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Azealia Banks was born on 31 May 1991 and raised by her mother in Harlem, New York. After discovering her yearning for the limelight at an early age, she was enrolled in the La Guardia High School of Performing Arts and made her performance debut in off-Broadway shows with the Tada! Youth Theatre. A blossoming acting career beckoned, but it was music which helped Azealia discover her identity, and in particular rap music. When she was only 17, and under the pseudonym Miss Bank$, she released her first track, 17, on MySpace. It went viral and brought her to the attention of XL Records.
Artistic differences between Azealia and the record label soon led to her departure and relocation to Montreal, Canada. There, reverting to her real name, she recorded two tracks, L8R, and a cover of the Interpol hit, Slow Hands, which she put out on YouTube. However, it was her next, originally penned track 212, which featured Lazy Jay, released as a free download in September 2011, which brought critical acclaim and launched her career as a recording artist in earnest. The BBC, Pitchfork and NME, amongst others, hailed her innovative use of lyrics backed by bass-heavy rapping and vocal skills, and it became a hit in Europe, the UK and Ireland. The album resulted in Azealia being nominated for a Sound of 2012 award, and in the same year she was ranked first place in NME's Cool List.
Moving to London in 2012, Azealia started work on her first full-length album with Florence + The Machine and Adele's producer, Paul Epworth. Her mixtape, Fantasea, was released in July 2012 and features the hits Yung Rapunzel and ATM Jam, and she has also been in the studio working on her debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, under the auspices of Universal, with whom she has a record deal.
A measure of Azealia's prodigious talent and recognition of her expected future success is that major music and video production stars from around the world are queuing up to work with her. Collaborations have included names such as Aaliyah, video producer Nicola Formichetti, most notable for her work with Lady Gaga, Two Door Cinema Club, with whom she toured in 2012, and Kayne West.