When I spoke to Missy, she was like, “Yo, where did you come from?” Because you usually see people on their come up.
And now people are waiting to see if the UFO will crash?
Sometimes it is scary because you drop down in this territory where people feel like it’s their space. So then it’s kinda like, “Errr, hi…” And they don’t know how to react to you, and you don’t really know how to react to them. But they like your shit and you respect their shit. And it’s cool.