Baauer And Azealia Banks Beef Over “Harlem Shake” Takedown

By Claire Lobenfeld / February 15, 2013

Azealia Banks and “Harlem Shake” producer Baauer are in a bit of a to-do over Banks’s remix of the song. Yesterday she posted her own version on SoundCloud, which Baauer had swiftly removed, prompting her to ask why he was “coccblocking.” Baauer’s reply — “cause its not ur song lol” — set Banks completely off the rails and she proceeded to call him a “faggot” and a “pussy,” suggesting he and his dance music cronies “grab each others dicks in a circle jerk” and that they should “drown in faggotry.”

Does this sound familiar? Banks has squabbled over both of these things before. First, regarding her unapproved usage with moombahton luminary Munchi over using his track “Esta Noche” on her Fantasea mixtape (although, Munchi, I’d like to see the paperwork where Montell Jordan gave you the clearance to sample “Get It On Tonite“) and more recently, after calling Perez Hilton the same homophobic epithet for defending Angel Haze in another(!), although squashed, beef. Azealia’s use of the word “faggot” has garnered her a lot of attention as a homophobe, despite the fact that she consistently defends her use claiming it is synonymous with “cowardly,” not as slur against gay people. She hasn’t quit using it on Perez, either, despite the beseeching of GLAAD. Naturally, he jumped into the conversation, tweeting at Banks and Baauer, “Classy as always! How does it feel to be better known for all your trash-talking than your music, Azealia? #TeamBauuer.”

Very recently, “Harlem Shake” moved from dance music hit record to fully viral in the mass consciousness, replete with videos on YouTube featuring everyone the Dallas Mavericks to everyone at your alma matter doing their own version of the dance. This dance, however, is not anything like the actual Harlem Shake. Other websites have gone into this matter and have failed to mention the rapper G. Dep who stratified the Harlem Shake with his track “Special Delivery.” This is not G. Dep’s Harlem Shake. What we’re seeing right now is the Harlememe Shake. But rappers are always wont to hop on something when it’s hot — do a quick Google search and you will find so many remixes and freestyles on top of Lloyd Banks’s “Beamers Benz Bentleys,” it will take your entire day to listen to and catalogue all of it. The current hotness of “Harlem Shake” — it is the number 2 single on iTunes as I am typing this — is surely what got Azealia to give it a spin herself.

Here’s what I find to be so totally weird about this issue: I don’t know how to categorize Azealia. Is she a rapper who loves dance music or a dance music artist who raps? She gets beats from Diplo, Hudson Mohawke, and Cubic Zirconia’s Nick Hook, but she also has featured Styles P. from the LOX on one of her tracks. With these musical leanings and an Uptown upbringing, “Harlem Shake” is a no-brainer for her to rhyme on. Baauer’s career, meanwhile, is deeply indebted to rap. He kicked off a niche genre — trap rave, for lack of better nomenclature — that is gleaned from Southern rap traditions made popular by T.I., Gucci Mane, and Young Jeezy. There are a lot of people who find the authenticity of trap rave to be totally specious, and here Baauer shows a dearth of knowledge about commonplace practices in hip-hop. Rappers do this all the time and Azealia stands to make no money off of her “Harlem Shake” remix. If he’s going to be appropriating from rap, he has to let rap appropriate from him, too. Having said that, Azealia’s language and definition choices are still super questionable.