Azealia Banks’ debut album is finally here. That particular permutation of words is one that I wasn’t sure I would ever have the chance to type out because for the longest time, Broke With Expensive Taste seemed like a distant “maybeperhapsoneofthesedays”. Similar to how every year you think you might possibly go to the gym more often… or might possibly make time to travel or go volunteer at an animal shelter, but deep down you know that the possibility of any of those is quite low. It’s really a credit to how amazing “212” was that it kept the Azealia flame so bright for so long despite her failure to put out another single anywhere near as popular. In fact, it was this summer (while my hopes of this album ever coming out were slowly dying with every passing day) I realized that her verse in 212 might actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I heard you ridin’ with the same tall, tall tale
Tellin’ em you made some
Sayin’ you grindin’ but you ain’t goin’ no where!
Why you procrastinate girl?
You got a lot but you just waste all yours and
They’ll forget your name soon
And won’t nobody be to blame but yourself, yeah”
Thus, after fumbled collaborations, soul-sucking record label contracts, a lifetime of hustle and endlessly reckless online conduct (never forget that one time she said Lilly Allen’s husband resembled a thumb and the now legendary Igloo Australia statement) this album is here. It’s here and it’s here to stay. With it’s eclectic mix of jazz, Latin rhythms, poppy hooks, and straight up screamo, this album is unlike anything I have heard in recent memory. Part of what makes this album distinctive, is the clear and audible growth she’s displayed between BWET and her breakout mixtapes. It’s easy to see why this album got bounced around; what on earth would a “group of old white guys” hear in this CD with its references to ball culture and cunnilingus and gollywog doll spirits? Riskiness and innovation possibly, but mostly riskiness. Yet a listen all the way through shows her immense taste and creative vision. Some would argue that the album doesn’t sound cohesive. I argue that it’s cohesive in it’s lack of cohesiveness. “Give Me A Chance” opens up with an upbeat and slightly tongue-in-cheek sample of “Knock That Door” by Enon, and ends with a bachatta influenced verse sung/rapped entirely in Spanish. The next track is Desperado, but there’s no Spanish here because that would be too obvious and Azealia Banks likes to play games.
She indulges in this same playfulness as she shares her thoughts on cultural appropriation with the impossibly bubbly Beach Boys inspired “Nude Beach A Go-Go”. If anyone thought she was a diva this song is all the evidence needed to prove that with drama shoved aside, Azealia takes her art more seriously than herself. Nowhere is this clearer than in her lyrical abilities and flow. There is not a single song on the radio that sounds anything like “Yung Rapunxel”, “JFK”, “Miss Amor”, basically the entire album. A listen to her songs reveals a stream of her inner rhyming, assonance and melodic syllables that sometimes blend into a string of sounds that appear to be gibberish until you read the RapGenius and understand the magic at hand. This magic gives me hope for the future of the genre and brings to mind her “212” lyrics once again:
What you gon do when I appear?
W-w-when I premiere?
Bitch the end of your lives are near
This shit been mine, mine
Azealia, it’s YOURS.
Monica Ukah is a junior at Harvard who enjoys making horrible puns and studying Sociology. If she’s not thrift store shopping, eating sushi, practicing Beyoncé choreography in her room when her roommates are gone, doing a homework assignment, or prowling the internet for new music from Frank Ocean, she’s probably updating her personal fashion blog, www.chicblackchick.net!