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Azealia Banks - Coachella - 4/21/12

Azealia Banks - Coachella - 4/21/12
Meranda Carter

See also: Our Complete Coachella Coverage

Safe bet that thousands of people shouting, "I guess that cunt getting eaten" in unison has never happened at Coachella before. Yet that's exactly what was heard yesterday during Azealia Banks' set. It was midday, and most of us weren't even drunk yet.

Last September, the Harlem rapper broke out with the video to her song "212." And it was with good reason: in cutoff jean shorts, a Mickey Mouse sweater and braided pigtails, the 20-year-old is the picture of innocence -- until she caps her first verse with the above chant. In the following months, she's pushed boundaries and, predictably, found a fan in Kanye West.

Azealia Banks - Coachella - 4/21/12
Meranda Carter

She casually mentioned she's bisexual before talking about her longtime boyfriend. She insinuated Iggy Azalea is racist and in the next breath labeled herself "pro-black girl." She called out Nicki Minaj for capitalizing on her looks although she herself did a photo shoot with Terry Richardson.

We didn't know what to expect from her set yesterday, but considering her training at LaGuardia Performing Arts High School, we had high hopes. She strode onstage in an outfit from the year she was born, 1991: shiny pleather shortalls with one strap undone a la Kriss Kross, a neon orange mesh top revealing electrical tape pasties and black combat boots. Maybe it was the outfit, her butt-brushing crimped red wig, or just her crotch-grabbing, but she had us thinking about Lil' Kim.

Of course, like most '90s babies-turned-rappers, Banks incorporates more than just hip-hop into her persona. She didn't have a hype man, but she did have two dancers vogueing -- an inspired touch, considering the dance originated in Harlem's house music community, and her sound owes much to the genre.

 

Her stage show does need to be tightened a little. She didn't ad lib much, and her set was only 30 minutes long. But her breath control was good, and she seemed to perform twice as many songs in half the time -- that's how fast she raps. And when she lustily belted "Valerie," we stared, stunned, at this club kid singing like she was in a gospel choir.

Banks inserted a small break to give her dancers the spotlight and herself a minute to catch her breath. Yet her show was much livelier and she was much less winded than most would've been in yesterday's heat.

Her energy never waned. Jumping up and down like a jubilant kid, she had the whole crowd pogoing as well. We dig her -- and not just because she gave us license to scream the c-word.

Personal bias: The more strong women in rap, the better.

The crowd: People who probably have never screamed the word "cunt" in public before.

Random notebook dump: The sound has been hit-or-miss for almost every show in the Gobi tent.

See also: Our Complete Coachella Coverage

Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, Rebecca Haithcoat @rhaithcoat, and like us at LAWeeklyMusic.

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