It’s one of the oldest cliches in the book: Two young women who have been fast friends for years are suddenly, dramatically torn apart by a the arrival of a man. However, this time around, there’s are a few intriguing twists; the man in question is Kanye West, the women are Lana Del Rey and Azealia Banks and the motivation for their beef isn’t love — at least, not either of their love for Kanye, but Kanye’s love for offensive hats, praising kooky conservative talking heads, and sending poorly-worded tweets about sensitive subjects. Their opposing responses were the catalyst for the dissolution of their surprising, long-time friendship.
Unsurprisingly, the relationship between the two women formed out of mutual business. In 2011, both released huge breakthrough singles (“212” for Banks, “Video Games” for Del Rey) which catapulted them into the spotlight and lucrative contracts at Interscope Records. They shared an A&R in Larry Jackson, who was then an executive vice president at the label and signed both for similar reasons. In a 2012 Banks profile in Spin, Jackson said Interscope “signed Banks for who she was, rather than for what they thought she could be.” A similar rationale propelled the signing of Del Rey, with Jackson quoting in a separate profile of the singer in Spin: “We sat for an hour and talked, without her playing any of her music. Just conversation, honing in on the philosophy of what she was doing, what she saw for herself — I was captured. It was a totally unorthodox meeting, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this.’”
Of course, from there, the two women’s respective careers spun off in wildly different directions. To date, Lana Del Rey has sold over 15 million albums worldwide, with two Billboard 200 no. 1 albums (2014’s Ultraviolence and 2017’s Lust For Life), and multiple Grammy nominations. The pair also collaborated exactly once, on an electro dance remix of Lana’s single “Blue Jeans.” Banks’ biggest achievement so far may have been the lasting career sabotage she executed on similarly-named rival rapper Iggy Azalea, whom she regularly dragged with accusations of cultural appropriation. Her one Interscope album, 2014’s Broke With Expensive Taste, peaked at No. 30 and disappointed Banks’ creative expectations, causing the eventual dissolution of her Interscope contract.
Since then, it’s been a non-stop bridge-burning tour, as she’s become more well known for picking Twitter fights than for releasing music, taking shots at Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Disney Channel star Skai Jackson, Erykah Badu, Remy Ma, RZA, MIA, Rihanna, and more — although she’s apparently since patched things up with Iggy Azalea, with whom she reportedly recorded a new song that has yet to be released.
However, that didn’t stop the two from apparently remaining tight in the intervening years, so much so that NME even asked Lana about a rumor that her song “Art Deco” was about Banks in a 2015 cover interview. While Lana denied that the song was about Azealia, it was just one example of the unusual pair’s unconventional bond, that fans would imagine such a connection.
In another publicized instance of their continued friendship, Banks came to Del Rey’s defense in 2014, after Eminem rhymed about punching the latter in the face during that year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher. Banks returned fire on her now-deleted original Twitter, replying, “Tell him to go back to his trailer park and eat his microwave hot pocket dinner and suck on his sisters t—–s.” She also threatened to punch Eminem back if he ever followed through on his joking threat. However, Lana’s response to another controversial rapper’s recent antics have now caused a major split between the two women, resulting in each threatening each other instead.
When Kanye’s recent Instagram/Twitter dual post about “abolishing the 13th Amendment” went viral two weeks ago, Del Rey was one of the many stars who spoke out against the ignorance on display in his post, which featured an appearance of his favorite “Make America Great Again” cap. “If you think it’s alright to support someone who believes it’s OK to grab a woman by the pussy just because he’s famous, then you need an intervention as much as he does,” Lana commented, slamming Kanye over his unabashed support of the controversial president.
However, of those who rushed to Kanye’s defense, Banks seemed to take most offense to Lana’s comment, going on an Instagram Story tirade against her former Interscope labelmate. “I’m tried of white women in Hollywood and their fake ass innocent agendas,” she wrote. “These b*tches will take any opportunity to make themselves seem more righteous in regards to black men who don’t bow down to their vapid ‘social power’ or more civilized and respectable than the black women that have a REAL reason to be angry.” She advised her former friend to “stick to [her] bootleg witchcraft” and stay out of the discussion.
Instead, Lana was game for a few rounds of Twitter banter, lobbing a few insults of her own, as well as a thinly-veiled invitation to a throwdown. Perhaps seeking to de-escalate the situation for once, or capitalizing on the renewed internet attention, Banks responded with an NSFW Twitter video which counted as half distraction and half admission of defeat, granting the last laugh to Del Rey, who gave her a parting shot: “your psych meds aren’t working,” she sniped, before apparently logging off for the night. Of course, the true denouement of their friendship came a few tweet exchanges earlier: “Banks,” Lana wrote, addressing Azealia’s biggest mistake in sparking this particular feud over any other. “You coulda been the greatest female rapper alive but you blew it. Don’t take it out on the only person who had your back.”
It looks like Banks just couldn’t help herself. Down to her last friend in the industry, the outspoken spark plug may have just alienated the only person left who witnessed her rise to fame — and experienced it alongside her. While there are all sorts of subtext to unpack about white women criticizing Black men’s political statements, the treatment of Black women in the entertainment industry, the importance of solidarity between women and more, I think it’s safe to say, Azealia Banks made her own bed of thorns over the last seven years and it’s a shame. She, like Kanye, very occasionally makes good points, even if they’re a little incoherent. The trouble is, they’re always overshadowed by nonsense and her inability to tell friend from foe. If there’s one thing that’s for in all the swampy, emotional mess of this situation it’s this: Kanye West is ruining everything in 2018.