Azealia Banks’ ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’: Album Review

Bianca Gracie | November 7, 2014 5:30 am

After Azealia Banks‘ tracklist and cover art for her debut LP Broke With Expensive Taste dropped out of the sky yesterday, the entertainer pulled a Beyonce and released the album on iTunes. There was a point where we thought this album would never see the light, but its time has now come!

The fiery entertainer burst onto the scene back in 2012 with her breakout smash “212.” Fast forward two years later, and she has become known more for her endless Twitter beefs with almost everyone in the business (we don’t need to get into all of that again) than her truly awesome music. Banks’ debut effort gives her fans what they’ve been waiting for over the past three years: a wild mix of seapunk, witch-pop, trap and ’90s house that livens up an overall dull year in music.

Broke With Expensive Taste is packed with 16 tracks that don’t skimp out on in-your-face production, beginning with the opener — “Idle Delilah.” This glitchy mid-tempo finds Banks getting her Lauryn Hill on, as she combines her velvety vocals with her rugged rap style. It is tropical, thuggish and quirky all at the same time.

Following is “Gimme a Chance,” which is riddled with feather-light synths that pack a punch. It features a cheeky ’80s-style sample, bold brass instruments and haphazard DJ scratches. But the best part occurs right in the middle, when the song transforms into a bachata groove that harkens back to sweltering summer nights in the South Bronx. Oh, Banks’ Spanish singing is en punto!

Save for the Lazy Jay feature on “212,” (which really doesn’t need to be on this album — it’s era has passed) Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London is the only guest artist on BWET. His braggadocio verse on “JFK” pairs up perfectly with the tune’s smooth nature. But, as with many debut releases, there are a few misshapen moments that seem to be jammed into the record’s jigsaw puzzle.

The first aforementioned example being the silly track, “Wallace.” Its messy production sounds like a U-Haul truck in a fender-bender, and it overpowers Banks’ vocals — which are already muddled to the point where you can’t understand what she’s saying. Another lackluster is her version of Ariel Pink‘s “Nude Beach a Go-Go” — a ’60s-influences tune that is covered in sticky California sand. It interrupts the steady flow of the album with its powderpuff, kitchsy production. To be honest, the song’s presence on the album is just plain weird.

Thankfully, “Heavy Metal and Reflective” comes crashing through on its banged-up motorcycle and gives BWET a needed boost of firecracker energy. The verses may not reflect — no pun intended — anything with substance (there are references to Tamagotchis and Billie Jean), but who cares? The tune’s aggressive, clanging synths and wobbling bass makes up for it all. If it hasn’t as of yet, it is bound to take over the underground clubs worldwide.

My main issue with BWET is that Banks refused to let go of the songs she has done in the past, as seen with “212,” “Luxury” and “BBD.” The latter was released almost two years ago and still sounds fresh when placed in the context of mainstream music’s currently sad state, yet the fans deserve more than that. I don’t think they waited this long to listen to stale tracks.

But the album forgives itself for the previously-released songs with standout tracks like “Ice Princess” — an AarabMuzik-produced uptempo that juxtaposes a sparkling dance sample of Morgan Page‘s 2011 tune “In The Air” with heavy trap drum patterns and bass drops. It also has some of the rapper’s most intricate wordplay that’s straight from Harlem: “The iciest winter-fresh in that whitey Benz, shimmering Aphrodite/Winter wonderland, and bodies so frosty in that Bugatti/Porcelain, snowflake and poppy-popsicle in ya pocket/I’m polarizing your profits/I freeze ’em, flip ’em and rock it.” Her verses on this song drips with so much confidence that you can almost hear her grabbing her crotch in the studio!

BWET gets even gloomier after the ice storm with the noxious single, “Yung Rapunxel” (released via Interscope in March 2013). This song travels back to the UK in the early ’90s, grabs a page from The Prodigy‘s big beat blueprint and flips it for the modern era. The result is a menacing, aggressive rager that is sure to instigate many Illuminati rumors.

Banks then peels off her tormenting “Yung Rapunxel” layer with the dance tune, “Chasing Time.” It has all the means to become a hit single: bubbly ’90s house synths, a tame balance of singing and rapping, soulful vocals and a catchy hook. The song then slips into the oldie-but-goodie “Luxury” — a trance-influenced uptempo that we first listened to back in September 2012 on the Fantasea mixtape.

While Broke With Expensive Taste doesn’t fully display Azealia Banks’ complete musical greatness that her fans are familiar with, there’s no taking away the fact that it gives pop music in 2014 a much-needed kick in the ass!Since the start of her career, the singer has always had her middle finger pressed firmly in her naysayers’ faces. The only difference now, is that she’s finally let her music do all the expletive-laced talking.

Best Song That Wasn’t The Single: “Ice Princess,” whose dance production settles nicely within what’s occurring at the moment, but it still has a razor-sharp edge that is uniquely Azealia Banks. Plus, she talks a lot of shit on the track — who doesn’t love that?

Best Listened To When: You’re feeling “kunt” and looking for the confidence to dominate the rowdy NYC nightlife with your best friends.

Idolator Score:  4/5

— Bianca Gracie

What do you think of Azealia Banks’ debut album? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Facebook and Twitter!