An Album Review by Maddie White
Harlem, New York: a place where low-riding vintage Cadillacs bump 90s hip hop, meringue salsa comes radiating from a fire-escape-clad apartment window, and persistently pulsating house music permeates the headphones of a passerby—all at the same time. This dynamic melting pot of music is unique to New York City just as it is to Harlem-native Azealia Banks. The rapper-singer double-threat has put it all on the table for us in her debut full-length album, Broke With Expensive Taste.
Apart from her album release, Banks has been the subject of plenty of media scandals lately, both with her record label, and with social media disputes involving other musical artists and journalists alike. Her cringe-tweeting went to pretty extreme lengths, especially in instances where she dropped a gay slur on Perez Hilton, called T.I. a “shoe-shining coon,” and tried to accuse Iggy Azalea of stealing her genre’s identity. Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy of all of this, however, is the vast eclecticism of Broke With Expensive Taste.
This album draws from several different cultures and musical sources, and features Banks wearing many different masks. The opening track provokes an image of a vintage tribal voodoo doll coming to life to dance with you. The catchy track is titled “Idle is Delilah,” and it features a fun blend of House, Dubstep, and Carribbean. Directly following this song is two and a half minutes of a bassy, post-disco, hip-hop-style rap ditty… up until the track takes a complete U-turn into meringue salsa land, wherein she puts on the singing mask and starts serenading us in Spanish. No need to fret: a soothing sense of relief comes over our gestating, busy little ears as we realize the album contains the song that put her on the map—the ever-so-bratty and fabulously raunchy “212,” which was her breakout hit from her pre-album mixtape in 2012. Perhaps the most eclectic of all is track #14, the just-as-shocking-as-it-sounds “Nude Beach a-Go-Go,” which feels like it was literally extracted from a 1960s Double Mint Gum commercial.
While Banks proves herself to be a multi-talented and inspired young artist, the dissimilar qualities that each track provides make listening to the album as a whole feel a bit like a task of labor. Upon listening, it is clear to see why Interscope was hesitant to release this album: Banks takes it here, there, and everywhere. She is not the kind of artist that can be easily crammed into a niche to be wrapped up nicely with a bow and sold to the public. Much like her Twitter antics and her album have proven, she is moody, she is inspired, she is impulsive, she is sensitive, she is eclectic, she is politically incorrect and most of all, she is an attention-seeker. But at the end of the day, when you blow the dust off the books, it cannot be denied that Azealia Banks is a true talent.