Harlem native Azealia Banks has achieved fame as a rapper (and, on occasion, public stirrer of shit), but she’s always gravitated toward stardom in a more general capacity. Fostering a passion for the stage from a tender age, Banks came up in New York’s storied Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, alma mater of Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Aniston. As a teenager, Banks auditioned for pilots on TBS and Nickelodeon, but the industry’s competition and bias against young women of color encouraged her to divert her attentions elsewhere. But even in her capacity as a ferocious MC, Banks has always had a performative streak about her. Her “212” clip was an instant star-maker, and the varied styles (island enchantress, bad mutha not to be trifled with, half-demon psycho killer) of her studio debut, Broke With Expensive Taste, showcased her versatility as a character.
A new report from Deadline indicates that Banks has taken take the final step in her path toward the spotlight and accepted a leading role in a major picture. The self-styled Yung Rapunzel will take the title role in Coco, a drama film produced under Lionsgate and Codeblack. Coco’s story closely parallels Banks’ own arduous climb to the top of the rap game: Untested Coco fantasizes about hitting it big in the world of hip-hop, but her mindful parents insist that she complete her college education before chasing those dreams. While in school, Coco learns about the poignancy and power of spoken-word poetry, which, as we all learned in Dangerous Minds, is just like rapping without the phat beat. We can safely assume that Coco will combine her book-learning with lessons from the School of Hard Knocks to find her identity as an artist and spit rhymes in iambic pentameter.
The directorial talent attached to the project has also drawn a few eyeballs: De facto Wu-Tang Clan mastermind Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, alias RZA, will return to the camera after making his debut in 2011 with wuxia valentine The Man With The Iron Fists. RZA’s no stranger to the subject matter at hand, with memories of his difficult boyhood on the streets of New York and self-engineered world takeover with his Wu-brothers never far from mind. It’s the perfect sort of film about hip-hop, in that it’s built by people who have lived the story. RZA and Banks bring authenticity by the pound.