Remember When Azealia Banks Wasn't Just A Twitter Troll? We Do

When people think of Azealia Banks, they think of Twitter beefs. But don't let that overshadow her music.

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Complex Original

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It seems like the only headlines Harlem rapper Azealia Banks captured in the past year were from her many high-profile beefs. She has taken to Twitter to come at everyone from former collaborator Pharrell to longtime nemesis T.I., often in expletive-laden rants. Outside of social media, drama with her label tied up her album’s release, meaning it’s been nearly a year without any new music from her camp.

Amidst all the negative publicity, it can be hard to remember that Azealia Banks was once considered hip-hop’s next big thing. After coming out of nowhere with her 2011 viral hit “212,” she impressed critics and fans alike with her promising 2012 EP 1991 and subsequent mixtape Fantasea. Along the way, she covered magazines like Vibe and Spin, and had none other than Kanye West calling her “the future of music” at his DJ debut in Las Vegas. While Azealia was always known for having a sharp tongue, she balanced it out with a solid musical output that hinted at bigger things to come.

Unfortunately for her, a messy label situation brought her music career to a halt, with her sole offerings since Fantasea being a pair of failed singles (“Yung Rapunxel” and “ATM Jam” featuring Pharrell) and a remix of Bauuer’s “Harlem Shake” that stirred up more drama after she released it without his permission. Aside from these tracks, she has been largely absent from the rap game.

"'Heavy metal and reflective' is the first track in a long time that feels authentically her and serves as a reminder that Banks has talent for more than causing drama online.

Her beefing career, on the other hand, has flourished. Neptunes hit-maker Pharrell produced and sang the chorus for her second Broke With Expensive Taste single, “ATM Jam.” But after the song flopped commercially, she blamed its failure on Pharrell not “Wanting to be associated with me after he had his lite skin comeback.” The song was far from either artist’s best work, but by blaming Pharrell, she only made herself a pariah to future collaborators: Why would anyone want to make a song with her if they’ll be publicly blamed for its chart performance?

At least the Pharrell beef was about her music, unlike her totally unnecessary exchange with T.I. earlier this year. The two have been enemies since Banks badmouthed Iggy Azalea’s placement on XXL’s 2012 Freshmen cover, but after months of ceasefire, she randomly restarted the fight. "U want no mediocore [sic] but...Have you seen your wife?" she tweeted, referencing T.I. and Iggy’s new single “No Mediocre.” Tip certainly didn’t hold back his insults, calling Banks a “musty-mouthed-thot-bot-bad-body-syphilis-lipped-rectum-vomit-unimportant-ugggggly-monstrosity-of-a-maggot-ass BIIIIIIIITCCHHHH…” on Instagram. But even after such a wildly offensive comment by T.I., nobody stepped up to the plate to defend Banks, evidence that she has few allies left in the rap game.

All of this brings us to “Heavy Metal and Reflective,” her first new song in nearly a year. After being released from her label, she dropped the video independently on August 5, and achieved a solid return to form musically. She attacks the pounding, Lil Internet-produced beat with a vengeance, spitting about being “VIP/I been knew cheddar/You be guest list/I be PYT/You Billie Jean/You been that ex-bitch.” It’s the first track in a long time that feels authentically her and serves as a reminder that Banks has talent for more than causing drama online. Whether or not she can claw her way out of the grave she dug her career into remains to be seen, but her recent output shows that she hasn’t lost the talent that early on had people touting her as the next big thing. It’s now up to her to refocus her career on her music and show that she’s more than just a Twitter troll.

Written by Chris Mench (@Chris_Mench).

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