Jessica Chanen
June 04, 2012 at 10:41 PM EDT

At a packed Bowery Ballroom on Manhattan’s Lower East Side late Sunday night (or more accurately, early Monday morning), Azealia Banks had several questions. “Who’s already drunk?” the shimmering Harlem rapper shouted, whipping up the already whipped-up crowd. “Who’s already high? Who’s f—ing tonight?”

Judging by the hoots and hollers, there wasn’t a sober celibate in the house. And the Harlem hot thing gave them what they wanted, pulling out all the stops for the Mermaid Ball, which also doubled as her homecoming party. Like the glitter-clad Banks herself, the event’s underwater theme was anything but subtle. She said her sister was in charge of the decorations — octopus and seahorse balloons, free cotton candy everywhere, flurries of confetti and balloons and more confetti — but we were more concerned about whoever had to clean up.

And even though the scene was very, well, scene-y, the crowd was more than willing to lose their ish for the woman of the hour — or at least tried to. When Azealia took the stage sometime after 1 a.m., it was apparent that most of the rising rapper’s songs haven’t connected with audiences enough to elicit the bonkers reaction she might’ve expected. Besides, who could hope to keep up with Banks’ quick tongue? The vibe was more of a dance party than anything else, and there were plenty of ’90s-style underground dance grooves for the mermaid’d-up crowd to sway to.

Things jumped off when she ripped into her Internet hit “Jumanji,” off her upcoming mixtape Fantasea. It turns out that everybody — at least in this room — could relate to the line, “Real bitch/All day/Uptown/Broadway.” After a short intermission that involved an onstage dance-off, Banks kept the energy up for the rest of the set by playing all of her excellent new EP 1991. These tracks are amongst her most recognizable, and the crowd reacted warmly at the sound of fan favorites “Licorice” and “Van Vogue.” Needless to say, Banks saved her biggest hit to date — the Manhattan-repping “212” — for last, complete with a massive balloon drop and one final confetti bonanza.

It was a good note to end the night on, especially since Music Mix didn’t end up winning the $1,000 prize for best mermaid costume. (Sorry, Mom! We wanted to make you proud.) And while introductions are always exciting, we’re looking forward to seeing her again down to the road, when she has a deeper catalog to pull from.

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