As music fans await the release or leak of Azealia Banks' long-delayed debut album, Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke is supporting the controversial rapper. "It seems like nobody is rooting for her," he wrote. "But I am."
It has been more than two years since Banks' single 212 made her an instant star. Banks has quipped that she has been "riding on mixtape fumes" since then. The endless postponement of her album Broke with Expensive Taste has exhausted the patience of her fans and threatened the relationship with her label; in January Banks wrote that she was "begging to be dropped" by Universal, and last month she threatened to leak her album on 15 April.
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Though there is still no sign of the leak (or of the official album release), an unexpected white knight has stepped into the breach, defending Banks from the haters. In an article for Noisey, Okereke described meeting Banks at a festival in 2012: he had only recently "gagged" in awe at 212; now he found her her "sweet, smart yet starry eyed".
"I hadn't slept all night but she saw me in a cafe and bought me lunch," Okereke recalled. "During the meal I politely asked her when her record was coming out. She said she didn't know, that making a record was hard … What struck me about her the most was her ambition … She was worried about how so many female MCs don't make provisions for the future. That foresight impressed me. I often wonder how she must be dealing with this level of inactivity."
Okereke also observed the levels of internet hate the rapper receives: "I understand that it’s got to suck to be told you have to sit on music for over two years, while a 'group of old white guys' who don't understand your craft, are making decisions about its commercial viability."
A fear of this kind of situation was one reason why Bloc Party has never signed with a major label, Okereke said. "It's a pretty simple equation, you take their money, you have to do what they say." And if relations between Banks and her label are "frosty", they will have been made worse by the fact that she has sacked "about six managers and 10 PRs" since 2012. "If the turgid [song] ATM Jam featuring 'the lite skin comeback kid' Pharrell can't connect, then face it, that hit that the record label are waiting for probably isn't going to come."
Ultimately, Okereke's advice for Banks is to be herself: "Get this record out, make these summer shows the best they can be and then get your head down and start again from scratch," he wrote. "Don't lose heart, you still have it in you."
Kele Okereke released his first solo album, The Boxer, in 2010.