(All Photos Taken With A Point and Shoot From 1991, except of stage)
(Azealia Banks On Stage At Mermaid Ball)
Consider Azealia Banks’ Mermaid Ball the rapper’s farewell song to New York’s underground scene. The 21 year-old, who had just come from performing at Summer Jam, breezed through the VIP area at The Bowery Ballroom early (with designer Alexander Wang by her side), wearing dazzling crystals and a shimmery fish scale skirt.
While the rapper seemed to be excited about performing for her club-kids at the smallish Lower East Side venue, she couldn’t help but think about the packed arena she just left. “Did you hear about Nicki?” she said to me almost immediately, referring to the wildly successful pink-haired rapper of Cash Money. “She dropped out of Summer Jam. I guess some DJ was talking shit [about “Starships”], and she just left.” With a rap lineup stocked to the gills with men, Minaj’s departure made Banks the biggest female rap name to perform at Hot 97’s annual concert. No small blip for an artist who was, until fairly recently, a high-school student at LaGuardia in New York. And so, on the ride from Summer Jam to The Bowery Ballroom, Banks’ Mermaid Ball became her after-party.
(Azealia Banks Before The Show)
The concert, which started five hours before Banks took to the stage, celebrated the sounds of niche artists like the rising Maluca Mala and Tigga Calore as well as the gyrating skills of the young ball scene’s House of LaDosha. Though some of the rising rapper’s early “big-name” supporters were in the house (Alexander Wang, Sky Ferreira, Solange Knowles), this party felt like it was intended for the “212” star’s around-the-way-family. Close friends ran between VIP and the dance floor to mingle with Banks before her 1am set time, each one complimenting the rapper on her quick rise to the airwaves (or her scandalous mermaid outfit).
As Banks took to the stage in a sheer two-toned get-up, she spit rhymes off her just-released 1991 EP. Performing “Van Vogue”, “1991”, and even “Jumanji”, she made it very clear that her skills aren’t at all superficial; Banks’ coups are in her flows and execution, slicing and dicing tongue-twisters in her very uptown New York accent. As the set came to an end (just after 130am), Banks performed her most-successful track in front of the crowd of New Yorkers who knew her when. As “212” thumped, balloons fell from the ceiling, confetti sprayed from the rafters, and plumes of smoke billowed through the walls. The Mermaid Ball was bigger than even she could’ve expected. –Sian-Pierre Regis
(Designer Alexander Wang & Swagger New York Editor, Sian-Pierre Regis)
(ADEEN Designer, Remy Duran)
(Azealia Banks Performing “212”)
All Photos Courtesy Swagger, Shot By B-Rad Izzy