Excerpt From Azealia Banks’ Playboy Interview


Enjoyed this. Enjoying even more that neither she nor Playboy are backing down from it.

The following is most of the race exchange.

AZEALIA BANKS in April 2015 Playboy (Pages 105, 126)

PLAYBOY: Is there someone whose career you want to emulate?
BANKS: Jay Z. That’s the only person I have my eye set on. The race thing always come up, but I want to get there being very Black and proud and boisterous about it. You get what I mean? A lot of times when you are a Black woman and you’re proud, that’s why people don’t like you. In American society, the game is to be a nonthreatening Black person. That’s why you have Pharrell or Kendrick Lamar saying, “How can we expect people to respect us if we don’t respect ourselves?” He’s playing that non-threatening Black man shit, and that gets all the white soccer moms going, “We love him.” Even Kanye West plays a little bit of that game—“Please accept me, white world.” Jay Z hasn’t played any of those games, and that’s what I like.
PLAYBOY: If people read your Twitter account and don’t like you, is that because of race?
BANKS: It’s always about race. Lorde can run her mouth and talk shit about all these other bitches, but y’all aren’t saying she’s angry. If I have something to say, I get pushed into the corner.
PLAYBOY: And whenever you point out that discrepancy, someone on Twitter says, “Why are you making this about race?”
BANKS: Because you motherfuckers still owe me reparations! [LAUGHS] That’s why it’s still about race. Really, the generational effects of Jim Crow and poverty linger on. As long as I have my money, I’m getting the fuck out of here and I’m gonna leave y’all to your own devices.
PLAYBOY: Do you want to leave the U.S.?
BANKS: Yes! I hate everything about this country. Like, I hate fat white Americans. All the people who are crunched into the middle of America, the real fat and meat of America, are those racist white conservative people who live on their farms. Those little teenage girls who work at Kmart and have a racist grandma—that’s really America.
PLAYBOY: If people don’t like you, does that mean they’re racist?
BANKS: No, not at all. There’s misogyny, and then there’s something called misogynoir [a term coined by writer Moya Bailey to describe “the unique ways in which Black women are pathologized in popular culture”]. We have all these stereotypes in society: The gay man is a faggot and he’s over-the-top, or you’re an untrustworthy cracker, or you’re a loud Black bitch. All these things exist for a reason, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, I am loud and boisterous—
PLAYBOY: And you are Black.
BANKS: And I am Black, and I am a pain in your ass. But I’m not really talking to you, and that’s what makes these people mad. You’re not invited to this conversation. This is not about you.
PLAYBOY: This has been an issue ever since hip-hop spread outside New York City. It’s a Black art form that’s subject to being critiqued by people who don’t understand it.
BANKS: When you rip a people from their land, from their customs, from their culture—there’s still a piece of me that knows I’m not supposed to be speaking English. I’m not supposed to be worshipping Jesus Christ. All this shit is unnatural to me. People will be like, “Oh, you’re ignorant because you don’t speak proper English.” No. This is not mine. I don’t even want this shit, so I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want to do with this languages. I’m going to call you a fag or a cracker or a bitch.
PLAYBOY: Are you writing about these topics in your songs?
BANKS: No, not in the songs. I get annoyed with the fact that I’m even asked to explain myself. Why do I have to explain this to y’all? My little white fans will be like, “Why do you want reparations for work you didn’t do?” Well, you got handed your grandfather’s estate and you got to keep your grandmother’s diamonds and pearls and shit.
PLAYBOY: Haven’t you put yourself in the position of explaining yourself?
BANKS: No, y’all put me in the fucking position.
PLAYBOY: You don’t have to want to talk about it if you don’t want to.
BANKS: But I want to talk about it!
PLAYBOY: Then keep talking about it. They’re aren’t enough musicians who talk about the issues you bring up.
BANKS: You’re not paying attention. There are plenty of intelligent musicians. Kanye West, J. Cole, Ariel Pink, Lauyrn Hill, KRS-One, Q-Tip—lots of people. I’m not special.
PLAYBOY: Do you agree there are more artists who don’t talk about it than artists who do?
BANKS: Of course.
PLAYBOY: Then we agree.
BANKS: No, we’re not agreeing. We are absolutely not agreeing. I get upset when people are like, “Why don’t you just make music?” What would happen if I couldn’t sing? Then I’d be another Black bitch to y’all. It’s really fucking annoying. Black people need reparations in this country, and we deserve way more fucking credit and respect.
PLAYBOY: Are your creative impulses closely related to your destructive impulses?
BANKS: Yes. In my adulthood I’m having to destroy all these things society really wants you to think. The history textbooks in the U.S. are the worst if you’re not white. “The white man gave you the vote. He Christianized you and taught you how to speak English. If it weren’t for him, you’d still be living in a hut.” I could write a book about why Black people shouldn’t be Christians. Young Black kids should have their own special curriculum that doesn’t start from the boat ride over from Africa. All you know as a Black kid is we came over here on a boat, we didn’t have anything, and we still don’t have anything. But what was happening in Africa? What culture were we pulled away from? That information is vital to the survival of a young Black soul.
PLAYBOY: You said that Black people aren’t supposed to be Christians. What religion do you identify with?
BANKS: I don’t want to say, but I’ll tell you about one form of the religion. It’s called 21 Divisions. When they brought the slaves over to the Caribbean, they syncretized all their African gods with Catholic saints. So in 21 Divisions there are Black gods and goddesses, and my mother practiced that when I was little. Whenever problems happened, we turned to 21 Divisions to fix it. It’s funny, because my friends would be on the block in Harlem, their mothers would be like, “Oh, you fucking with that witchcraft. You working roots.” You can cleanse people with root work or do bad things to them. But 21 Divisions in celestial.

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