It seems somewhere along the way, Azealia Banks fell out of love with fashion. The distinction between fashion and style here is important because—judging by her performance, music video, and editorial looks—she still very much cares about cultivating a unique visual identity. But judging by her comments about Kanye West in a recent interview, Banks is done with high fashion.
When an interviewer for France's Skyrock asked, "What do you think of the state of hip-hop in 2015?" Banks answered:
I feel a little sad for hip-hop in 2015 because I think that—I think, aside from people like Kendrick Lamar and stuff like that, I think there's a huge emphasis on kind of tailoring yourself to these dominant, white social norms, and there's an emphasis on being accepted by white people or what I like to call "The Big House." I feel like there were artists like Kanye West, for example. Someone like Kanye West, when he first came out, it was a different thing, and now, he's really focused on, like, being accepted by, like, the white fashion world, and it's kind of like... It's a little confusing.
I think that hip-hop is kind of losing itself in that way. Self-preservation is a real thing, and it's important. And I think hip-hop isn’t doing enough to preserve itself. It’s doing the most to try and mesh worlds, and be in fashion, and be in this, and do this and that. It’s watering itself down by trying to do things like that.
Admittedly, Kanye's struggles with the undeniably über-white fashion industry can be a little confusing, and the same questions continue to crop up, namely: What's keeping you from breaking out and starting your own line? But it's also not a new struggle for Ye—it's one he's been grappling with as far back as his first studio album The College Dropout. Take the second verse of "All Falls Down" for example:
Man I promise, I'm so self-conscious
That's why you always see me with at least one of my watches
Rollies and Pasha's done drove me crazy
I can't even pronounce nothing, pass that Ver-say-see!
Then I spent four hundred bucks on this
Just to be like, n---a you ain't up on this
And I can't even go to the grocery store
Without some Ones that's clean and a shirt with a team
It seems we living the American dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings
We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we a stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n---a in a coupe
Even on this early record, Kanye admits to feeling shackled by the fashion industry, commercialism, and what's in style.
What adds another layer of complexity to Banks' comments, though, is the fact that she not only attended but performed at West's second Paris Fashion Week runway show in 2012. Add to that her own history of teaming up with fashion brands, attending the Met Gala (aka fashion prom), and even performing at Karl Lagerfeld's house, and it becomes pretty evident that her relationship with the industry has soured. In many ways, though, it's completely understandable. The fashion and beauty industries are glaringly homogenous, both with long histories of appropriating other cultures and subcultures, and with announcements like "Rihanna Makes History As First Woman Of Color To Be The Face Of Dior" happening this year, it's clear there's a long way to go.