Thursday, November 6, 2014

Broke With Expensive Taste | Azealia Banks


September 2012, March 2013, September 2013, March 2014, possibly never: these were all possible release dates associated with the release of Azealia Banks' debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. Finally, and quite surprisingly, the time has come for the album to grace the presence of Banks' fans. While Banks blacked out her social media websites and has given fans a few subliminal messages via Instagram in the past few days, nobody knew that the album would drop today as a surprise via iTunes until Banks simply tweeted the link to buy the album with the message, "Voila!!!! Here it is... "Broke With Expensive Taste!" Enjoy!" In other words, Azealia Banks was the first artist to pull a Beyoncé-style release since the Queen B herself.

Broke With Expensive Taste has been infamously delayed numerous times after the release of Banks' 1991 extended play and Fantasea mixtape. Banks signed with Universal Music Group's Interscope Records and Polydor Records a few years back, but the labels pushed dates back each and every time the album was near release. After slipping out of her contract and retaining the control over her own material, Banks dropped both "Heavy Metal & Reflective" and "Chasing Time" with no release date in place for her debut album. Now completely liberated from record executives, Banks is back in full force and has released this album independently in cooperation with Prospect Park. However, now that the album is out, was our two year wait just a waste of time? Absolutely not.

Longtime fans and supporters of AB will recognize a handful of the songs featured the album. Among the familiar tunes are Banks' breakthrough, cunnilingus-referencing banger "212," the fan-favorite "BBD," and the original lead single that was dropped by Interscope and Polydor, "Yung Rapunxel." (Luckily, Also in the mix are the aforementioned "Heavy Metal & Reflective," a heavy-hitting glitchy track featuring a deep-voiced rap, and "Chasing Time," an '90s-inspired house track in which Banks sings, "Am I chasing time? / 'Cause I wasted all mine on you / Check my watch, I had the future in my pocket / But I lost it when I gave it to you." Could this be a diss at her previous labels, sent out behind the façade of a tattered relationship? You be the judge.

Like "Chasing Time," many tracks on Broke With Expensive Taste allow Banks to display talents in singing and rapping. While she can still carry a great flow (see: "Heavy Metal & Reflective," "Wallace," "Desperado"), her singing voice was a resource that was left untapped for the majority of her 1991 extended play (spare the chorus of "Liquorice" and small portions in "1991" and "Van Vogue"). In fact, this album opens with the primarily-sang "Idle Delilah," a track full of funky, tropical beats and ad-libs. The tropical vibe flourishes and conquers on the album's pleasant outlier, "Nude Beach a Go-Go," which completely abandons rap and house in order to act as a 2014 re-vamp of the sound that made the Beach Boys profitable in the 1960s.

In other areas, Broke With Expensive Taste is swayed by a mixed bag of inspirations without running too far from home base. The worlds of hip-hop and big-band soul collide on "Gimme a Chance," which toys with blaring horns and record scratches while Banks raps through the latter half in Spanish. The track following it, "Desperado," opens with a some piano chords, a horn, a fast-paced beat, and a fake radio introduction that alludes to the album's delay ("I've been waiting for Azealia Banks") before Banks rips into her verse over a beat that could have been lifted from the musical backdrop of The Jetsons. (Between old boy bands and animated children's shows, Banks channeled the 1960s just as much as she did 1990s house.) Let's also not discount the vocal ad-libs that sound eerily similar to something from a Super Mario Bros. game in "Soda," a track that Banks said is about self-medicating.

If you were a fan of the down-right dirty ways of Azealia Banks, have no fear: the explicit lyric handiwork is back. All sixteen tracks on Broke with Expensive Taste carry explicit content labels on iTunes, and for good reason. In "BBD," we get everything from derogatory slang to lesbian sex references ("Tits out with your wife, n***** / I'm bringing out the dyke in her / XOXO, fine, scissor sister, sixty-nine, whip that"), while in "Wallace," she reminds us that, "The black cherry on her tickle when the breasts undo / You lick the left one, you gotta lick the right one too." When she's not being explicit erotic, Banks is still radiating the confidence we were introduced to on "212." In "Heavy Metal and Reflective," she proclaims, "I'm in every city, they say hello to the head bitch," and in "Ice Princess," she boasts her newfound financial status despite her album's moniker as she raps, "Grown money, ever since a youngin' made my own money / You broke, honey, and they call me Banks 'cause I can loan money." I would hate to hear what the edited cut of this album sounds like, because I'm assuming there are a lot of blank spots for people to fill in on their own.

From the opening beats of "Idle Delilah" to the closing companions of "Miss Amor" and "Miss Camaraderie," Azealia Banks consistently delivers polished products. With over two years of improvements and tweaks, it is only reasonable that Broke With Expensive Taste should be shining with only minimal imperfections. Tropical undertones, heavy house beats, and fresh, natural flows blend together under Banks' direction to create an arsenal of solid bangers. While female rap competitors Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj both have releases scheduled within the next month and have catered to radio-friendly audiences, Azealia Banks has successfully followed the footsteps of M.I.A. down the road less traveled by aiming for club success over radio airplay. To deny this album a perfect rating would just be a brash insult towards Ms. Banks.

Broke With Expensive Taste is out now under a partnership between Azealia Banks and Prospect Park.

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