Here are the facts: Azealia Banks is a preternaturally talented rapper who broke out in 2011 after the release of her track "212," a paean to New York and pussy eating that still fills dancefloors today. She followed up on her early promise with an EP – 1991 – and a mixtape – Fantasea – both of which established her as an exciting one to watch at the time. But she's also someone who has, time and again, espoused sometimes misguided and oftentimes awful and indefensible views on social media, allowing an openness with followers to get the better of her.
Despite her obvious talent, Banks' social media sends for everyone from Lil Kim to Lady Gaga and her commitment to defending her use of a homophobic slur soon overshadowed her music. When her much-delayed debut album Broke with Expensive Taste was eventually released in 2014 after Banks broke ties with label Universal, by anyone's standards it felt like one of the most innovative and interesting rap albums of that year, featuring huge house beats and her signature quickfire flow.
In 2016, though, she seemed to pass a point of no return after she racially abused Zayn Malik, who she'd initially accused of stealing aesthetics from her music videos for his "Like I Would" clip, via Twitter. It's arguably true that as a black woman she receives a disproportionate response for much of her behaviour, but after the incident with Malik, she was widely, and rightfully, condemned.
All of this is to say that without her use of social media, it's quite possible that Azealia Banks would be one of the most appreciated rappers in the world right now, and her new song "Chi Chi" appears to prove just that. The track showcases the deeply-toned flow that made Banks so beloved to early fans, and it seems that her talent is sharpening all the time – her intonation is clearer than ever, her rhymes wittier and her beat selection icier.
For many, social media is an invaluable fanbase-building device. In this way, it has certainly worked for Banks too, whose extremely loyal fans have stood by her throughout controversies. But in this case, it's undoubtedly been more of a help than a hindrance. "Chi Chi" is a reminder of what might have been if Banks hasn't used digital platforms to directly communicate her every thought.
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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)