One thing was made clear early on at Azealia Banks' first-ever headlining set in her native 212 area code on Sunday night (June 4), even before entering the throes of Bowery Ballroom: this was not a grimy New York hip-hop show. Ticketholders were greeted with complimentary cotton candy before entering the main dance hall. Red balloons that resembled long-armed crabs loomed over the crowd like nautical specters. And in between each bearded hipster who was in attendance to ogle the buzziest of all female rappers at her hometown coming-out party, there were mermaids, adorned with jewels and scales and hopes of being named the fairest sea creature of all.
Hours after the Harlem MC — who has shaken up the blogosphere like a snowglobe ever since dropping her bottle rocket single “212” last September — performed an afternoon set at Hot 97’s annual rap summit, Summer Jam, Banks invited curious fans to a “Mermaid Ball” in which her dance-fused aesthetic could shimmer in full.