Two Sides of the Same Coin? Hip-hop, Colorism, and the Portrayal of Two Rappers, Azealia Banks and Cardi B

Note: I’m just going to say it here. I am not a sociologist.

My views regarding women (and non-binary folks) in hip-hop is succinctly this: MORE is better. I love hip-hop in general, except for the fact that the genre seems to cling to the idea of money as success and not of the culture at large, but I digress. There is a place for most underrepresented people within the genre, whether it is being a fan of artists at home, at venues, clubs, or concerts, or even as being a performer.

That is why I feel that my viewpoint as a mere consumer of the culture has any merit.

To continue: I am also a fan of Azealia Banks.

I know, many people may stop at just those words. However, it is not to say that I have not struggled with my fandom (dare I call it a fandom) of Zee and her ways for long. I have enjoyed the nuances within her rap, the way that she understands how to ride a beat with the essence of someone that has truly lived the experience of her words. I adore that, despite her seemingly unshakable transmisogyny (see ‘Us’ and her words online) and devaluation of non-Black cultures.

I also do enjoy Cardi B and her music as well.

She is a woman that I have seen in vestiges since her beginning on sites like Instagram. As I viewed her short videos, her charisma was instantly palpable. Her personality shone through the video, even though her appearance was not necessarily refined to modern “pop culture requirements”. Even then. I desired to see more of her in modern life. When I initially saw that she was to be casted on Love and Hip Hop: New York, my initial response was sheer excitement for her. Her meteoric rise continued into the genre of hip-hop, where she has scored success with her single, “Bodak Yellow”, which has been considered by many to be the hit of summer 2017.

So, where is the problem?

A few days ago, Azealia Banks referred to Cardi B in a series of tweets. She called out many of hip-hop’s men figures, such as Charlamagne Tha God, for his ardent support of Cardi B and her career. She mentioned that other Black women such as Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma, and herself could have gotten a number one album on the Billboard 100 list, if the Black hip-hop community fostered more support of women in those roles.

I tend to agree.

We all know that hip-hop is not mostly consumed by Black people. The genre has gone from what is considered to be underground, to what is considered to be as mainstream as much of pop music is. At its worst, it is considered illicit but acceptable for those of “a certain age” within the sphere of the mainstream.

Both Azealia Banks and Cardi B have had missteps regarding gross levels of transmisogyny (particularly transmisogynoir, given that the people that have supported the beginnings of both of their careers are both Black and queer). They are both known to “pop off”, a phrase here that means that they are often known to be verbally outspoken given their personal viewpoints on social issues in the day. They both have backgrounds based in sex work (stripping) and both had a hit that was seen as changing the paradigm within hip-hop for women at large. So why are they seen in such a different light?

I posited as much on Twitter earlier this evening, but most people did not see the seeming colorism in the responses to both rappers. I consider both of them to be abrasive in nature, and indeed, that is what I enjoy about them both. There is a place to educate people that are unaware of their bigotry and why it is wrong within modern culture, especially online where hundreds of people will respond to something that they deem unjust within a matter of minutes. I saw a means of people willing to be apologetic with regards to Cardi B’s words, but Banks’ words were disputed outright. The only real factor that I see that could dispel the words of defense I do have for Azealia Banks’ words is that she has had more time in the public sphere to be seen. I think that if Cardi B was as famous in the mainstream as Azealia Banks was and has been for years now, she would have said as many statements in as much time.

Perhaps it is only me that sees this dispute in this manner. At any case, Cardi B posted a video of Azealia Banks lipsyncing the lyrics to “Bodak Yellow” while dancing in a nightclub of some type with a caption that implied that “even haters love Cardi B and her music”.

What do you think? Is there colorism with regards to Cardi B’s extreme rise and hype level and the need to correct Azealia Banks’ views before she is seen as palatable enough for a mainstream audience? Or is it just me seeing what I want to see with respect to women in hip-hop? Let me know.