: It's 2011 and a relatively unknown young lady from Harlem drops "212", and the internet explodes. Not only does the track aggressively, almost oppresively, infiltrate your brain, your parties, your iPod (yes, you still had an iPod in 2011), but the maker of the madness, one Azealia Banks
, is ensuring that her presence be felt and recognized. Via Twitter, Banks ferociously challenges and berates the likes of T.I., Lil' Kim, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Rita Ora, Lady Gaga, Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique, Angel Haze, Iggy Azalea and Eminem to name a few. Her full length album is set for release in fall 2012. But fall 2012 passes, summer 2013 passes. The album stalls, and the explosive woman behind it all but disappears.
: It's three years later and I'm making green tomato chutney in my sweatpants when I get an email from my editor. The long awaited album from Yung Repunxel, Broke With Expensive Taste
, has finally and unexpectedly been released... and it's sitting in my inbox, begging to blast through my speakers and aggravate my very nice neighbors and their newborn baby.
The most compelling thing about the singles that Azealia Banks dropped a few years back was that they explicitly and actively defied what was expected of a fresh young female. Miss Banks wasn't singing about how good she looked, or how much all boys want her. Instead she channeled death metal vocal stylings, maniacally screaming her guts out on "Yung Repunxel" like she was possessed. On "212" she rapped about effortlessly transforming her would-be female competitors into desperate, horny suitors: "The bitch who wants to compete and/ I can freak a fit that pump with the peep and/ You know what your bitch become when her weave in/ I just wanna sip that punch with your peeps and/ Sit in that lunch if you're treatin'/ Kick it with the bitch who comes from Parisian/ She know where I get mine from and the season/ Now she wanna lick my plum in the evenin'/ And fit that tongue tongue d-deep in/ I guess that cunt gettin' eaten..." The shock and originality that Banks brought to her first forays into the larger musical soundscape translate unerringly into an entire record, and that's what has made it worth the wait and the hype (both largely self-cultivated by the artist herself).
Although Azealia might fall under the umbrella of hip hop, Broke With Expensive Taste
cannot be categorized so simply. It touches on just about every mainstream genre imaginable: hip hop, house, latin, jazz, zydeco, caribbean, electronic. Much like the premier song "212," the album as a whole stands as an ode to NYC, which is every bit as much Euro-trash as it is old Jewish Bubalas. It doesn't subtly glide seamlessly from one genre to the next: the transitions are obvious and abrupt; a similar experience to say, getting on the subway on the Upper West Side and getting off in Chinatown. You couldn't watch the transitions between neighborhoods because you were underground the whole time, dummy. You simply started at Point A and ended at Point B and that is fucking that.
The jazz influence and relatively laid back feel on "Desperado" harken back to classic vibes of A Tribe Called Quest, while "Nude Beach a Go-Go" must be some type of coded joke that Azealia Banks is playing on all of us: it's an Ariel Pink
cover, with a surf-rock Beach Boys-esque sound, which comes off as inexplicably creepy coming from her. "Heavy Metal and Reflective" is great and gritty, although both Azealia's flow and and the persistent bass line sound a little too referential to Le1f's "Wut"
. However, Le1f and Banks are tight, so it's possible that this is deliberate. Other stand out tracks are "Ice Princess" and "Soda."
Here's the thing: Broke With Expensive Taste
isn't necessarily easy to enjoy. It's the type of album that requires something of its listener. The sonic equivalent of a critically acclaimed foreign film, complete with subtitles and startling beauty of a challenging nature. If you want to be passively entertained, watch Step Brothers
, listen to Taylor Swift's 1989
: they're great, and they require little effort. That said, if you're willing to give Banks a few rotations, you might find that you've expanded your own capability of appreciation. In the Tweeted words of Azealia Banks "I'm next level, I had a song about being a Barbie before Nicki Minaj had a song about being a Barbie...And fuck Iggy Azalea, I had a song called 'Pussy' before she ever did...It's better." This girl does not give one single shit if she's offending you, if she's pleasing you, or if she's making you wait three years for her LP. All and all, you might not like it, but you best respect it.