Azealia Banks Thinks Cardi B Is Successful Because She’s Light Skinned — Is She Right?

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One of the most frustrating things about Azealia Banks is how often you can break down her mountains of venomous, irrational vitriol and find hiding at the center a tiny, glittering nugget of truth. It’s almost impossible to defend Azealia Banks when she attacks her primary supporters, sprays her acerbic wit at any convenient target, and does some, uh, interesting things with chickens.

But every so often, she’ll make a point that, if you step back and take an objective squint, makes way too much sense, making you wish that literally anyone else had said it, so it could be properly contextualized and discussed without becoming a referendum on Azealia herself and how she probably needs some sort of counseling to level out a bit.

That’s to say nothing of the draconian double standard applied to her follies; she has yet to engage in horrific acts of violence against another human being, yet has been “canceled” at this point more times than most of us are willing to count. Meanwhile, her male counterparts are given chance after chance after chance, without ever facing any real consequences for their actions.

The point is, it’d be nice to be able to examine Azealia’s statements without Azealia, but then we probably wouldn’t have those statements to examine. Only a proud misfit like her would even think to question certain aspects of the music industry; she does, after all, have a unique “advantage” of being a triple minority within the business as a queer, Black woman. It might be most incumbent on her as one to call out the discrepancies when she sees them; it’s on us as music fans, critics, and consumers to interrogate her qualms with a critical eye.

When Azealia Banks went on a social media rampage over the last few days, accusing Cardi B of using ghostwriters for her No. 1 hit “Bodak Yellow” and even attributing the single’s success to colorism in the industry, it would have been easy just to write it off as sour grapes. To be fair to Cardi, Banks could very well just be incredibly salty that her own hit “212” never even entered the US charts and only certified at 250,000 copies shipped/sold as her label deal disintegrated amid her roiling storm of self-created controversy, while “Bodak Yellow” climbed the chart over three weeks to overtake pop mainstay Taylor Swift, earning adulation and congrats from any number of Cardi’s peers, including Nicki Minaj. She also became the first solo female rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100, and only the sixth female rapper to do so overall.

However, just like she was at least partially right about Iggy Azalea being afforded a bit more leeway due to her, ahem, “unique” looks for a rapper (okay, fine — because she’s a white girl, which some people still think is a novelty in rap, despite tons of evidence to the contrary), she may just have a point about Cardi B similarly receiving some privilege due to the fact that she’s lighter skinned than many of her predecessors. So, let’s look at some historical examples to test her claim.