31-year-old rapper Azealia Banks is no stranger to controversy. The singer, who rose to fame in the 2010s thanks to hits like ‘Luxury’ and TikTok indie sleaze favourite ‘212’, has found herself in the middle of some pretty scathing feuds since her debut all those years ago.
You could argue that the constant social media battles she finds herself in have almost become part of her brand as an artist. It’s not only individuals like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga that Banks has beef with—she’s even found herself at arms with the nation of Sweden and the entire African diaspora. Yep, you read that right.
Banks has a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, something that does help to contextualise some of her more impulsive tirades, and a mental health illness that’s also played a role in the highly divisive rhetoric of rapper Kanye West. That being said, one’s own illness only excuses your actions so far, and the lengths her social media altercations can go, often cross all reasonable boundaries.
Let’s unpack some of the most controversial events, infamous spats, and pettiest tantrums attached to one of our generation’s most highly complex artists, Miss Banks.
While some may have heard of Iggy Azalea for the 2014 Clueless-inspired bop ‘Fancy’, a lot of people will be familiar with the Australian-based rapper because of her run-in with Azealia. It all started when Banks accused Iggy of persistent cultural appropriation, to use a phrase coined by the artist, Iggy is a master in “culturally smudging.”
A surprisingly salient point from Banks in a TikTok from 2021 shows the ‘212’ singer criticising Iggy for calling herself a “runaway slave master” on her 2013 song ‘D.R.U.G.S.’.
Their feud further escalated thanks to Banks’ tendency to tweet first and ask questions later. In 2018, she ripped into the ‘Problem’ singer for stealing her name and then subsequently trolled her for losing a record deal. Furious tweets were launched from both sides, but it was clear that Banks had gotten under Iggy’s skin as the rapper turned to sound off with a resounding “shut the f*ck up!”
Let’s finish off this section with perhaps one of the most out-there and bizarre celebrity-beef tweets I’ve ever seen posted on a public platform. Only the infamous Fantasea artist could put out something so poetic and memorable.
Bank’s disagreements with Lady Gaga began when it was alleged that Gaga had stolen the track name ‘Red Flame’ from the rapper after she’d sent the ‘Just Dance’ singer a demo tape in 2013. The she-said/she-said spat led to one of the funniest Instagram posts in the history of the app.
When Gaga’s dogs were stolen back in 2021, the singer shared a post offering $500,000 for the safe return of her beloved pets. Banks sought to beat her reward—evidently in an attempt to get the upper hand in their battle—and posted that she would offer $750,000 for the dogs. “Bring me the dogs” closed out Banks’ story post. Cruel or hilarious? You decide.
Now, this particular saga began in August 2018, when Banks claimed to have been trapped inside Twitter fanatic Elon Musk’s mansion. Grimes had invited the artist over to collaborate, but when Banks arrived she was left almost entirely by herself while Grimes had to coddle the billionaire, who was freaking out after taking a psychedelic. What followed was a falling out between the two singers. Banks claimed she barely saw Musk and Grimes—Who Banks once said “smells like a roll of nickels”—for the three days she was “trapped” in the mansion.
The tweet in question was Musk sharing with the world that he planned to “take Tesla private at $420.” The highly juvenile reference to weed resulted in federal investigators opening an inquiry into Tesla for fraudulent conduct. This later led to the texts between Banks and Grimes being used as evidence in court. You’ve got to see the receipts on this one.
I think I find this one so hilarious because it allows us to picture the Tesla CEO having a meltdown on acid, but we can only imagine how strange an experience this was for Banks.
Okay, brace yourself, this one is really strange. In 2021, the self-proclaimed witch took to Instagram to show fans a video of her digging up her recently-deceased cat, and subsequently boiling its body for the bones. I warned you.
While many accused her of eating the poor animal, Banks tried to clear up the confusion, casually stating that the unearthing was simply part of a spiritual process, and that she planned to make jewellery from the animal’s bones. Some people have astrology, others, bone jewellery.
So, Iggy, Gaga, Musk—who’s next? Oh, just two entire nations. In a damning Instagram story post from 2019, Banks slammed Sweden for its socialist structure, bland food options, and inherent racism. One very kind Swede took to Quora to dispel some of what the artist was claiming.
Despite its progressive values, Sweden is far from a socialist state, and the claim that Swedes avoid her gaze simply because of her ethnicity may have been a result of Swedish people being famously reserved and non-confrontational. We can’t say for certain, but it’s certainly clear that she didn’t enjoy her time in the European country. Most likely just her venting, this feud was important enough to be listed on her since-trimmed ‘controversy’ section on Wikipedia.
In 2015, The Independent highlighted the reasons why the rapper has an issue with Australia. After playing one of her biggest shows at the famous Splendour in the Grass festival, radio DJ Paul Brown tweeted out a congratulatory message to Banks for completing a full show in Australia, allegedly in reference to her previously being booed off stage and having cans thrown at her.
Naturally, the singer fired back by saying she felt that Australian fans were “terrible” to play for and that the audiences attending her performance had been “violent and belligerent.” Banks finished her argument by stating she would not put herself in danger but that she would do anything for her fans. A slightly confusing sentiment but nothing new when it comes to Banks’ public outbursts.
While most of Banks’ controversies poke fun at the absurdity of celebrity beef, and act more in her favour than anything else, the singer’s comments on the queer community do not inspire the same feelings of light-hearted internet trolling that the rest of her antics do.
This rabbit hole first began in 2014 when the performer took to social media to drag PrEP, a drug that prevents the transmission of HIV. The pills are widely used in the LGBTQIA+ community and have acted as a life-saving measure as well as a preventative aid. In a rant that Banks later deleted, she discredited PrEP and claimed that it was promiscuous lifestyles—as well as other STIs—that were destroying communities.
Only one year later, Banks was highly criticised by the media for comparing the LGBTQIA+ community to the “white, gay KKK.” The shocking statements came after the rapper was seen hurling homophobic abuse at a flight attendant, which spiralled into—you guessed it—further social media rants and tirades.
Banks has since posted that she has bid “adieu” to the gay community, being unable to abide by their standards and attitudes. I can’t imagine they’re desperately missing her.
Although a lot of fans in the queer space have turned the other cheek in regard to these events—potentially in light of the strength of Banks’ music, and the nature of her mental illness—this next attack may have been the final straw for some.
In 2021, Banks claimed that she had remarried and that she was now Jewish. When it was pointed out to her on Twitter that that wasn’t exactly how it works, Banks chose to make a comparison between the journey that trans women face and her own ‘transition’ into the Judaic faith—arguing that the “mental gymnastics” were no different.
Be it impulsive tweeting or Instagram trolling, calling Banks controversial is putting it lightly. The uncancelable singer seems to evade concrete consequences regardless of what she does. And while her social media accounts may come and go, just know that no country is safe from the wrath of Azealia Banks.