Coachella 2012: Azealia Banks has arrived
One thing Azealia Banks needed to prove when she walked onstage for her Saturday afternoon set at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival -– her first official gig in the U.S. -- was how deserving she is of the massive hype that’s been thrown her way.
Since her introduction into the post-Nicki Minaj world of female rap through the deliciously profane firecracker of an anthem, “212,” the Harlem spitfire has become a major darling on rap and indie blogs that have grown disenchanted with Minaj’s syrupy pop hits. This without a barrage of tracks, as evidenced by a set that ended 20 minutes earlier than expected.
With a black-and-white-striped two-piece jumper and long purple-black tresses, Banks immediately proved why thousands of Coachella-goers had lined up for choice vantage points well over 30 minutes before her scheduled set time.
She was four bars into her single "... up the Fun” when she flexed just how skillful her rhymes were: precise, full of grit and wholly original in a way that can't be learned or rehearsed, despite what a few of the new ladies (er, Kreayshawn) on the scene might think.
Her set conjured up a sweet era of mid-'90s rap when under-appreciated fem-cees like Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Charli Baltimore and Rah Digga along with singular forces like Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and, yes, even Lil Kim, represented the girl who got down, dirty and raunchy but never dived too deeply into the waters of pop in search of hits.
And it seemed that Banks herself has grown tired of the fixation on pop rap. Her brand is unapologetically street -- even when she ventures into the dance world, it's less Euro discotheque and more gentlemen’s club bounce. And when she experiments with singing, like she did on a brief a capella take on the Zutons classic "Valerie," her voice proved a bit more elastic than her peers', making you briefly wonder what she might have learned from Ms. Hill.
Listen to the rawness of “Barbie …” and you can't help but think she's issuing a few shots at the new crop of girls arriving in today’s more image-conscious female terrain where natural hair colors and designer duds aren't enough. “Long weave, lipstick, I be on that barbie …, pretty in the face but a … look plastic,” went one barbed lyric.
With a smile and makeup running down her face after she effortlessly delivered bar after bar, Banks knew she had earned the ultimate co-sign: thousands of cheers.
If that wasn’t enough, she sent the crowd into chaos when her DJ spun “212,” signaling one of the most profane choruses likely to be sung in unison since Cee-Lo Green’s hit “ … You.” Judging by the amount of fans who had the most biting (and unprintable) of her lyrics printed on T-shirts and hats, Nicki should be on the lookout.
— Gerrick D. Kennedy @gerrickkennedy
Photo: Azealia Banks onstage at day two of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Credit: Karl Walter / Getty Images for Coachella.