The invention of Azealia Banks, the Harlem-born rapper, actress, singer, dancer, and — maybe, someday — bona fide music-industry star, took place on November 9, 2008. Some might say it happened earlier. When she was a kid, Banks danced at block parties, patterning her steps after videos by Bow Wow, Lil' Romeo, and B2K. Later she starred in plays. At the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts — the same school that Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli, and Nicki Minaj attended — an agent saw her act in a play called City of Angels and took her on as a client, sending her on auditions for TBS, Nickelodeon, and Law & Order.
In front of a tangle of abstract sculpture in the corner booth of a deserted restaurant off the lobby of a midtown Manhattan hotel, Fiona Apple is answering questions. It's a rainy day in April and really she's just talking. She's told me she lives in Los Angeles, but she doesn't leave the house. Apple is 34 years old and doesn't have a driver's license. "I'm noticing now that I'm not feeling shame saying this," she says. "Whereas before I probably would've, like, lied a little bit about it and been like, 'Yeah, you know, I see friends sometimes.' But I really don't." She says when her phone rings with an invitation, she actually says, Oh, fuck! out loud, because then it's like, "I should go do this because if I don't, then that's really stupid. I'm gonna look like a crazy person." Apple says she's thinking about moving back east, but she's waiting for her dog to die first.