At the Echo on Friday night, sitting next to a handful of future lung cancer patients, staring at my phone, I was thinking about Azealia Banks. The Harlem rapper/singer is nothing if not a compelling personality; “212,” her star-making single after a few embryonic misfires, is her Don Draper carousel pitch. The video offers little more than her ear-to-ear smile, self-consciously silly dance moves and a Mickey Mouse sweater. It is, in a word, fun. Banks, whose Twitter display name is “Yung Rapunxel” and responded to the Huffington Post’s police siren article about her bisexuality with the line, “Who came out ? Was it not always clear that I enjoy time with other Mermaids?,” seems savvy and amused with the absurdities of her sudden fame. Under the difficult mantle of “Female MC,” she has yet to retreat to Nicki Minaj’s plastic fortress or shudder under the weight of the expectations that seem to have crushed poor Kreayshawn.
“212” is split like a three-act play, divided by Banks switching moderately successfully from rhyming to singing and back. (It’s harder to be funny when you’re singing.) She’s an equal opportunity offender, though the song’s NSFW closing line is the pointed “I’ma ruin you, cunt.” Still, “212” offers its share of female empowerment: when she repeats, “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” over the round Latin rhythm, it’s a moment for women to throw their hands up in triumph as boyfriends look around bashfully and scratch the backs of their necks. It probably sounds really great at the club.