Sunday 9 November 2014

Review of 'Broke with Expensive Taste' by Azealia Banks

I was convinced I’d be retired and in a care home by the time this album got round to dropping. How long’s it been since this album was first scheduled to be released? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty???

Two years? Is that all? Oh well, I wasn’t far off.

New York rapper/singer/songwriter/prolific-beef-starter, Azealia Banks, seems to have spent her career undecidedly swaying between cool-quirky-artist and the-next-Nicki-Minaj. Her 1991 and Fantasea EPs saw her playing with extremely creative beats. However, then came ‘ATM Jam’ featuring the blandest instrumental ever, an even more bland vocal feature from Pharrell Williams and lyrics that seemed to be mostly word salad.

Broke with Expensive Taste looked as if it were going to be a mishmash of mainstream fodder and alternative stuff. I was hoping the majority would be the more alternative stuff, because that’s my jam, and thankfully that seems to be the case. The beats are eclectic – some Latin on ‘Gimme a Chance’, some jazzy-garage on ‘Desperado’, some industrial glimmers on ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’, some shouty gabber-rap on ‘Yung Rapunxel’ and some bright neo-rave instrumentals courtesy of Lone towards the back end. There's even a cover of Ariel Pink's surf-rock 'Nude Beach a Go-Go'. Familiar hits, ‘212’ and ‘Luxury’ have also made the cut, which is nice to see. ‘ATM Jam’ meanwhile has been wisely left off. Azealia seems to be going down the right path.

Vocally, I’ve never been sure what to make of Azealia, and this album still has me unsure. Her lyrics can be odd to say the least: ‘Fridgy froze kept, it’s that fresh bitch, I be in that prissy stone set with that wet wrist’. Perhaps there’s a clever hidden meaning beneath it all. Lines like ‘Cunt-cu-cu-cunt-cu-cunt-cunt-cunt’ however have me doubting it. I’d love to see the Rap Genius interpretation on that.

Feminism and stuff

Azealia’s language is pretty colourful on this record, as fans of ‘212’ will have already learnt, and sometimes I do feel this takes away from the classy mood of some of the tracks (not the bangers - I expect those to be be explicit). You wouldn’t go effing and blinding in the Ritz. Still, she is who she is, a bad bitch from Harlem, and although you could call some of her lyrics lazy, she’s hardly lazing back when it comes to her vocal delivery. When she sings she makes sure to hit the sweet notes, and her flows are tight and acrobatic. 'Chasing Time' is the bomb!