Music / Reviews

Album Review: Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste


Banks effortlessly wears sonic diversity like a uniform
★★★★


Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (Album Cover)A little over two years after it was originally slated for release, Azealia Banks has very quietly delivered Broke With Expensive Taste. Following label issues, multiple Twitter spats and becoming “tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about [her] black girl craft,” she was finally able to leave her Interscope deal while retaining the rights to all the songs she recorded.

Two of BWET‘s most up-tempo tracks are the vocally aggressive and bass-fuelled lead single Yung Rapunxel which has a subtle sampling of Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama and second single Heavy Metal and Reflective. Don’t be fooled though as these are by no means a measure to gauge the rest of the album.

Opening track Idle Delilah, crossing elements of house, dubstep and island music, is a very indicative sign post towards the twister of sounds you will hear on the rest of the album. The meshing of genres and hop-scotching of sounds could potentially detract from the solid work on this LP but the variety solidifies the fact that Banks effortlessly wears sonic diversity like a uniform.

For all of its self-assured and sassy allure, JFK is certainly a BWET highlight, featuring Theophilus London who delivers a verse so complementary of Azealia’s signature tongue-twisting delivery. AraabMuzik produced Ice Princess is menacingly, enchanting in its verses and bass-fully optimistic in its chorus as she sings of “feeling a change… in the air.”

The most forgettable track on the album is Wallace and even that is only by title, as Azealia colours the beat with her fun vocal delivery. The somewhat comical Nude Beach A Go-Go is perhaps the most misplaced song, it is vaguely reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ U.S.A. and will definitely have the listener doing a double-take.

The album is comprised of a lot of previously released material including 212, the club banger that began the anticipation as to what would come next and also Luxury which is from her 2012 mixtape – Fantasea. A new version of Gimme A Chance also appears on the album with a reworked big band Latin vibe and Banks delivering seamless Spanish vocals. BBD was a track I didn’t particularly pay much attention to when it surfaced over a year ago but it fits well on this 16-track LP and is refreshing, as it is one of the few songs that retains a somewhat typical hip-hop, bass heavy, boastful nature.

Miss Amor is one of the albums more “commercially viable” gems – an enjoyable bass heavy, go-go beat which heads into a dance vibe at the bridge. “Was on the hunt for the rhythm in London once” Azealia raps – which reminded me of her initial plans to record the album with Paul Epworth over two years ago.

Stand-out tracks Chasing Time and Desperado highlight her international influences, with hints of UK Garage – the latter samples UK producer, MJ Cole’s Bandelero Desperado. Soda is another house-inspired track on an album which takes many twists and turns, as we should only expect from Miss Banks, on this 16-track journey.

The album closes with a track that was originally planned as a B-side to single release Miss Amor – which didn’t happen. Miss Camaraderie is very vaguely reminiscent of Luxury just with a trance nature and it also revisits the big band sound in its closing – which I think makes for a very triumphant way to close Banks’ long-awaited debut – Broke With Expensive Taste.

Lyrically it could be argued that Azealia focuses little on challenging the listener “consciously” or mentally and more on making everything rhyme – everywhere. Whether true or not the outcome is an audible delight and the irony? It’s sometimes such a tongue-twister your mind is working overtime to decipher some of the rhymes.

“Ugh, now I get to be the cool indie chick I imagined I would be when I was 14!!!” Banks had tweeted back in July. There was still a little wait for the promised LP but after finding a new musical home in label Prospect Park, Broke With Expensive Taste finally surfaced on iTunes (GB) on Novemeber 8.

With no prior warning about the release, Angelica Cob who co-manages Banks at Prospect Park explained: “we thought the best way to mend fences with the world was to release the music [without advance notice]. To use the traditional set-up strategy didn’t make sense, because it would feel like the girl who cried wolf. We had to make the strongest statement possible, and that was the music,” Billboard reported.

Her sharp tongue and large lack of regard for the consequences of her very public thoughts, have been heavily documented but her unwavering nature means and matters the most, in her steadfast unwillingness to compromise on her sound.

Buy Broke With Expensive Taste on iTunes.

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