Thursday, April 23, 2015

This List is RANK: The Top 30 Azealia Banks Songs of All Time

She's the Harlem witch-hop mermaid who shut people up with her recent Coachella gigs. Azealia Banks is a hot potato in music but once you get past the bullshit, her music is the biggest reason her name has been thrown around. She raps, sings, raps in occasional Spanish and sings in occasional Spanish. 

These contributions happen to be the 30 best instances of her talent. For reference, I'm considering more than her EP, 1991, mixtape, Fantasea and "proper" debut effort Broke with Expensive Taste. A remix or two may appear as well.

30. "ATM JAM" [the Kaytranada remix of the...attempted single]- Let's keep it real; "ATM JAM" on a good day is sub par Azealia material. Any other day, the song is just pitiful; that was until the Kaytranada remix of the song made its way to the YouTube-sphere. Lucid but captivating, this should've been the official version the song.

29. "BBD" [ported from Fantasea to BWET]- A song that on its own is decent, but comes to life in performances from Glastonbury to...well name a festival and she's played it. Shorthand for "Bad Bitches Do it", Banks' flow is at its most bubblegum/basic "swag" [for her] but it's as wonderfully vulgar and club friendly as the rest of her songs.

28. "Grand Scam" [lyrical exercise from early/MySpace era Azealia]- Sole purpose of "lyrical exercise" my ass with this. This is essentially a demo of what could've been a banging as fuck song. GS showed an early penchant for disciplined and stinging lyrical control.

27. "Fierce" [from Fantasea]- If you ever wondered what Paris is Burning would sound like in a Hip-Hop song, look no further. Drag queen audio spliced in with the "Baby Drag Queen" Azealia is known to be when feeling her oats in a song created a wonderful vogue-off worthy song.

26. "Seventeen" [early/MySpace era Azealia]- The first "serious" song she ever made ["I was seventeen and the song's called 'Seventeen'...sooooooooo deep. XD"], the line "Hot steppin' like Tekken" and a disturbing but not totally out of place sexual Azealia badgering that the age of consent is 17 O_- O_- shows that at 17, she gave no fucks.

25. "Luxury" [ported from Fantasea to BWET]- The bad thing: This being the only Machinedrum produced track to make BWET. Everything else about the song on its own is actually fantastic as it's pretty much the best showcase for Azealia Banks, the singer. Granted the song is still short as fuck [clocking at 2:48], it beats 5 other songs to get a spot here.
In the expanded oeuvre of Banks, it's a footnote that's neither a pinnacle nor nadir.

24. "Idle Delilah" [from BWET]- The only bad thing about this track is that it takes 30 seconds (!) to establish the beat. The good news is that once the beat is set in, it unleashes a not thought of before fusion [to casual folks anyway] of this eccentric "Industrial Afro-Caribbean" sound.
Incidentally, this is a track in which Azealia doesn't rap a lot on...which is semi-problematic but nothing that makes this a "KILL IT WITH FIRE" song.

23. "Ice Princess" [from BWET]- This AraabMuzik produced track took several listens for me to get into. A fusion of "Maybach Music" vibes [Rick Ross/Tampa rap stuff] and "In the Air" by Morgan Page, Azealia manages to work in every goddamn winter related noun/pun in existence.
Despite the fact that this is her slowest rap, it's Dentyne Ice level frosty which in her case is a benefit.

22. "Heavy Metal And Reflective" [from BWET]- Produced by Lil' Internet [who fun fact, produced "No Angel"/"Angel" for Beyoncé], this was the track that Azealia chose to celebrate her departure from Universal with. Short as fuck but aggro and celebratory, HMAR gets so many points for these lines...

"I be in Osaka with the papa, took the best trips/Buy me Tamagotchis, sippin' Sake and Moetses."

21. "212" [on every goddamn work of hers to date]- Before you sanction me, let's clarify; this is a good song but it has been beaten and belabored in the conscious since 2011. She utters the word "cunt" 9 times, says "You can see I've been that bitch since the Pampers" and all other sorts of fun stuffs.
However, it's time to get over "212". Yes, it is the song that crowds from Glastonbury to Coachella to L.A. Pride to Cranechella know the most words to, but for GOD SAKE...retire this song.


20. "Nude Beach a Go-Go" [from BWET]- While critics left and right loathed this single, NBaGG shows a deliciously evil side of Banks through Ariel Pink assisted in production surf rock. Essentially, she says "Now I really, truly don't give a fuck." and she should be commended for it on the best case of growing to love a song.

19. "JFK" ft. Theophilus London [from BWET]- An icy cut meant to be a diss track aimed at [probably] Iggy Azalea or [maybe] Nicki Minaj, neither artist here is slacking. London's section is one of the rare rap guest features that doesn't feel like an afterthought. Banks, per usual, taunts Iggy and/or Nicki with sing-songy and miasma diss level aplomb.

18. "Atlantis" [from Fantasea]- This was the song that managed to introduce the casual videogoer to something called "seapunk" (And hilariously, to the 15 people total that have heard of it and someone named JeromeLOL that is an alleged "pioneer" in this shit.)
Amazingly, this is her most exuberant and wacky track to date.

17. "No Problems" [was supposed to have been on BWET...]- POP QUIZ for the Kunt Brigade: How many festivals did Azealia pimp this song as "This is from my album Broke with Expensive Taste, this is 'No Problems'!"? Correct answer: DAMN NEAR ALL OF THEM. Follow up: Did this song end up on the album? Correct answer: No.
I don't know why, but it should've been on the album.
Used as a diss track against Angel Haze (Someone who invested in 'dirty gold' to little if any avail.) Azealia shades her ["this butch broad got blue balls" & "Angels need Jesus/angles, features, live shows/PR then maybe baby, you could be us..."] and then goes back to talking about her money which she's really good at.

16. "Yung Rapunxel" [from BWET]- The angriest and most eccentric of her work (That's saying a lot. Believe me.) The last song released before parting ways with her label, "Yung Rapunxel" is essentially inspired by a tumultuous relationship and a showcase of her inner aggro black girl alter ego...Yung Rapunxel [pronounced "young Rapunzel" because of the hair being long as fuck.]

15. "Count Contessa" [from the pending Fantasea II: The Second Wave]- A venture into Ice-House and an early sample of what the Fantasea sequel is probably going to sound like across the board. With the ever catchy "Muscle Mike can't protect ya!" and the general vogue/runway-off worthy vibes, CC simply put, gives 500 CCs of life.
Side note: at the time of parting with the label, I was worried that this song and project would be erased from existence. Thankfully that and her next album, the pending Business & Pleasure, will see a Summer 2015 and 2016 release respectively.

14. "Van Vogue" [from 1991; in this case, the video mix]- An underrated gem (Thank you prudes of YouTube; flagging the video was soooooooooooooooooooo appreciated -_-), VV simply reintroduces the "raised by drag queen wolves" facet of Azealia's musical identity. Bonus points are in order for the video's fashions.

13. "Miss Camaraderie" [from BWET]- Some T, Some Shade; this is essentially an evolved version of "Luxury"...I defy a listener to listen to "Luxury" and "Miss Camaraderie" and not think the latter is an extended version of the former.
That aside, this is one of the songs Azealia so wanted to be a single. It's clear why it should've been a single; it's electro/funk/house done so well with an addictive rap accompaniment the whole way.

12. "Miss Amor" [from BWET]- Psychedelic, sassy and just about everything else Azealia's music was known for in the 1991 era, this is the other of two songs she wanted to be a single whilst on Universal [by way of being on Interscope in the States and Polydor in the UK] and it's clear why...this track is amazing.
Another mix of singing and rapping [even if the singing is wonky in her lower registers] that just works in ways only Azealia can.

11. "Harlem Shake" [her "remix" version of the Harlem Shake "phenomenon"]- A deliciously poetic footnote in Banks' "controversial" presence. What started as a simple remix [and only listenable version of "Harlem Shake"] ended up with the S.O.B. responsible for it, Baauer, getting pissy that Azealia touched the song at all. Azealia's version was removed from her first SoundCloud channel [too much murky shit happened to explain the SoundCloud/YouTube channel fuckery she has to deal with here.] but lives on...
...unlike Baauer who despite hitting #1 on the Hot 100 is essentially broke as shit. Banks meanwhile performed the song with this introduction; "This next song got me in a lot of trouble...but you know, I never give a FUCK!"


10. "Fantasea" [title track from her mixtape]- A truly underrated cut from her mixtape, this displays some of her fastest rapping on a track to date [something about getting dudes gassed up like Texaco drinking a Pepsico or something...]
Side note; while she's been on record being a huge fan of Lone, it's actually Machinedrum that provided the base to this song...and honestly, her better songs in the long run.

9. "Wallace" [from BWET]- Every time I get a chance to say this, I will. This song sounds like Mortal Kombat had sex with her brainwaves. "Wallace" is easily one of the bolder tracks from an album that for all of its schizophrenic caveats, could've been born from the deliciously twisted mind of Azealia Banks.

8. "Slow Hands" [cover of the Interpol song of the same name]- FUN Fact: this was the earliest predecessor of Azealia being a singer turned rapper turned God knows what she's concocting as I write this sentence. Pissing off jaded Interpol fans is always nice, but it's her singing here that gets the job done in her signature style.

7. "Gimme a Chance" [from BWET]- A reworking of a 2010 era Azealia track, GaC uses "Knock that Door" by Enon as a base for a genre clusterfuck of rap, indie and Latin with a bonus point bonanza of rap and vocals in Spanish. If it weren't for 2 more BWET tracks on this list it'd be her best cut from the album, but this is her most versatile in terms of artistic qualities.

6. "Liquorice" [from 1991; in this case, the video mix]- If it weren't for the #1 song on this list, this song could've won Best 1991 track for these reasons: "I'm the Liquorice bitch/you know I'm lookin' for these ****** if these ****** is rich/I make hits, motherfucker/do you jiggle your dick/when your bitch pop singing on the liquorice hit, ya know?", pissing off Nicki Minaj fans for the alleged and downright slanderous claims Azealia would be dumb enough to use some of her lines in the song and having a kickass video.
All hail the Liquorice bitch in her 2nd finest 1991 form.


5. "Chasing Time" [from BWET; also includes the pedrowl remix]- Her most successful song in the U.S. with a #12 peak on the Dance charts. That's fantastic considering she's NEVER been promoted for radio in her career. AT. ALL. Not ever "212" got a U.S. station moment [For the record, "Chasing Time" must have been in uber select markets to get a chart in the States at all].
An audiogasm in the best sense of the word, CT combines Azealia's rap and singing abilities into one of her best musical unions. Special mention to the 4th place in the Remix Lab contest: the pedrowl remix is actually my favorite as it added a subtle dimension to an already trippy as fuck song.

4. "Barely Legal" [cover of The Strokes song of the same name]- Of the known covers Azealia has done, this is the best she's ever done. Turning a song by them into a signature version that shows off her singing in heights yet to be replicated. Bonus points for offending jaded fans of The Strokes by mere existence.

3. "Jumanji" [from Fantasea]- Released as a free download (Due to Fantasea related fuckery by way of Interscope and/or Polydor not clearing the "Esta Noche" sample), this Hudson Mohawke produced single has the most banging instrumental Azealia has ever laid down rhymes on. Add in the fire as fuck first bar and this easily snatches the title of Best Track from the Fantasea mixtape.

2. "Desperado" [from BWET]- The best track from the much "troubled" debut effort of Azealia Banks. This is the closest her recent music has ever gotten to the best song she's ever made on this list. Essentially remaking a UK House/Garage smash single "Bandolero Desperado" by MJ Cole, Azealia's icier side is in full effect as it should be for all of her music.

Before we get to #1, here are some songs that missed the Top 30: "Soda" [from BWET], "Esta Noche" [from Fantasea], "Fuck Up the Fun" [from Fantasea] and "L8R" [from Fantasea].


1. "1991" [the title track of her debut EP]- This is the song that got me into Azealia's music. This is Banks at her fiercest vibe and flow wise. This set of lines alone is enough to prove my point:

"1-9-9-1 my time has come/oh na na ma/your time is done/Pre-Madonna, mama Like a Virgin/private jets, my flights don't fly Virgin..."

The only wrong thing here is its lack of presence on Broke with Expensive Taste.

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