thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Replay: Azealia Banks Will See You “L8R”

In gender, music videos, race, Replay on April 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

If you’re not already familiar with Azealia Banks, you will be soon. The rising hip-hop star has got it all: charisma, talent, quick wit, quick rhymes, and a killer name for her upcoming debut album, due out in September: Broke With Expensive Taste.

“But where did my new best friend Azealia come from?” you may be asking yourself at this very moment. “Yea, but from whence does this Lady of the Song arise, like Venus from her shell of ore?” asks your other friend who thinks he is Shakespeare, but he’s not. Your friend is weird but he means well and you are a treasure. So we’ll answer both of you with today’s music video pick, “L8R”  — a demo Banks released way back in 2010 to help draw record labels’ attention.

Sarah T.
First, let’s talk about this barbecue. I want to go to there! And I’m a vegetarian. I think Banks was doing something smart with the whole grilling meat = steamy = sexy but also = Banks in a position that’s traditionally occupied by men. At least in pop culture representations, it’s almost always men who are working the BBQ grill. Similarly, as a rapper, Banks is a woman working in a pretty masculinist field. In both cases, she looks completely in control and capable and also super-appealing. And like she’s having a grand old time.

I really enjoy the sense of playfulness in this video. There are so many fun little details — the guy who keeps the card on his lips while Banks is rapping after a fast-forward game of kiss’n’blow, the way she gets tossed into the pool and completely rolls with it, smiling and swimming and rapping underwater. The light-hearted visuals make for good contrast with her lyrical boasting, which includes the following claims:

a) She’s a “man crook” who can steal your boyfriend in a flash. (Umm I believe it. Have you seen her? She is gorgeous.)

b) She’s only interested in stealing your boyfriend if he is financially secure. (“No fronting, it’s about his paper / He a giver I’m a taker and a fibber and a faker”)

The lyrics also suggest that she’s specifically talking about her irresistibility in a culture that privileges white femininity: “Light-skinned world, light-skinned girls/Switching his vanilla cause he likes that swirl/He like black girls and he love a musician.” The “light-skinned world” is out to persuade black women that they lack worth; Banks is out to show everyone — but particularly the light-skinned world — just how valuable, beautiful, talented, and smart she knows she is. So essentially, Banks throws down in her attention-getting demo by situating herself as a threat to men (she’ll take advantage of them), women (she’s a siren whom their boyfriends cannot resist) and particularly white women (they may think they’re hot, but she knows she’s hotter). Confrontation at every turn! And she does it so joyously that it’s impossible not to root for her. (Although let’s be honest, she doesn’t have to be joyous to get me to root for her. She just has to be effortlessly cool, which she is, constantly.) How soon is September?

Phoebe B.
I think this video is great in part because it is simple in setting and editing, which really showcases Banks and her talent. I love Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga and those artists whose performance of self is perhaps more outlandish or even more obviously a performance, but I really like that this video feels about Banks’ incredible ability (and beauty for that matter). And, unlike Lady Gaga (most of the time) we get close-ups of Banks’ face, which allow for a kind of intimacy that both Minaj and Gaga I think push back on. Here, though, Banks uses the close-up to show not vulnerability but strength. And for much of the time she looks straight through the camera, which is also most often a masculine position. Early on in the video she even flirts with the camera and is almost coy, but then as the video progresses, even when she is tossed in the pool, her voice and presence demand that you look at her. But it is on her terms, which she is by no means shy of relating (as Sarah pointed out above). She is not going to let the camera objectify her; rather she is going to control its gaze.

Also, I too really like the playfulness of this video. The whole video takes place poolside during a backyard bbq and I love, like Sarah mentioned, that Banks is grilling and in control. Even when she is thrown in the pool she goes with it, or as my third grade teacher might have said, she rolls with the punches and seems unfazed. This yard, this party, these lyrics, and her body are all her territory, and she knows that she is both awesome and beautiful. And I like that.

What say you, GLG readers? Are you a L8R lover or a L8R H8R?

This post is part of a new weekly column, “Replay,” where we respond to music videos. Sometimes they’ll be new, sometimes they’ll be old, and sometimes they will just be ones we love. Drop us a line at if you have a music video you think we should feature here. And keep your eyes peeled for next week’s Replay on Iggy Azalea’s “Murder Business.”

  1. […] Azealia Banks’ awesome first video “L8R.” Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterTumblrPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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