these are some very bare notes. in fact, ‘notes’ is probably the most appropriate term for this because I’m noting something that I don’t have the knowledge to properly analyze.
I’ve been thinking about Azaelia Banks in the wake of her liquorice video, her emigrating from twitter to tumblr and attendant shirking of the label ‘rapper’ in favor of ‘vocalist.’
it very well may be that the term ‘rapper’ (and it’s derivative, ‘female rapper’) is just too diminuitive to describe Banks, and a host of other Black women musicians and artists. consider Azaelia Banks alongside Nicki Minaj, Rye Rye, Janelle Monae, and Santigold (to name only the most prominent examples), all artists for whom rapping is among the styles of performance in their repertoires. also all artists who traverse musical genres and also emphasize dance and visual art, creating truly multimedia pieces of performance art.
in this way, these performers are participating in a tradition of Black women’s vocal performance that precedes and exceeds hip hop.
here are some more thoughts that I can’t quite shape into a coherent argument:
- Banks, Minaj and Monae all have performing arts training (Monae at AMDA and Banks and Minaj are graduates of LaGuardia high school [the Fame school]).
- the central role of visual art in their work has a double-edged effect on their art:
- on one hand, the capital necessary to produce music videos requires that they have the backing of major labels; which allows for really remarkable videos and live performance set-pieces.
- on the other hand, being on major labels (more accurately, boutique labels that are underwritten by major labels) means that at least some of theirmusic will be weakened by the need for it to be marketable (e.g., this might be contentious, but I think ‘tightrope’ was one of the least interesting songs on Janelle Monae’s LP, especially considering the number of amazing songs on that album, like the opening salvo of dance or die, fast, and locked inside).
this is a really interesting moment in music, particularly because of the number of (young)Black women artists who are working across media and genres. we can only dream of what might be created if there existed the means to finance Black music without relying on record labels—can you imagine what Janelle Monae might invent if she had the financial independence of Radiohead?
I’d listen to nothing else for years.