Album Review: Broke With Expensive Taste by Azealia Banks

After two years of delays and record label issues, Azealia Banks finally delivered the goods. Unexpectedly, almost a Beyoncé-like release, is how the emcee decided to grace her fans with the material they had been eagerly waiting for.

Broke With Expensive Taste dropped on iTunes yesterday and has been buzzing on the internet world for the past 24 hours. Banks’ debut LP is a collection of 16 songs, which includes the previously released “212” and “Yung Rapunxel” as well as the advance singles “Heavy Metal and Reflective” and “Chasing Time.”

The album starts with the tribal beats and jungle-like setting of “Idle Delilah” and from there it’s all a cohesive body of work that never feels tired or repetitive. The songs flow into each others effortlessly, maintaining their distinctive sound. “Gimme a Chance” sounds like a garage band jam session with a hot and grand Teena Marie-esque horn section, with Banks dropping bars in Spanish becoming one of the best moments of the album.

The songs have unconventional structures, the beats break down and reprise in a matter of seconds, keeping the attention of the listener high. Azealia’s flow is sharp, direct and full of swag and her smoky deep voice takes care of the sung parts without much effort and without the help of “hook singers.” The album is, in fact, short on features (only “212” and “JFK” feature someone else) and Banks carries the entire album by herself.

Broke With Expensive Taste is built like an hour-long DJ set at a music festival, with long instrumental moments in most of the songs, yet it’s kind of genreless. There’s not really a genre tag one can give to this album. It’s electro, but it’s Hip-Hop; it’s Urban but it’s also Dance (with elements of both even occurring in the same song.) The album is popping without trying too hard be mainstream Pop: “Chasing Time” has a strong hook that could work on the radio, but it’s clear that it wasn’t Azealia’s main concern. And the effortless nature of the songs is exactly what makes them work. An older song like “212” fits perfectly among the newer tracks because the artist remained true to her artistry and sound along the way.

Should any track be chosen as a radio single, hopefully it will be “Ice Princess.” It’s the ultimate highlight of this work, completely fusing the main sonical directions of the album. The Urban verses that flow into the Dance chorus reminiscent of Kylie Minogue’s Fever era are an impeccable work of production.

Newcomers and veterans have lots to learn from Azealia Banks. The main lesson is not to be concerned with trends and safety. Hip-Hop is supposed to be, first and foremost, unconventional and adventurous. This album is all of that and more: a breath of fresh air for the genre and a milestone for female Hip-Hop in particular.

Grade:

85/97

 

 

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