Saturday 30 April 2016

Review of 'Slay-Z' by Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks has always been remarkably talented at being dislikable.

On the other hand, her music has always been annoyingly good. As a result, one can feel very conflicted. This is a girl who can get into a Twitter feud with Sarah Palin and still come out looking like the deluded one. However, this is also the girl who gave us ‘212’ and ‘Chasing Time’ and all the dazzling beauty of her 1991 EP.

Azealia in one of many twitter beefs

I’ve tried to like her as a person, but there’s only so much homophobia and trash-talking that I can take. Similarly, I’ve tried hard to dislike her music, reminding myself of ‘ATM Jam’ only to get sucked back again by the seapunk spleandour of her Fantasea mixtape.

In each instance I failed. Until now.

Released out of nowhere, the Harlem hip hop artist’s brand new mixtape Slay-Z has evened the scales – although not in the way I would have preferred. Sadly she hasn’t improved her public persona to meet the high quality of her music.

No, instead she’s lowered the quality of her music to match her dislikable personality.

The glitzy singing, the creative beats and the acrobatic flows – all the things that made Azealia stand out – have been largely stripped away. The result is a big gaudy pop opener that sounds like it could feature Ella Henderson, two generic trap rap anthems that any rapper with a mic could jump on, and some forgettable house-rap anthems. There aren’t any catchy hooks. There aren’t any Ariel Pink covers, or standout naughty lines, or tropical Lone beats or other fun eccentricities. Instead, we get bland chart fodder and a Rick Ross collab.

Alright, I lie, there is one diamond in the rough, and that’s ‘The Big Big Beat’. Sporting a shimmering nineties-flavoured house instrumental, some energetic rolling flows and a gorgeous singing performance, this tracks contains everything that makes Azealia so great – a musical sophistication that makes up for her lack of classiness outside the recording studio.

This track does show that she’s still got it in her to make gems. Were I to rate this album on this track alone it would be an easy five stars. But alas I must cater for the remaining disappointing duds, dragging this record down.

Given this is a freebie mixtape, I can only hope that Azealia is saving her talents for a full-length album, and that she doesn’t continue down this road of mediocrity in pursuit of commercial success. Or maybe she’s going to surprise us all and adopt a Mother Teresa personality to make up for her music. Who knows?