We Asked British South-Asian Wu-Tang Fans What they think of RZA Originally Planning on Signing Rapper Azaelia Banks In Spite of her Comments about Indians and Pakistanis
This week, hip-hop producer RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan announced that he would no longer be signing Azaelia Banks after her alleged erratic behaviour at a celebrity party. He did, however, admit that he was originally considering signing her despite being aware of her previous behaviour, which includes a high-profile incident in which she spewed racial venom towards Pakistanis and Indians during a Twitter spat with British-Pakistani singer Zayn Malik. She told him that his mother was a “dirty refugee who won’t be granted asylum”, called him a “curry scented bitch” and revelled in the idea that the U.S. army would kill his relatives.
Here in the UK, many South Asians identify with hip-hop culture. Given that hip-hop was spawned out of oppression and poverty, this isn’t surprising, as British South-Asians are significantly more likely to live in low income households, suffer from discrimination, and be victims of crime. Before RZA changed his mind about signing her, I was curious to find out what South Asian Wu-Tang fans thought of the fact that he was willing to endorse her in spite of the fact that she had publically insulted their ethnicity and culture. Did they stand by RZA in the knowledge that hip-hop is in many ways inextricably interlinked with controversy nowadays, or feel disappointed by his endorsement of someone who had publically expressed hatred towards their race? I spoke to 5 British South-Asian Wu fans to find out.
I don’t think we should conflate RZA the artist with RZA the business man. That Banks can make such abhorrent remarks is itself a ramification of a current political climate that has made such anti-Islamic vitriol acceptable. When the president of France can say ‘France has a problem with Islam’ and a presidential candidate can openly call to ban an entire religious group from entering America, we have a larger issue than a semi-literate, ahistorical rapper expressing her view. If Banks was even slightly literate and had “knowledge of self”, to use an expression Wu Tang often refer to, she would be enlightened about the historical relationship between Islam and the African American community. She would be aware and humbled by the contributions that black Muslim Americans such as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Keith Ellison made for their community. Furthermore, Zayn Malik is actually a rather successful musician, unlike Banks, who makes headlines based upon her remarks and not her records.
As a long-time fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, I was disappointed to hear RZA had signed Azealia. However, in this current climate, I’m hardly surprised. The music industry today can be a fickle business, where racism, sexism, homophobia, etc cetera are quickly brushed under the carpet when there’s money to be made. Wiley, the “godfather of grime”, made a number of racially derogatory remarks against Asians during an online spat [grime is a genre of urban music similar to hip-hop that is popular in the U.K. Wiley is credited as being one of its pioneers]. At the time, he was duly vilified within the Asian community, especially with his coining of the term “ethnic banter” to summarise the situation [Wiley threatened to vandalise South Asian properties and made a number of racist comments directed towards Sikh and Muslim minorities. When confronted by the media, he claimed his actions were “ethnic banter” rather than genuine racism]. Today, do Asians support and buy his music? Yes, is the simple answer. It seems like water under the bridge now for some.
It wasn’t until Banks began deriding the UK rap and grime scene during her Twitter rants that the whole of the U.K. took notice and condemned her actions. Up till then, I feel the majority outside our communities felt her racist remarks were, well, “ethnic banter.”
I’m quite surprised to hear about RZA signing Azelia Banks. To be honest, I thought her career was over after her outburst towards Indians, Pakistanis, and the gay community. I’m a fan of Banks’ music – her talents are undeniable, but her attacks on these groups were uncalled for and hard to forgive. She said things like “I’ma start calling you a Punjab”. What does that even mean? I’m Punjabi and not ashamed of it, but in her mind, she was using it as an insult. It’s bad enough that our people aren’t represented properly in the media as it is without this adding fuel to the fire. But as I said, she is talented and has skills. We’ve all said and done things that offend others. She recently said she isn’t supporting Trump anymore, and is working with RZA and Common, who are both intelligent and have hopefully dropped knowledge on her ignorant ways. Everyone deserves a second chance. People change and learn from their mistakes. Let’s hope that this is the case.
Shazad “Shizzio” Khan
Obviously what Azalea said was wrong, but it is clear that she has issues with her stability. I suppose RZA is doing what he does best and making history through art, so I’d like to see what emerges before making judgements.
As a mixed race person who has Indian heritage in the mix, I think it’s a joke that RZA would sign Azaelia Banks. But then again, the music business is all about generating hype and publicity, good or bad, to translate into money, so from a business perspective, he may have thought it was a good idea to sign that racist bitch. It didn’t surprise me to see the amount of artists on Twitter, who talk about racism and supporting Black Lives Matter say nothing to criticize her racism. The world in general is full of hypocrisy, double standards, and the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Words by Nick Chester