*this review was written for a job application (which I didn’t get) so it written to a specific brief. I Thought that since I spent a bit of time on it, it might as well see the light of the internet-day instead of just staying in my docs or being deleted and forgotten about*
After a mammoth struggle and being at loggerheads with her label, Azealia Banks released her first studio albumBroke With Expensive Taste in November of 2014. And boy, it was definitely worth the wait!
What is really exciting about this album is how Banks has enlisted producers such as the likes of Lone, Machinedrum and Boddika with whom she has worked with repeatedly in the past on her Fantasea mixtape and singles to give her that distinct sound we all recognise. It’s great to see guys like these who are pushing innovative and fresh music in the dance music scene into the more ‘mainstream’ and hip hop worlds.
Banks lays her slick, witty flow over dance tracks to produce great material. Chasing Time, the lead single for the album is a stand-out track that definitely has more ‘pop’ chart appeal. Banks moves from her catchy chorus ‘Am I chasing time?/Cos I’ve wasted all mine on you’ which is relatable and reminds us a little of Lauryn Hill in her ability to move seamlessly between rapping and singing. Banks instantly recognisable flow comes from ability to flick in and out between various metaphors, rhyme and intricate word play, which makes for another layer of listening and takes it beyond a standard pop song.
Nude Beach A Go-Go is the curveball that’s been thrown into the mix and shows Banks’ versatility with genre and style. Imagine you’re in 60s America on a surfer holiday. Azealia might not be the first artist who spring to mind when you think of a song that sounds like this era, but once again, she’s surprised us all with this one. Accompanied by the rockabilly guitar, Banks shows us she can produce a tongue in cheek, yet carefree song. Not shying away from prevalent topics we see in most of Banks’ work, the lines ‘black women’s attraction/ all the white girls join in the action’ highlight how black female sexuality has been noted and mimicked by white counterparts. Nevertheless, this is a carefree song that although most likely won’t see a single release, is a reason why the album as a body of work is an essential tool for an artist to display their range of talent to dedicated fans and listeners.
The main thing that shines through on this album is versatility. Her fearlessness to try new things in terms of production, samples and arrangement amongst fierce competition in the ‘urban’ music category. Admittedly, some songs are not going to fit everyone’s taste: BBD takes influence from trap music and the production in this song at points, overshadows the lyrical talent. But again, it was a risk- something an artist must do to grow. Banks unashamedly and sometimes aggressively takes ownership of her black female voice and her own sexuality to bring issues to the fore and onto a wider platform which in turn, opens up discussion of these very issues.