Two years. That’s how long it took Azealia Banks to deliver the goods for Broke With Expensive Taste. It was not without a valiant effort on her part. During those years of musical silence, Azealia had plenty to say on Twitter. When she wasn’t getting into fights with other artists or shading anyone who crossed her eyesight, Azealia was tweeting about how she wanted to be released from her record contract. It took a good year for fans to realize how little the delays on Broke had to do with Azealia herself, but her label. If Azealia had her way this album would have been released two years ago when she was still riding off the success of “212.”
But here we are, November of 2014 and Azealia Banks has finally dropped Broke With Expensive Taste unexpectedly and without warning on iTunes. Yet for all of the shock that the album’s release brought, for me, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. I guess I always figured when Azealia decided to release Broke it would be on her own terms, whenever she damn well pleased.
I became a fan of Azealia after she released her futuristic witch-hop mixtape Fantasea in 2012. It is by far my favorite mixtape. It’s so good that I can’t believe she laid it out for free. Fantasea proved what a forward-thinking, creative artist Azealia is. It baffled me that her label was trying to prevent her from releasing a debut. After listening to Broke With Expensive Taste multiple times since it’s release, it makes me believe her label had no idea how to handle her or her music. In an effort to prevent her from going to a label that would know what to do with her, they muzzled her.
Broke With Expensive Taste is brilliant. It’s so edgy, so fresh. The beats veer between trap, electronic and witch-hop. It’s the perfect blend of Fantasea and her 1991 EP, which contains “212.” The album features a few songs fans will recognize, but Azealia was selective including them. “Luxury”, “Young Runpunxel”, “BBD”, and “212” all find their way onto the album but they blend together perfectly with the concept and sound.
Many critics will claim it is hard to separate the artist from the art, but I think it’s quite easy for this release. Azealia has done nothing that doesn’t warrant us not forgiving her. She’s bratty, catty and at times too outspoken for her own good but isn’t that what makes her debut so charismatic? This is the same woman who rapped coyly in her first single, “I guess that cunt’s getting eaten.” All of the tracks on Broke feature a brash, confrontational feel. Azealia knows how fly and hip she is. “Standing in the mirror lookin lux and plush,” she teases in “Desporado.”
Azealia is full of surprises on this LP. If it’s not rapping in Spanish on “Gimme A Chance”, it’s changing the beat suddenly through the song and dropping a hook that’s way too addictive, as heard on “Ice Princess.” The one thing I’ve learned from Azealia is that her songs are layered in sounds. Multiple listens will reveal new subtle changes throughout the beat that will catch the listener by surprise. Her music is everything Artpop tried to be, but failed at. This is a very cohesive album, and one that is extremely confident. And it should be as she’s had so long to perfect it.
In many ways Azealia has been the cause of her own undoing, but since being released from her contract and dropping this LP I think she has a shot at regaining what she once had. This album is full of potential and leverage for a long rap career. It will not be a mainstream success; there’s nothing on the LP that warrants a hit single. But it going to be a critical smash, and to her fans that have been there since the beginning, it is everything we could have hoped for. I feel like as word of mouth spreads, the album will gain momentum. Upon the release, the album found itself at number 3 on iTunes and two days later it’s still in the top 5. Pretty impressive for an artist that at one point seemed like she didn’t have a shot in hell at ever releasing an album.
I hope more than anything, Azealia gets the recognition she deserves. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Iggy Azalea–her pretty, blonde white counterpart–has found mainstream success and critical love while Azealia has been painted as the enemy. Racial politics are all too real in rap right now. Azealia is exponentially more talented than Iggy, but you wouldn’t know it based on the articles that hail Iggy as the “future” of rap. Azealia has a lot to prove and even more racism to fight through in finding success. I think she has it in her and I also think she’s dope enough to become a huge underdog success story. We need more rappers like her: truthful, brash and legitimately talented.
If you haven’t already go cop Broke With Expensive Taste. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself a fan by the end.