"Azealia Banks is late to the party, but debuts on her own terms"

The genre-bending artist shuts down her doubters in ÒBroke With Expensive TasteÓ

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Album: Broke With Expensive Taste

Artist: Azealia Banks

Label: Azealia Banks / Prospect Park

Release Date: Nov. 6

Grade: A+

At 20 years old, Azealia Banks already had a worldwide smash hit under her belt while most people that age are trying to pass finals or get an A in class. The rapper’s breakout single “212” won her a contract with Universal Music Group – three years ago.

Since then Azealia, now 23 years old, has bounced from label to label, struggling to find a record company that allows her to fully express herself creatively.

While in limbo between labels, Azealia built her own notoriety by self-releasing her 2012 mixtape, Fantasea, as well as getting into countless fights with celebrities online including Perez Hilton, T.I. and Angel Haze.

The New York native garnered several fans and followers across the globe with her ostentatious performances and brash Internet feuds.

After being freed from her most recent contract with Interscope, Banks self-released her 16-track debut Broke With Expensive Taste. The album included “212,” the song that helped spark Bank’s career.

Although the album was released in a Beyoncé-esque fashion, without a warning or publicity, she reached the number one hip-hop album on iTunes charts.

Broke With Expensive Taste is a nod to Banks’ early beginnings in the industry as well as her expansive stylistic growth.

Banks, in her debut album, shines with her use of diverse and intriguing samples and beats – most evident in how she reworded her 2008 song, “Gimme a Chance.”

The new version has completely new verses, incorporating influences spanning across genres – from ’80s funk, early indie rock and Spanish merengue.

The track highlights Bank’s eclectic artistry.

“Gimme a Chance” starts with sampling the lyrics and a bass line from indie rock band, Enon, and their song “Knock That Door.”

“That's the way that our love can grow/Make the play and then not too slow” – the infectious sampled chorus heightens the track’s spontaneity and sense of musical liberation.

As the song progresses, “Gimme a Chance” transforms slowly as horns overpower the bass and builds into a track enhanced with Spanish-influenced light guitar and bongos.

Azealia shines in the track as she raps and sings along to the captivating sounds in flawless Spanish – as the indie rock driven beat does a 180 into a Spanish merengue.

The outro to the song translates to, “See how she dances, the dark skinned girl / See how she dances, no tears, no pain,” as Azealia sings hypnotically about letting go of the trials and tribulations of her issues with labels not understanding her sound.

“Ice Princess” uses a seemingly random, but surprisingly cohesive, set of samples.

The song opens using the sounds of blowing wind, which is complimented with faint tingling bells reminiscent of a music box.

The song doesn’t stay innocuous as the beat quickly heats up using an EDM sample from “In the Air,” by Morgan Page – an electronic beat perhaps influenced by Banks’ producer AraabMUZIK, a prominent producer of trap.

The rhythmic 808s are met with Azealia’s bold bars, “Grown money ever since a youngin’ made my own money you broke, honey? / And they call me Banks cause I can loan money.”

Her assertive lyrics mesh well with the sample – her deep and arresting delivery contrasting well with the electronic beat and light “In the Air” vocals.

“Nude Beach a Go-Go” transports the listener to a SoCal sunset beach party. The song was originally made for singer Ariel Pink, who harmonizes with Banks on the track.

The unexpected fast paced beat is amplified with Banks’ vocal range – she sings over a surf-rock beat as effortlessly as she does over a Spanish merengue or an electro dance track.

The song’s harmonious tambourines and retro guitar solo seems to come out of nowhere – listeners will do an aural double-take – but ultimately accept the eccentricity as part of Banks’ lively musical aesthetic.

Azealia sings, “Black women’s attraction / all the white girls join in the action,” her lyrics weaving an analysis of the entertainment industry’s cultural appropriation into her playful song.

Her adlibs and energy showcase her ability to adapt to any genre of music while retaining her own style, but also discuss prominent social issues in her lyrics.

Broke With Expensive Taste supersedes expectations with Banks audacious approach to her rhymes and harmonies.

Although the album has a diverse soundscape, Broke With Expensive Taste is both balanced and composed.

With Banks’ self-release, the rapper manages to reintroduce herself to the world as a wild-card innovative artist and reduces her Internet troll moniker to dust.

Banks’ authenticity and originality gives birth to hip-hop’s newest female braggadocio with Broke With Expensive Taste.

email: arts@ubspectrum.com