You might remember that earlier I mentioned I clicked the link provided by Azealia Banks of her remix, only to find it had been taken down. Banks posted the remix on soundcloud, but Baauer and his labelmate Diplo demanded it be taken down because it was an un-authorized remix. Aside from the obvious rejoinder that the majority of soundcloud is unauthorized remixes, this episode reveals the difference of power that negotiates the “open” space of the internet. We have a white producer, who is accused of appropriating Harlem culture, attacking a black female rapper born in Harlem of improperly using his “intellectual property.” Black claims to propriety are met with crickets, while a white man’s claim is heard and acted upon to the detriment of Banks. Diplo took to twitter to begin the anti-Banks commentary, while Banks refused to back down. She made a music video and posted it to youtube, ensuring that her fans would still have access to the song. The spat continued on twitter though, with Banks inadvertently calling Baauer the “F-word.” This re-ignited a sleeping giant in Azealia Banks’ burgeoning career, which is her intramural relations with the LGBT civil rights apparatus, as well as gay male media figures, that simultaneously support and police her. This conversation is deep and necessary (for a much better handling of this topic, click here), yet for the purposes of this essay it is important to mention this because much of the coverage of this “twitter beef” was to categorize this as “yet another Azealia Banks beef.” There is an almost universal consensus that Banks starts and maintains beefs with producers, a storyline Baauer and Diplo cited and perpetuated to deflect attention away from their own fault. Baauer and Diplo’s story is that Banks recorded a remix and they asked her to not post it because they decided to go into a different direction. The different direction was to get Juicy J to record a remix and release that as the official remix. What this mystifies is what Banks brought up: the fact that they came to Banks asking her to remix it initially and then, at the last second, after she had worked, mixed, prepared a marketing strategy, aligned it with her own schedule, and shot a video, they decided they did not want her to go forward with it. So, Baauer and Diplo decided that Banks’ life and career should take a backseat because they wanted another, more famous, black artist to remix their song.
What is happening here is a politics of obliteration. That Banks is thought to be replaceable by Juicy J is emblematic of what so many black people in popular culture have attested to: the systemic belief in the interchangeability of black entertainers. The thought here is that a black female rapper from Harlem can be replaced by a black male rapper from Memphis, Tennessee. Baauer attempts to say that he thought Azealia Banks’ lyrics were only so-so and believed Juicy J could do better. If this is not an example of a white man talking out of his ass, I am not sure what is. I do not need to get into the technical aspects of rapping to say Azealia Banks could destroy any rapper who’s idea of a great song is, “Bands ‘a make her dance.” But this is not about Juicy J, this is about Baauer and the meaning of blackness to his ability to produce music. For him, black culture is not an other’s thing made in specific contexts, but instead are loose, unowned resources of “cool” to be stretched, interpolated, and sequenced into a dramatic product to produce his own name. Thus, the being of black culture (its claims to place and time) are obliterated so that he may write himself into existence over the cleared field. Saidiya Hartman writes, “The elasticity of blackness and its capacious affects enabled such flights and becomings… The fungibility of the commodity, specifically its abstractness and immateriality, enabled the black body to serve as the vehicle of self-exploration, renunciation, and enjoyment” (Hartman, 25). Thus, Baauer is not simply emblematic of an internet-age, post-genre music culture, but is instead an example par excellance of the white imagination using the black body as a vehicle for its own purposes. In other words, Baauer is not (only) a thief, he is a master.