"The music industry is like a machine," says Azealia. "It’s always going, and this new generation of artists — me, A$AP Rocky, Rita Ora — we’re the fuel that’s keeping it going. And once you get in that machine you’ve gotta run with it. There’s a crazy inertia that’s been going for years and years and years, and it’s not gonna stop for you, so you’ve gotta keep fucking working. The minute you stop working, that’s when you get stuck in the gears. And that’s when it grinds you up and spits you out." But doesn’t that constant work leave zero time for normal-person stuff? "That’s what you give up when you sign that contract," Banks replies. "This hustle and bustle becomes your normal-person shit."
“My generation, that’s just what we’re into,” she says. “When we got home from school, that’s how we kept up with each other: AOL, Zynga, Angelfire, Napster, shit like that.” Banks says her family got its first Internet connection when she was 9 or 10. “You’d be on there and you’d go to, like, sex.com!” She laughs. “You’re mad obvious with it when you’re a kid. You know how many times they probably sold sex.com? It’s like the go-to URL.”
At 17, she switched from musicals to rapping, saving up her Starbucks money to record rambunctious rap cuts like “Gimme a Chance” under the name Miss Bank$. Those tracks caught the attention of super-producer Diplo, which in 2009 led to a development deal with XL, home to Adele and the xx; the relationship soured, though, and soon Banks sought safe haven with friends in Montreal, where she continued to work on her music, including the song that would become “212.” Did she know immediately that the song was a hit? “Kind of, yeah,” she replies between bites of black beans and rice. “Because of that house beat.”