Yung Rapunxel, Miss Bank$ or Azealia Banks draws a strange kind of crowd. Everyone from hipsters to hardcore rap fans are here, but they’re splintered among Azealia devotees who have been waiting for her to return to Australia since her rather brief appearance two years ago.
Before Banks, Ivan Ooze bounces onto stage – literally – with Shadez Daddie in tow. They’re an unlikely Mario and Luigi type pair – one is entirely in white overalls and the other in black. Ooze, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Allday, fiercely spits out his rhymes while Daddie bounces and backflips, to the delight of the crowd.
The bouncer informs me Banks should be on stage by 9:40, but no such luck. Crew swarm the stage, fixing up microphones and wiping out a song from the set list, while the crowd grows more restless. Eventually, some punters begin chanting “Azealia” while a few half-heartedly shout “Iggy” or “Igloo” instead, hoping to provoke her onto stage. Thankfully, before the crowd can revolt or riot, her backing band appears. DJ Cosmo starts the opening bars of Idle Delilah before Miss Bank$ herself storms on stage with three backup dancers, who sporadically prance back off and onto stage throughout the set. Dressed all in black, they’re not meant to be conspicuous – they’re just mirroring Banks’ moves, or to function as a montage while she raps her way through the first three songs of her debut album in order.
Yet, the crowd appears more interested in touching her hand and splashing their drinks to the pumping bass than actually hearing the subtleties in her songs, which draw from jazz, electronica and more. She whips through songs without too much bantering, and doesn’t leave much time for the crowd to respond to anything she says, moving promptly from one track to the next. Later, she hops in sync with her backing dancers, slaying both the choreography and the complex rhymes. Unfortunately, the lyrics, the centrepiece of many of her tracks, are difficult to make out because the bass and drums are turned up to dizzying heights. Her set resembles that of an underground club night DJ more than it does that of a critically acclaimed hip-hop artist – the balance between her vocals and the backing band was sorely misplaced.
Banks knows what she’s doing – the rhymes, the rhythm and the moves. She may be courting critical acclaim, but her shows are purely for a good time. It’s not as intricate or serious as her debut or mixtapes, which are flawless in their samples, loops and lyrics but she still manages to slay.