Known for her brash social media presence and devil-may-care attitude, Azealia Banks has spent the past three years fostering a bizarre persona in the hip-hop scene, all the while garnering a serious cult following. Amid nasty record deal feuds and fearsome Twitter battles, Banks has finally managed to release her debut album, “Broke With Expensive Taste.” Set to be released countless times over the last three years — a belated follow up to Banks’ breakout smash single, “212” (2011) — fans and critics alike were skeptical that “Broke With Expensive Taste” would ever materialize. Finally, however, Banks’ debut was released on Nov. 6 in an unprompted and almost secretive fashion. Though some say her release mirrors Beyoncé’s recent self-titled attempt — a coy, overnight media ploy — Banks’ release seems much more spontaneous. After such a sordid experience in the public eye and with the music industry, an overnight release seemed to be the only way for Banks to regain some credibility as an artist. Offending many and never apologizing, Banks’ controversial persona has dominated the publicity storm that has surrounded her — her music often falling on deaf ears as a result.
Happily, for both Banks and fans of music everywhere, “Broke with Expensive Taste” is a total hit. With layered tracks, nasty lyrics and infectious percussion, the album showcases Banks at her very best: sexy and casual, uninhibited and dominating. “212,” the breakout single that captured the imaginations of many, offering a fresh and shocking perspective in hip-hop, managed to fundamentally carve out its own tiny corner of the music world. A harsh invective against the traditional patriarchy of rap culture, “212” catapulted Banks to the fore of a new and burgeoning music scene. The attention she received for “212” was well deserved, leaving listeners anxious for more from the then-twenty year old. Though a late response to the early attention, Banks has managed to use “Broke With Expensive Taste” to carry the torch of her breakout single.
Musically, the album is diverse and experimental. Juxtaposing songs that could find a happy home on the top 40 against deeply experimental house-electro jams, “Broke With Expensive Taste” is an eclectic mix of sound and styles. The album, multifarious and strange, works for one simple reason: the music is insanely good.
Notable tracks on the album abound, but a few standout songs are worth mentioning here. If there can be said to be a successor to “212,” it is the album’s opening track, “Idle Delilah.” Though boasting a noticeably more subtle vibe than “212,” “Idle Delilah” also features unique percussion and artful production.
Another great track on the album is “BBD.” An acronym for “bad bitches do it,” “BBD” is a visceral track with a deep bass and an infectious hook. Banks’ verses on this track, sexual and unrestrained, are comparable to her most talented contemporaries. Throughout the album, Bank’s rapping harkens, not only to female rappers like Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim, but also to the male heroes of today’s hip-hop world: Kanye West and Jay Z. What puts Banks over the top, however, is her enviable vocal talent. On track after track Banks spits poison to a contagious beat, and then ropes listeners into an enchanting lull with her smooth and seductive singing voice. The track that encompasses all of Banks’ skill is “Yung Rapunxel.” Released in March of 2013 to a lukewarm response, “Yung Rapunxel” finally finds its audience on “Broke With Expensive Taste.”
Ultimately, Azealia Banks is the artist to watch in the hip-hop world. Bouncing back from countless embarrassing situations, Banks has shown herself to be a dynamic and talented musician. She is proof of the fact that what’s most important for rap artists is that their music is good — it’s as simple as that.