Occasionally there comes a song which unites the hipsters and fashionistas in mutual admiration. In 2011, Azealia Banks’ ‘212’ was that track. Named after a Manhattan area code, the song paired a voguishly hip, Chicago House backing with sassy, slick and funny rap from Ms Banks. The delicious self confidence in her delivery even drew well-earned comparisons to Missy Elliot and early Nicki Minaj. The lo-fi, black and white video for the belter was no less affecting. An adorable, wide-eyed Banks lip synched her way through her triple X-rated flow like she was rapping her way through ‘Little Bo Pee’ and not a song that dropped the ‘C’ bomb 12 times. Sporting pigtails and a vintage Mickey Mouse jumper, the distinctive simplicity of her look suggested someone who was as in control of her style as she was her lyrical dexterity.
The 20-year-old self confessed troublemaker first discovered she could rap when she studied at New York’s La Guardia High School Of Performing Arts and she fell for a 16-year-old MC whom she used to freestyle with. Cut to a few years later and the effect of ‘212’ has been breathtaking. She topped NME’s Cool List, performed for Karl Lagerfeld in Paris (he designed a bespoke ‘212’ inspired jumper for her- replacing Mickey’s face with his) and is currently working on her debut with Paul ‘Adele’ Epworth. Her new EP ‘1991’ builds on ‘212’’s early promise with its amazing Grace Jones-like sleeve, dancehall hybrids like ‘Van Vogue’ and future classics like the title track.
By Priya Elan