Azealia Banks, limber and relaxed in blue jeans covered with the faces of dead white men and a neon-yellow tank top emblazoned with the word “WITCH,” is feeling lighter. It’s been less than 24 hours since the surprise release of her debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, which was delayed for at least two years amidst reports of behind-the-scenes turmoil with Interscope, the label that she says invested $2 million into making her a mainstream star, and then let her out of her contract earlier this year with little to show for it. For the first time in a long time, she has a real opportunity to stop and appreciate what she’s accomplished.
In three years, Banks went from toast of the town—a seemingly can’t-miss star whose breakout hit, “212”, galvanized clubs and year-end lists alike in 2011—to what she calls “untouchable” following an acrimonious relationship with Interscope. After a protracted legal battle with the label, she was able to walk away with all the rights to the songs that would make up Broke With Expensive Taste, which allowed her and her team to hunt around for another label to release the album—but they weren’t able to find any takers. “Everyone loved the record, but they were just like, ‘Well, you know, you're kinda crazy,’” the 23-year-old says with a laugh. “And rightfully so.”
But after having her career put on hold for so long, she’s not relaxing too much. “I was on the phone with my manager last night, like, ‘What are we going to do next? I need to start working on the next album,’” she tells me as we sit inside her room at the W Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “He was like, ‘You should just enjoy this!’ And I'm like, ‘Noooo!’”