Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fantasea | Azealia Banks

Rating: ★★★★☆

You know, as much as I love Azealia Banks, you'd think that I would have already heard most of her mixtape, Fantasea, but I actually just found a download link to it a few days ago and listened to it. It really wasn't my biggest priority to listen to it before, but after I heard her perform "Jumanji" and "Esta Noche" while watching the live stream of the Ultra Music Festival, I knew I had to track it down somewhere. Beforehand, I had only head a few songs off of it that I wasn't so impressed with, but now that I've heard the entirety of Fantasea, I'm actually really glad I decided to listen to it.

Just like Banks' 1991, I was again very impressed with the mixtape's instrumentation. The girl knows how to pick the right producers. I know most of the instrumentals to the songs from 1991 were actually sampled from other artists, but only eight tracks from Fantasea sample from other artists (according to Wikipedia). The other eleven are solely from Banks and her producers, and I must say, I am thoroughly impressed with their work. I was actually quite afraid that those great beats from 1991 wouldn't carry over in Banks' work when it came to producing her own work rather than sampling other songs, but Fantasea, as well as her latest release, "Yung Rapunxel," killed that fear.

One of my favorite tracks is "Jumanji," which is really different and unique when compared to the rest of Banks' discography. The track contains a lot of instrumentation with a steel drum, giving it a really cool, tropical feeling. Another one of the highlights from the album, "Esta Noche," also carries this tropical theme, but it sounds a bit more seductive. They both are great, and really show the full potential of the Fantasea mixtape.

Although Fantasea was a mixtape and no monetary gain would be made by Banks even if it was promoted and publicized, she went forward with a music video for "Atlantis" regardless, which acted as pseudo-single for the mixtape. The video more than likely didn't have a huge budget, and by the looks of it, most it was probably shot in a couple of hours in front of a green screen. Adding the cheap computer graphics and animations probably took a lot longer than the video shoot with Banks. I like the song; I wouldn't consider it a highlight from the album, but it's an alright track. However, the less-than-satisfactory video for the song could steer a few people away from listening to the entire song, sadly.

Banks has been impressive since her debut. I still cannot believe how much success she has gained in such a short amount of time, and a lot of her success has been from her ability to pull in fans from so many different genres of music. Although Banks is supposed to be technically specified as a hip-hop artist, she truly has got a mix of rap, house, and electronic dance music. It's great how she's been able to draw in listeners from indie, pop, hip-hop, and house ends of the spectrum, and has really played into how successful she's become. I know that I really got into her because of her great electronic beats, and my love for her rapping came soon afterwards.

Today, she's actually one of the only rappers I have ever taken a liking to. Currently, the only competitors that Banks has in terms of female rap artists are Nicki Minaj, (or as my friends and I have dubbed her, 'Icki Garbaj'), and Iggy Azeala, neither of which are half as talented as Banks is. Minaj is just obnoxious beyond belief and Azeala is technically still massively irrelevant.  Other notable female rappers, such as Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah were good back in the day, but they're now past their prime and aren't making the biggest attempts to return.

In terms of male rappers, Eminem knew what he was doing for a while, up until recently when he has gotten constant airplay with songs like "Love The Way You Lie," and has really been selling out from there. I like his older stuff, such as "The Real Slim Shady," but when it comes to his newer material, I've only liked "We Made You" and "Beautiful." Everything else has just gotten old. Other male rappers, like Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z, are completely obnoxious. Honestly, I think I was rather shoot myself in the foot than listen to a Lil Wayne song in full.

Hence, with all of the competition placed some levels below her on the totem pole, Banks has my vote as best rap artist as of right now. She's got the great beats, the shocking lyrics, and the attitude to back it all up. While listening to Banks' music and reading over some of her interviews and Twitter comments, I can tell that this girl knows what she wants in life, and she will destroy whoever gets in her way. I like that. In fact, I like that a lot, because it reminds a lot of myself. No matter what happens, she's going to continue to make some great music for years to come, and I don't think we'll ever see the last of her. 

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