Live Review: Azealia Banks

Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, Sunday 6th November

I was about to give more of a show than I came over here for, know what I’m sayin’?” smirks [a]Azealia Banks[/a], clutching her red-and-white striped bustier to her chest. It’s teatime on Sunday, and Azealia’s clothes appear to be falling off, shaken loose by the aggressive bounce with which she’s stomping any sense of Sabbath restfulness out of the first of two short, sharp showcases.

Industry and hipsters are out in force at both to check out the latest gutter-mouthed goddess. ‘Fazed’ is not, however, a word in Azealia’s inventively disgusting vocabulary. Strolling on in mohair coat and tiny denim shorts, she couldn’t be more at ease. She starts with a fierce a cappella, her DJ, Cosmo, scratching a belligerent beat out behind her as she tosses out warnings about the dire possible consequences of fucking with her. “Try something slick and get your dick hacked up/You can either hit the door in peace or watch your meat hit the floor in pieces/Believe this” she assures on the beguilingly nonchalant, [a]Peter Bjorn And John[/a]-sampling ‘The Chill$’. And, yes, the vicarious thrill of a pretty young woman talking abject, violent filth is nothing new, but Azealia’s wit, her energy, her rawness make it fresh.

Though after the bitchy, crunky ‘Barbie Shit’, she throws in a truncated cover of ‘Valerie’ as a nod to London’s own late dirty diva, it’s clear that rapping is where Azealia’s talents and heart lie, and you can’t imagine her, like [a]Nicki Minaj[/a], getting sidetracked into balladry. The spirit of [a]Lil’ Kim[/a] sleazes through the moody, menacing ‘Runnin’’, her collaboration with Lunice, blended with an omnivorous musical taste and an eye to the dancefloor. “This is the jam that probably brought y’all here tonight,” she says as she brings the evening showcase to a jumping end. “So take your shirt off, pull your dick out, do whatever you need to do…” Everyone else manages to keep their clothes on but completely loses their shit as the maddeningly aggressive synthery of ‘212’ begins to wind up, and as Azealia starts howling “THIS SHIT BEEN MINE, MINE” the whole room bounces with her.

She chucks in the chorus of [a]The Prodigy[/a]’s ‘Firestarter’, taking things up to breaking point, and then, that’s it. She’s gone, leaving them wanting more. Let’s just hope the fickle affections of the internet stick with her long enough to realise that she’s more than just that one song.

Emily Mackay