Azealia Banks

Broke With Expensive Taste

         
0 3.5 out of 5 stars
Label:
Prospect Park
Featured Guest(s):
Theophilus London, Lazy Jay
Producer(s):
Azealia Banks, Ariel Pink, AraabMuzik, Machinedrum
Release Date :
Nov. 6, 2014

As reckless as she’s been in recent years, Azealia Banks is well aware of the ramifications of her headline-grabbing antics. In an interview with BBC One’s Zane Lowe about the surprise release of her long-delayed debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, Banks was asked if she ever doubted whether she would fail to deliver an album. Always candid, Azealia answered, “No, I knew it would come out. I just was afraid that it would come out when people really didn’t care.”

When it comes to the people in question, the answer depends on the crowd you’re talking about. The general public has long written Azealia Banks off, and they’re never, ever getting back together with her. Stranger things have happened, but the idea of Azealia Banks becoming the sort of star Nicki Minaj is and Iggy Azalea is turning into seems virtually impossible at this point. But she doesn’t really need to be; some acts are as broad as Beyoncé, others specific as Solange.

It’s always been difficult to box Banks in, and that undoubtedly was the real point of contention between her and her now formal label, Universal. For those of us not under the pressure of making sure our million-dollar investments churn out a radio-ready hit, we’re free to just enjoy Banks being her multifaceted, notably curious, and ultra vulgar self.

Speaking of, a friend who, like me, had grown weary of Banks’ antics and missing album took a listen to the Harlem native’s debut and told me the following shortly thereafter: “This bitch is gonna make me start liking her again.”

Broke With Expensive Taste is an impressive record, and yes, very much worth the wait, but it’s so many things at once. Sometimes it’s many things in a single song—which you immediately come to understand in the song’s opener, “Idle Delilah,” a mix of dubstep and I don’t know, tourist commercial light “island” reggae music?

There’s also U.K. garbage, house, and what people consider “trap” now. (I’m a Southern rap fan. This trap will never be mine.) Banks also will unexpectedly but impressively break into rapping in Spanish. Why? Well, why not?

For the most part, it works, though there are some missteps like “Nude Beach a Go-Go,” which reminds me of the kind of corny Beach Boys music Uncle Jesse raved about so much on Full House. And while it’s certainly her most known song, “212” should’ve been left off the album and replaced with the sublime “1991” from the good EP of the same name. Or at least tweaked a la the reworked “Gimme a Chance.” The same goes for other songs that are good, i.e. “BBD,” but we’ve long heard.

The errors are minor, though. In the hour-long listen, you do come to gain further respect for Banks as a rapper, and on many tracks, a singer. Banks had already given concertgoers hints of her singing capability, but it’s refreshing to hear just how good she can sound when called to do so in a studio on songs like “Soda.”

Likewise, “Chasing Time,” the most radio friendly of any of the songs featured on the album. Banks has since revealed that after being pressured by the label to produce a hit, she gave them “Chasing Time” and they did not like it. It’s the kind of song you’re going to hear at an H&M—probably for the rest of our lives. What a pity that they lacked vision.

Speaking of, as proud as Banks is (and should be) about doing the A&R of her debut album, she’s a prime example of someone who needs A&R. Yes, Broke With Expensive Taste is good, but if assisted by someone who both better understood her and the industry, it could’ve been excellent.

In the same interview with Zane Lowe, Banks says in hindsight, she would have made Fantasea her first album. I can see why, given it encompasses all of Azealia’s facets but in a way that makes a bigger entrance. For someone with a whole lot to say, volume matters. No matter. Broke With Expensive Taste is a good enough statement for the young rapper right now, and hopefully, the music will finally lead to discussion centered on Azealia Banks, the artist.

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.

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