Like a thief in the night, femcee Azealia Banks pulled a Beyonce and finally decided to give fans the debut album they have been waiting for. The project, titled Broke With Expensive Taste, is a full-length that seemed to have more drama into just releasing it than making. Following the release of her debut single 212, the Harlem-native seemed to have a promising career that should have took off as quickly as her video went viral, in theory. However, fans were subjected to delayed release dates, sporadic single releases, unnecessary beefs with rappers and producers, and label disputes with Universal. With all that wait and build-up, the surprise release of the eclectic project came just in time before fans decided to place the debut in the same category as Detox-never coming.
It has been over 1000 days since Banks became an instant Youtube hit with 212 in 2011. In a post-Nicki Minaj rap-pop era, the single was a fresh dance track that balanced a sharp-tongued rapper with singing and infectious new sound. The following 2012 mixtape Fantasea and EP 1991 further built on her growing buzz. Both projects a dose of a club-heavy, vogue-friendly, mixes of dance tracks and a chiseled production that demands listeners attention. Banks’ was getting more comfortable and focused with her sound leading to the well-orchestrated arrangement of electronic, synth, drum and bass, and garage rap on Broke With Expensive Taste.
The previously released singles 212, Yung Rapunxel, Luxury, Heavy Metal and Reflective, BBD, and Chasing Time are just a sample of what this dance-floor heavy ensemble has to offer. It is clear that Banks is still experimenting with what sound niche she wants to fall in. Broke with Expensive Taste holds off the synth-heavy dance floor anthems and adds in more instrumentation on the first few tracks. The opener Idle Delilah is a little all over the place, but incorporates percussion and electronic as Banks, sort of, raps over the fast-tempo beat. Gimme a Chance brings in grittier, NY sound with a boom-bap production and salsa influences-she even starts singing in Spanish. It is not until Banks gets back to her house sound that she truly shines through and finds cohesion.
The following tracks find a balance between a catchy beat and a well-sang hook with tough bars. The M.J.Cole-produced Desperado is new listeners first dose of Banks as a quick-witted lyricist and singer. The following Wallace, is one of the album’s stand-out tracks that is replay worthy. The cling-clang, heavy drum, and island feel of the Yung Skeeter. The AraabMuzik-produced Ice Princess is a confidence-boosting, boasting tune that finds Banks delivering some witty bars and Morgan Page-sampled In The Air hook. Easily one of the stronger mixes of electro and rap that could bring the rapper/singer some notoriety on the radios.
Thanks to Banks’ attendance at LaGuardia, the same NY performing arts school that Nicki Minaj attended, her knack for singing finds a rightful place on many of the tracks of Broke With Expensive Taste. She trades in bars for a synth-pop, dance anthem on Soda. The cute, light track gives off an airy, atmospheric vibe and could easily be received as a summer hit. The album’s latest single Chasing Time is also one of its best. A break-up anthem that could easily be interpreted as Banks’ declaration of independence from Universal-or a bad break-up- is both infectious and catchy. However the random addition of the Ariel Pink-produced Nude Beach a Go-Go seems completely out of place. Even as an interlude, the beach boys feel of the track just throws off the flow of the entire project. The following Lone-produced Miss Amor and Miss Camaraderie find Banks returning to her vogueing routes. Complete with the high-energy feel, starry sounds, and EDM, the two tracks still showcase the ambition of the young artist while borrowing from the ballroom lifestyle.
It is clear that Azealia Banks has not forgotten the scene that has made her such an underground success. With the long-awaited debut Broke With Expensive Taste, Banks manages to deliver an ambitious 16-track project that focuses on exceeding low-expectations. Listeners already knew that the singer/rapper was talented, but her strength lies really in her ability to create a catchy hook over a house beat. Lyrically, she has some room to grow. Many of the tracks need several replays before listeners fully understand exactly what she just said, while others just find her spitting gibberish. Considering that she carried the entire project on her own, minus the Theophilus London-assisted JFK, Banks has enough confidence to make it without a label backing her. Regardless of the lack of sing-a-long-ability and recycled tracks, the talent and personality is definitely there to make Banks a unique addition to Hip-Hop/dance culture.
Opinion By Tyler Cole