Justin aDams Burton

Justin aDams Burton is Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University. He is the author of Posthuman Rap (Oxford 2017), co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Music Studies (2018), and a regular contributor to Sounding Out!

“Now She Wanna Lick My Plum”: Producing Voices and Desire in Azealia Banks’s “212”There’s an intimate moment in Azealia Banks’s 2012 banger “212,” when the singer tells us of a “she” who wants to lick her “plum.” Banks commits to the encounter, announcing “I guess that cunt gettin eaten,” then chanting the line over and over. After a few iterations, though, a filter sweep slowly swallows her voice, leaving the listener to fill in the rest of the chant’s vocals. As the chant passes from Banks to listener, whose what is being eaten by whom--am I the consumed or is Banks?--becomes hard to track. When applied to repetitive moments, a filter sweep--the slow elimination of a frequency range from the mix--becomes a kind of call-and-response, where the listener (sometimes subconsciously) performs the missing music, confusing the boundary between audience and performer.
All voices are produced, both in the Judith Butler sense - bodies and the voices that come from them are performed and constructed - and in the studio production sense - sung voices pass through a variety of effects and processors before reaching our ears. What draws my attention in “212” is the way one person’s voice might be produced in another’s body, how Banks’s voice (not her listeners’) sounds in our bodies as we cover the final repetitions of the filter-sweeped four-bar phrase. In this way, the intimate moment in “212” includes transgressed race and gender boundaries, as plums open and ripen in unexpected places, as listeners collaborate not only in the production of Banks’s voice but also in the femme sexual pleasures we sing about with her. Here, I listen to “212” in the context of posthuman accounts of agency and black feminist accounts of gender and sex in order to consider how these four plum bars affirm black sexuality in unlikely places.