Hailed as rap’s Chinese Democracy, Azealia Banks‘ highly anticipated debut shows that she is more than capable of living up to such lofty expectations. Albeit between the 2011 release of “212,” firmly cementing her place on the majority of the year’s top track lists, Banks certainly risked knocks to credibility with frequent Twitter feuds and no album to be seen. Despite the release of two mixtapes, 1991 and Fantasea, in 2012, the rapper had yet to prove all the build-up was little more than bravado. In many ways Broke With Expensive Taste surfaced quite out of the blue, as by this point amidst the constant rumours since the triumph of “212” many might have doubted that this almost mythical album would ever emerge. Some artists might have even faltered under the pressure to deliver but Banks has quashed any misgivings that 212″ was just a fluke.
A personal favourite from the album, “Desperado” acknowledges this two year lag with opening radio clip from HOT 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg introducing the track; “Man, I’ve been waiting for Azealia Banks”. It’s the perfect example of how Banks refreshes an outmoded sound from the mid-noughties, here taking on the hook and beat from MJ Cole’s garage track “Bandelero Desperado.”
“Chasing Time” as the second single released off the album continues this theme of tapping into obscure genres of the 90s and noughties with a fresher take on things. Here Banks flaunts her knowledge of 90s techno, with comparisons being made to fellow New Yorker Robin S. Banks also shows off her vocal talents, granted this is something attempted by plenty of rappers but not many have the same natural flair. Dealing with a nasty break up, the song could also easily be a nod to Azealia’s turbulent split from record company Interscope as the lyrics suggest being held back. Their difficult relationship was known for stifling Banks’ ideas and constant rejection of her songs; “Check my watch, I had my future in my pocket/ But I lost it when I gave it to you.”
“Wallace” dips between laid back R&B and her more aggressive spitting, according to the rapper telling the story of a man with the head of a Rottweiler. Sampling lines from the sci-fi Blade Runner film there is this kind of robotic, matter-of-fact way that Banks brazenly raps in “Heavy Metal Reflective.”
Familiar tracks from her mixtapes and earlier released singles include “212,” of course, “Luxury” and alter ego inspired “Yung Rapunxel.” With the former in particular, Interscope’s challenge to market her as a commercial artist becomes a little more understandable, as the pounding and unrelenting dance beats on the track probably wouldn’t suit this audience. It meshes well however with her acid-tongued attack on rivals, probably referring to her continuous Twitter battles. “Idle Delilah” is another that might be overlooked for a lack of commerciality but shows an artist confident and unhindered by these kind of worries, as she seamlessly slips in a tropical steel drum kind of tune here. In an interview with Elle, Banks described the excitement she had over creating the nursery rhyme kind of edge to the track. This is immediately evident in lyrics like “Darling Miss Delilah/ While you’re wasting are days alone…Don’t cheat the dial.”
Unlike Idle Delilah this album proves Azealia Banks didn’t spend those few years producing Broke… in vain. Each track produces something unexpected, showing that Banks is comfortable with straying from musical trends to create vastly experimental tracks. On the way to apparently finishing her next mixtape Fantasea II: The Second Wave, it’ll be interesting to see where Banks goes next with her music.