Azealia Banks sparked a controversy when she appeared on New York’s Hot 97 radio station accusing Iggy Azalea of stealing her identity. Banks sees Iggy’s Grammy nomination as a symbol of the gentrification of hip-hop and erasure of its black identity. Her radio comments were an addition to a pre-existing saga between the two.
Banks only made one objectively ridiculous comment, which described Nicki Minaj as having “created such a social presence and this hold on social consciousness’’. Because of course, when we think Nicki Minaj, it is social consciousness that is the next thing to enter our heads. Perhaps to Banks the song Anaconda is a widely misunderstood track with an ideological subtext. The rest of us can be forgiven for rejecting Minaj’s worth as a socially conscious presence.
Offering his wisdom on the feud Q-Tip, legendary rapper, aimed a series of tweets at Azalea. In these he emphasised that hip-hop is a sociopolitical movement and an afterglow of the Civil Rights Movement. While Q-tip’s Twitter diatribe was a worthy history lesson, his tweets included that “you have to take into ac count the history as you move under the banner of hip-hop.’’ Hip-hop just cannot de tach itself from being a sociopolitical movement. But why is it so vital Azalea is given a history lesson? There are hundreds of artists in hip-hop who offer nothing but ignorant and trivial content and yet aren’t chastised.
Banks would doubtlessly agree with Q-Tip. In her interview she made reference to slavery and to black victims of police shootings. She clearly feels it is important hip-hop addresses these issues and that the alleged theft of hip-hop’s black identity impedes the genre’s aims. One of the groups most outspoken about the subjugation of black people is Public Enemy. One of their members, Chuck D, branded Azalea an “endorsed sanctioned CORPlantation artist”.
A catalyst for the debate has been Azalea’s Grammy Award nomination, the Grammys being one of the most famed and prestigious music awards. Six of the nineteen Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album have gone to white performers. Eminem has won five (a disproportionate number when compared to the mostly black nominees). Even Eminem’s album Relapse won a Grammy, despite strong competition. Eminem himself admitted it was substandard.
This conclusively suggests that the Grammy Awards at the very least favour white artists and this without doubt hinders hip-hop’s black identity. Whether hip-hop should even have an ethnic specific identity is a different debate to be had, but Azealia Banks clearly feels it must preserve a black identity to serve its role as a civil rights movement and address the issues she mentioned.
From the other comments made by Banks, she would clearly rather Nicki Minaj received a nomination than Iggy Azalea (remember how Nicki is synonymous with ‘’social consciousness’’?). If we are honest this is ludicrous: the two are virtually identical in all but skin colour – equally trivial, appalling and annoying. To praise one and admonish the other is a double standard. Azalea is guilty of being superficial but so are countless other hip-hop acts, all of which should be criticised. If the quality and sociopolitical value of modern Hip-Hop was higher the genre would be better equipped to be a voice against oppression, that allegedly being Azealia Banks wants. But let’s use Bank herself as an example. She was literally brought to tears by the social issues faced by the black community but that seems disingenuous when none of that reflects in her music.
There is some truth to say that the black identity of hip-hop is being challenged in mainstream culture and the Grammys exemplify this. Doubtlessly there is truth that hip-hop has become less socially conscious. But is Azalea personally to blame? No, only a moron would think that. If a proportionate recognition of ethnicity in hip-hop is desired then the Grammy Awards should be brought into question, not one solitary artist. If hip-hop wants to include politically profound content then Q-Tip, Chuck D and Azealia Banks should chastise all the genre’s many shit artists, not just Iggy Azelea.
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