Azealia Banks Freely Mixes Genres With Ease On ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’
If I said, “Azealia Banks,” to you back in September of 2011, you’d probably say, “That weird but cool black and white video,” or “Turn up!” Now when I say, “Azealia Banks,” you’re most likely prone to say, “drama.” The 2011 release of Azealia Banks’ “212” video with producer Lazy Jay created a larger than life sound that was contagious with that disruptive beat, her bossy attitude, and command of intricate flows right out of the gate.
Little did we all know that so many factors outside of music would make us largely forget about her EP 1991 and her Fantasea mixtape after the fact, until a Beyoncé-style album drop announced simply through a tweet. Whether it was getting on her worst behavior on Twitter with half of the music world (T.I. multiple times, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Baauer, most recently Eminem, et al) or complaining until finally being released by Universal and becoming the “cool indie chick [she] imagined [she] would be when [she] was 14!!!,” few things have come easy for the Harlem artist besides the music. Even without a major label machine backing her debut album, Banks' Broke With Expensive Taste will eventually spread on a mainstream scale due to its mix of genres.
Far from a typical conceptual album like Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city, Broke With Expensive Taste is more like a collection of snapshots of Banks’ rambunctious mind. She will playfully go from an adrenaline fueled Grime beat to a Surfer Rock melody and then finally to a "Winter Wonderland" trap beat. Meanwhile, she could sing about an intriguing guy who is less outgoing than her, then rap about the ridiculous amount of ice she rocks in a Bugatti, and then settles back to how much she’s over a guy for wasting her time with games. Along the way, she gratuitously sprinkles in several onomatopoeia for gunshots and inaudible lines that are a pleasure to hear.
One thing that hasn’t changed is her ability to seemingly rap around on syllable endlessly. Partly due to her thick pronunciation of her words, she’s able to string together metaphors for lines on end and sneak in a new variations before you realize the verse is even over. For example, on “Desperado,” which expertly samples the 1 Train and eerily sounds like it was a hidden track from the Jet Set Radio soundtrack, she spits, “Mutts in tux, deluxe and such / I be in the mirror looking lux and plush / Looks and such, seductive strut / I be aqua fizzy on that passion punch…” She not only continues playing off of that rhyme scheme for the rest of the verse, but carries it throughout the track. But it doesn’t once come across as boring as the minimalistic, quick paced production almost calls for it as it meshes with it in sync. Unfortunately, that innovation falls shorts on other tracks where multiple lines are repeated and become forgettable. It’s also important to note that on “Yung Rapunxel,” Banks possibly alludes to all of her negative press with cries for help like, “I wanna be free,” and, “I’m tired of this drama.”
All in all, the versatility of Azealia Banks and thus, difficulty with labels, is showcased prominently on Broke With Expensive Taste. The LP is fun and a return to what hip-hop started out as in the parks—a way to rock the crowd and have a good time. The album makes for a great soundtrack for all kinds of dance parties, from a secret location vogue to basement raves. Let’s see if it can ride the cold weather into the summer when it’s bound to find a second life at cool gatherings that carry over into the next night.—Bryan Hahn