It seems there are two ways to put out an album these days: 1) you hype it up like a monster Taylor Swift style, or 2) do a Beyoncé and drop it out of the blue. Azealia Banks has done the latter. Just when we thought her debut album would never appear, here it is, all sixteen tracks on a platter. But how does it match up with the biggest femcees of the charts?
I’ll admit right here that I’m not overly acquainted with the female rap scene – I don’t know every track by Chanel West Coast, nor have I heard every album by Lil’ Kim. So please do tell me if anything I reference or mention here seems wrong.
We’ve been waiting for her Banks’s new album since her 2012 mixtape Fantasea which introduced us to why she was being so lauded as one of the new voices of hip hop. She may have had a few controversies along the way but that should not detract from the fact that this is a great album. It’s sonically coherent and not just an album full of fillers or random jumps in sound. If anything, Banks can justify why she’s spent so long on this album. You can listen to it from beginning to end feeling like the artist has put a lot of thought into what they’re creating with the album.
What makes this album so interesting is the direction of music that Banks has chosen to go in. She fuses in sounds from pop on the European side of the pond. She throws in horns, she even uses jazz influences. I’d even say that (after listening to the album several times now) the album sits in a nice groove through it’s steady reggae-fusion-like funk. It’s a nice and unexpected move which certainly sets her apart. This is music that I can see hitting the clubs on not just the R&B floor due to its seamless intertwining of genres. It’s a great strength in a debut album.
However, what some may see as a strength can also obviously be a weakness. I’d argue the most diverse section of the album is the first half – depending on your leanings when it comes to listening, you might sound the second half more repetitive addled and this would arguably be through the beats used as opposed to Banks vocal performance. It’s something she is interesting enough to push aside. Given that the big names she’s competing with, some might say that her voice doesn’t have distinctive a tone as say, Nicki Minaj. It’ll be up to fans and more experience critics to decide if this truly works in her favour as a long term artist. Given that she has a great singing voice I’d argue this isn’t a problem. When she works with the music via both her singing voice and with rapping, the overall musical sound is addictive.
Since I’ve done it already (of sorts) I’m going to say people don’t spend more time than is due comparing her with Iggy Azalea or Nicki Minaj (yes, I did just do that earlier). I think the sounds of all three artists are different enough that I hope people tire of comparing them. I’ve never really followed Banks in the past but Broke With Expensive Taste is remarkable, almost unprecedentedly so. She justifies the hype to her name and I don’t think I’ve heard any LP like it from a recent femcee. It’s a fantastic record which not only establishes her as a serious artist but also as one completely different in terms of musical direction. Azealia Banks’ debut is a unique and brilliant record, one that certainly justifies the time she’s taken to it and I hope it receives the attention it deserves. A surprise release certainly can’t have done it any harm.