JIM WONG

It’s hard to separate Azealia Banks’s personal life and her music but one has to try when listening to her music. Broke With Expensive Taste comes three years after she burst on the music scene with still-catchy pop anthem 212 and it is mostly definitely worth the wait. Her mix-tape Fantasea and her EP 1991 gave fans a little taste of her multi-faceted talent but their anticipation quickly waned as the album release date was pushed further and further bank and Azealia seemed too pre-occupied with her Twitter to make some music. However, it was wrong to write Azealia Banks off our memory because as her debut album serves to prove: the label wasn’t prepared and neither were we.

Starting with Idle Delilah, the Pearson Sound-produced song is a great introduction track; it doesn’t try and impress the listener at once but rather guides them on a journey, slowly adding more and more layers. Azealia doesn’t seem to follow contemporary song structure; she constantly switches it up and thus, no two thirty-second segments sound the same. On Gimme a Chance, Banks effortlessly raps over the horn and brass-heavy song, and then unexpectedly changes to rapping to Spanish. Regardless of how you feel about Azealia Banks tweets, there’s no denying that she has talent. Desperado is a haunting and almost ghostly song, and it is here where Azealia pokes fun at herself: the repetition of the line ‘I’ve been waiting for Azealia Banks’ is a nod to her multiple album delays.

JFK with Theophilus London and 212 with Lazy Jay are the only songs with a featured artist and while it’s strange to have so few on a rap album, it is clear that this was done to highlight Azalia’s rapping skills. It would have been wrong to not include 212 on her debut album despite it being three years old. However, it still hasn’t lost its appeal or its fierceness bite, and the same applies to Azealia.

Wallace and Heavy Metal and Reflective demonstrate that Azealia still has got one hell of a tongue. Wallace starts off mid-tempo before revving up and throws shades in all directions, while Heavy Metal and Reflective has her spitting out rhymes over an industrial-sounding beat. BBD, Yung Rapunxel and Luxury were all released prior to the album and with the exception of BBD, the songs still sound fresh and hard-hitting; Azealia’s raps don’t fade that easily.

Ice Princess and Catching Time are the more pop-sounding songs but Ms Banks know how to keep it interesting, still adding her Harlem-style rapping lines. However, you won’t expect to hear it everywhere soon. These songs are meant for the dance floor, basement and block parties. Soda is a great house-sounding song but one wonders if she was a bit lazy with the lyrics; it tends to get repetitive and dreary.

Nude Beach a Go-Go is a highlight, even though in a normal world it wouldn’t be one. It’s such a weird-sounding song and sounds like it would fit perfectly in a 80s or 70s musical, and yet it works and just makes you want to constantly hit play. Closing tracks Miss Amor and Miss Camaraderie are both produced by electronic producer Lone and are just full of great beats and sick raps. It’s a great finish to a debut album: it makes you want to replay the album again.

Broke With Expensive Taste showcases Azealia Banks’ rapping and singing skills as well as her diverse taste in music: dabbling in surf rap, industrial sounds and a little bit of jazz. One can understand why industry executives took their time with her: it’s hard to market an album as crazy and weird as this but yet, it was a huge mistake to have kept it on the backburner. This is one of the best rap releases in 2014 and here’s hoping Ms Banks keeps it coming.

4.5 / 5.0