Album Review: Broke With Expensive Taste by Azealia Banks
Fairly Good, Based on 18 Critics
The Line of Best Fit - 85 Based on rating 8.5/10
It happened – you all know it by now – she dropped the first LP. And hasn’t she kept us waiting? It’s been so long coming, the world had stopped holding its breath. Then, on November 8th, it hit us like a slap in the face. Actually, maybe that's an inept metaphor. Perhaps it hit us all so ….
Fraught with interminable delays and self-sabotaging Twitter beefs, Azealia Banks' career was about to take yet another, potentially career-flatlining L if her debut full-length, Broke With Expensive Taste did not drop by the end of the calendar year. By shrewdly dropping the album with virtually no notice, she seemingly found a way to generate pushback against the increasing indifference towards her. It appears, then, that Banks has managed to pull off a minor miracle, as Broke With Expensive Taste is an artistic success as well as a strategic one.
It’s been three years since Azealia Banks sprung up from the New York underground fully formed with "212", her confrontationally profane lead single. "212" was the seed for all of the triumph and adversity that followed—the prodigious rap skills, the casual genre-bending, and the bratty disdain for authority. In its wake, Banks charted a career path typical of a budding rap talent.
Three years after her breakout hit 212, Azealia Banks has finally released her debut album. It’s a contender for album of the year. Banks immerses herself in 90s nostalgia, spitting darkly and sharply over tracks full of elements of UK garage, deep house and trap (an aggressive strain of hip-hop). She makes lines such as “Sprite I love the mosta/I ride rolla coasta/I try all the cultures” not only rhyme, but pulsate.
It may not be up there with Chinese Democracy or My Bloody Valentine‘s MBV in the pantheon of legendarily long-delayed albums, but there did seem to be a point where we’d never actually hear Azealia Banks‘ debut album. Indeed, after she burst onto the scene in late 2011 with the blistering anthem to cunnilingus that was 212, it was as if Banks was more interested in seeking out controversy than she was in making music. Sure, there was the odd mixtape (the entertaining if uneven Fantesea) and the impressively creative video for her single Yung Rapunxel, but she was soon becoming more famous for entering into celebrity spats on Twitter.
Harlem rapper Azealia Banks has struggled with highly-publicized album delays and label woes since 2011 when her early single “212” became an underground hit. After dozens of false starts, release windows that came and went, a well-received EP and a mixtape, Banks was smart to just back out of the spotlight and get her debut album Broke With Expensive Taste out the door when the time came. There’s plenty to be said about how young artists are marketed in the digital age, how they’re pushed into the public eye well before they’ve had a chance to actually prove themselves and only then judged on their success or failure.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
In the end, the surprise isn’t the snap release of ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’, more the fact that Azealia Banks has put her debut album out via official channels at all. Maybe there’s respect and joint purpose uniting the 23-year-old and new label/management company Prospect Park – certainly much more than there was between the rapper and her old label Universal – or maybe she saw what happened when occasional nemesis Angel Haze leaked her own album at the end of last year and decided she wanted none of that. No one wants their wrist slapped, least of all Azealia Banks.And the New Yorker has taken some scolding in the two years since this album was supposed to appear.
After a two-year standoff with Interscope, Azealia Banks triumphs with her self-released debut. She nods to club kids of all ages by infusing elements of jazz, deep house and U.K. garage into tracks like "Desperado" and "Chasing Time." Her most impressive fusion, "Gimme a Chance," starts with the bubblegum of Tom Tom Club and turns into a bilingual hip-hop joint brimming with Afro-Caribbean tumbao rhythms.
“Why procrastinate, girl?” sang Azealia Banks in 2011. “You’ve got a lot but you just waste all yours and they’ll forget your name soon.” Three years on, the hook of her breakthrough single 212 has come to sound more like a self-fulfilling prophecy than the self-motivation of a hungry young artist. In those three years, Banks has started more Twitter feuds than she has released official songs, and burned bridges – with labels, producers and fellow artists – with wilful abandon.
When she burst onto the scene in late 2011, Azealia Banks embodied an astounding collision of opposites, seemingly blended into one superlatively streetwise package. She was fiercely aggressive, but stridently feminine. She boasted a throwback street focus with an art-school pedigree. And she was thoughtful about her fluid sexuality, though belligerent in dealing with naysayers.
There's that music hack's proverb about how a band or artist's second record is always more difficult to write than the first... because with the first one, y'see, they had their whole lives to write it, yeah? I wanna sentence myself to an eternity in the Eighth Circle of hell for deploying such a tiresome rouse now... but it really does feel like Azealia Banks has been writing her debut record half her life.
"Check my watch / I had the future in my pocket / But I lost it when I gave it to you," sings Azealia Banks on 'Chasing Time', a ticker-tape parade of a breakup song that's tucked toward the end of her long-delayed debut record, right about at the point where you realise that she's going wall-to-wall—no skits, no interludes, just 16 exceptional tracks full of glowing wordplay, instinctively catchy intonation, and effortless genre whisking. It's probably a coincidence that the song also doubles as a rallying cry for artists who feel stifled by their record labels—Banks actually recorded it in an attempt to appease hers—but it's impossible to not hear it as such. Because in the three years since the Harlem rapper landed a deal with Interscope, Broke With Expensive Taste kept getting pushed back to the point where it was becoming a punchline.
opinion byZACHARY BERNSTEIN Smile, Chinese Democracy, Detox – the pop music world has never been a stranger to the frustration of the delayed album release. New York rapper and singer Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste could have easily earned its own pedestal in such a dubious pantheon. Since she first took music blogs, dorm rooms, and block parties by storm in 2012 with the joyously vulgar earworm “212,” Banks has become mired in so many Twitter feuds and record-label publicity flaps that the release of her debut album seemed increasingly unlikely by the month.
Three years into our wait for Azealia Banks’s full-length debut, we were wondering if it would ever come out. Broke With Expensive Taste, however, is fully realized, bold and assured. As it turns out, her debut smash single, 212 – now three (!) years old – was a pretty good harbinger. Airtight, no-holds-barred rhymes like “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evenin’ / And fit that tongue tongue d-deep in / I guess that cunt gettin’ eatin’” were no fluke.
A long public back story shouldn’t eclipse the pleasures of Azealia Banks’s debut album, “Broke With Expensive Taste,” which she released suddenly online on Nov. 6. Yes, she has been announcing the album since 2012. Yes, she has been signed to and dropped from a major label, Interscope, along the way.
Three years ago, the New York MC Azealia Banks jolted the music Internet with “212,” a boastful, pummeling track on which Banks delighted in her foul-mouthedness as much as she did in her verbal dexterity. She traded off matter-of-factly confrontational verses with stretches where she treated vowels like playgrounds. Her speaker-melting bravado — not to mention the music, culled from “Float My Boat” by the Belgian DJ Lazy Jay — caused the track to sneak on critics’ year-end lists.
There are many ways one could greet the arrival of rapper-singer Azealia Banks' long-gestating debut album, "Broke With Expensive Taste. " It's tempting to be wry, to note the long wait, the overblown expectations that have accompanied the pending release of this promising brash, bouncy album. One could belabor the Harlem-raised artist's missed opportunities: A version of "Broke .
If I said, “Azealia Banks,” to you back in September of 2011, you’d probably say, “That weird but cool black and white video,” or “Turn up!” Now when I say, “Azealia Banks,” you’re most likely prone to say, “drama. ” The 2011 release of Azealia Banks’ “212” video with producer Lazy Jay created a larger than life sound that was contagious with that disruptive beat, her bossy attitude, and command of intricate flows right out of the gate. Little did we all know that so many factors outside of music would make us largely forget about her EP 1991 and her Fantasea mixtape after the fact, until a Beyoncé-style album drop announced simply through a tweet.