Azealia Banks has ignited the Internet with her music and feisty persona, and now she’s lighting up the cover of PAPER magazine’s Music Issue, on sale now. The 21-year-old Harlem native shows off her quirky personality and style, posing with a seashell bikini, gold Mickey Mouse purse, and a fork in her hair, in the colorful images captured by Emily Shur. In the interview, she discusses her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste, making the move to Los Angeles, and grappling with her newfound success.
On the inspiration behind “212: “Nobody was listening to my music. I had been dropped from [the English record label] XL. My manager dropped me. My boyfriend left me. I was starting to accept that my career was never gonna happen. So the song was just me, like, ‘F**k y’all. Y’all not gonna help me? I’m gonna get it myself.'”
On why she chose to live in L.A.: “For me there’s three options of where to live: L.A., London and New York. London’s too expensive and New York’s too exciting: too many parties, too many of my friends. If I wanna make this my life, I have to live somewhere I can work, somewhere I can focus. My album will not come out in September if I live in New York.”
On life in the spotlight: “The music industry is like a machine. It’s always going, and this new generation of artists—me, A$AP Rocky, Rita Ora—we’re the fuel that’s keeping it going. And once you get in that machine you’ve gotta run with it. There’s a crazy inertia that’s been going for years and years and years, and it’s not gonna stop for you, so you’ve gotta keep fu**ing working. The minute you stop working, that’s when you get stuck in the gears. And that’s when it grinds you up and spits you out.”
On the advice she received from Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine: “The music is what’s important. These people are not gonna wanna talk to you if you don’t have music; they’re not gonna be interested. And your star is not always gonna be as bright. So you really have to seize the day.”
Photo credit: Emily Shur/Paper