Friday, November 7, 2014

ALL MALE (Music) REVIEW: Broke with Expensive Taste by Azealia Banks

After so much shit going down with a previous label, Twitter and a whole shit load of other things, the debut effort of Harlem rapper/singer Azealia Banks is now in existence. Broke with Expensive Taste is intended to be a mix of 90s house and East Coast rapping (Think Lauryn Hill on acid concerning this album.)

Here's how my review will work. All of the tracks will be judged individually; cohesion will determine the grade of the album later. Obvious factors like singing ability and the instrumental of the song will be included as well.

# of tracks- 16 (I happen to be using Spotify as means of having the album.)

# of interludes- 0

Total time of album- 60:19

1. "Idle Delilah"- Although it takes 30 seconds for the song to kick in, once it does it has a mix of Caribbean like steel drums mixed with thumping bass driven club music. This song serves as a great reminder that Banks is more than a rapper as she sings rather cleanly for breaking out into rap. Her flow once the rap kicks in is as tight as ever. What an opening track.

2. "Gimme a Chance"- Opposite of the opening track, this track kicks in with a Broadway meets East Coast witch-hop. Pretty much, this is like if the show In Living Color was set in NY and all the cast and crew were on psychedelics. Banks made it known in her interview with The Process, she's obsessed with rhythm. This is evident as ever. And apparently, this bitch sings in Spanish. ORALE Azealia!

3. "Desperado"- This track starts off and eventually ends up a mix of jazz lounge in the middle of a spaghetti western movie on the moon. Banks' obsession with rhythm fostered a disciplined consistency in terms of how she delivers the lines. With any other artist this could result in electroclash. Not Banks; she knows what she's doing.

4. "JFK" ft. Theophilus London- For those who don't know, London is a rapper who first made waves c. 2012. This track has Banks starting off with her intentionally slow/almost breathy flow. Considering this is called "JFK", it helps serve as a template for her sexually charged lyrics. 4 tracks in, and I'm calling it; Interscope has fucked up. London's contribution to the track is no afterthought. His speed is perfect on this type of tempo.

5. "212" ft. Lazy Jay- The track that started it all. Compared to the other tracks, this is relatively tame for the album. Yeah she uses the word "cunt" 9 times, but with the other type of vibes exuded from the album, it's clear she put this on to remind people how she broke on to the scene. No T, No Shade but this track was on the 1991 EP as well for exactly the same reason it's on Broke with Expensive Taste. The track itself is not my personal favorite, but I can understand its presence on the album given her penchant for sexual lyricism.

6. "Wallace"- This's like Mortal Kombat had sex with Banks' brainwaves. Her singing voice while unique doesn't seem like it's being icy enough (which given her sexual praying mantis like being is probably just a sign of artist repression being expressed.) This was one of the earliest sections of BWET made known through The Process (the "lick the left one" verse.) Her rapping speed is the fastest yet I've heard.

7. "Heavy Metal and Reflective"- The first post Interscope single released, this track is possibly her edgiest in sound and flow. The gripe here is that this track is too fucking short. Its run time? 2:36. Another minute or two and this could easily read as a banging ass song. It still is, but my GOD that run time is way too short. Bonus points for the lines, "I be in Osaka with the papa took the best trips/Buy me Tamagotchis, sipping sake and moetses."

8. "BBD"- One of two tracks ported from her mixtape, Fantasea. At first, I wasn't feeling the song. Then I remember that this is a track she performs better live and she performed this live best at Glastonbury 2013. In terms of cohesion, this kind of suffers from "212" like setbacks. It's supposed to remind some people who she is and what she tried to do with Interscope. It's a cool song, but she performs the shit out of this live.

9. "Ice Princess"- This might be the only non-ported track on the album that feels out of place. This type of track falls under Miami trap music (Rick Ross type of song) before the tempo progresses to a sort of...bland take on EDM. In terms of flow, Banks commits to the style presented, but this track just feels out of place. It isn't a shit track, but it isn't one not for immediate replay.

10. "Yung Rapunxel"- The last single released while with Interscope. Audio or video, this track goes hard as fuck. Inspired by a tumultuous relationship with an ex, this expression of anger also shows off Banks' alter-ego, "Yung Rapunxel" (hardcore black girl with a fuckton of rage). When first released, critics ate this up and its clear why. Banks at her angriest makes for some damn fantastic music. The fans? Split down the middle (not unlike "#ATMJAM" which thankfully remains off this album). Let this serve as reminder or introduction that her fans are not blind loyalists.

11. "Soda"- Via her Twitter, Banks revealed this song is about "self-medication" or escaping pain through alcohol or drug use. Instrumental wise, it's deceptively cheeky and weird (which any good self-medication song is supposed to be.) Singing wise, her lower registers still seem shaky as hell but it's nothing to detract from the album let alone this song.

12. "Chasing Time"- Perhaps, the best use of Banks' singing is heard on this track released as the third single from BWET. There is honestly nothing to critique about this song. Her singing is highly developed; her rap meets the instrumental and tempo as always and the lyrics are well crafted.

13. "Luxury"- The other track ported from her mixtape, Fantasea. One of the few tracks in Banks' discography where singing is intended for foreground to her rapping. As well as "Heavy Metal and Reflective", the song is too fucking short. 2:48? No. There needs to be another 1-2 minutes. Personally, this is when I first learned that Banks also sings and show off her unique singing sound. Not a lot to say other than it's too short of a song.

14. "Nude Beach A-Go-Go"- Thanks to the comment section of Rap-Up, this turns out is a cover of a song by Ariel Pink of the same name. At 2:19, this song is the shortest and that is bullshit. Add another 2 minutes top. Especially because this sounds like her take on a B-52s song. While it's the greenest of the thumbs on the album, this is from a recording artist who treats convention like utter trash. Her singing is perhaps the most exuberant which is weird considering rage and sex make her music what it has been.

15. "Miss Amor"- Back to the psychedelic side of BWET, this instrumental is the most reminiscent of the 90s house scene. Plus, this is how she should do icy vocals from now on. The rap scheme indicates that this was probably recorded the same day as "Count Contessa" (from her upcoming mixtape sequel, Fantasea II: The Second Wave). "Ice-house" meets the West Indies is probably Banks' signature on top of everything else she's capable of.

16. "Miss Camaraderie"- The introduction to the closer of BWET sounds like a Street Fighter: The Third Strike outtake and that is glorious. The lyrics do kind of sound like "Luxury" with more verses. This isn't a total setback, but this is something of a disappointment. She's capable of a lot, so anything that kind of sounds like another song is disappointing. Still, this is a perfect closing track to an album that can't and shouldn't be place into one category.

OVERALL Grade: A-/B++
Don't get me wrong. This album has signature all over it and that is the biggest strength Banks has. Broke with Expensive Taste is the type of album only she can release. However, she needs to take some righteous hits for the following:

- Having three songs clocking in at under three minutes.

- Porting tracks from other works that with the album seem utterly out of place with the new material she's been crafting like fine liquor.

- "Miss Camaraderie" having some really eerie structural crafting a la "Luxury".

- Not porting "1991" or "Jumanji" to BWET given what she decided to port anyway.

However, that last one is the most personal of the gripes laid out of an otherwise unique work Banks should herald as a personal achievement in her career.

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