Best Albums Ever: Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

'Broke With Expensive Taste' album artwork. Photo by

‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ album artwork. Photo by

Last November, Azealia Banks took to social media to announce the “wait is over” and self-released her hotly anticipated debut album Broke With Expensive Taste (BWET). After record label disputes, infamous Twitter feuds, and taking a staggering five years to record, some critics questioned whether the 23-year-old emcee’s career was over before it had even started; something this writer would strongly dispute.

The stand out characteristic of BWET is the way Banks explores such a plethora of genres, ranging from the UK garage inspired “Desperado” and the exuberant house-tinged “Miss Amor” to an unexpected diversion into salsa halfway through the funky “Gimme a Chance”. Such a mix of styles was a risk. After its repeatedly postponed release, the album could have sounded like a bad compilation of rejected songs, but Azealia is able to fuse it all together with her mature hip-hop sensibility shining through in each and every track.

Deemed not suitable for play on mainstream radio by many, BWET unapologetically stays true to Banks’ New York flavoured style, with heavy drum beats and ferocious 100mph lyrics. Her 2011 breakout single; the expletive-heavy “212”, holds its rightful place on the album, and serves as a reminder as to why the young rapper caught the attention of tastemakers across the globe.

One of my highlights is the thumping yet jazzy “Wallace”, which demonstrates the young rapper’s ability to manipulate the English language. “I chat-cheek-cheeky chickle, sip a giggly-grape”, she confidently spits, almost reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s use of literary nonsense in his writings. Not only does Azealia fluently meander her way through tongue-tying raps, she proves that she can actually sing, as heard on tracks like “Luxury” and “Soda”. Banks’ ability to cross between rapping and singing challenges the tendency of rappers getting other artists to sing on their hooks.

Something that I think is lacking from today’s popular music landscape is artistic integrity. It is refreshing to see Banks creating the music she wants to make and not adhering to the music industry’s ruthless focus on sales and chart performance. If there is one quality that defines Azealia and her music, it is honesty. The album is a twisted journey through her creative mind, inviting listeners to experience both highs and lows with no holds barred. Surely what makes for a good album is the desire to innovate, explore and express yourself through music – something I feel Banks achieves.

At nearly 6 months old, it may seem brazen to place this record in a Best Albums Ever category. However, in the sparse female rap scene, Broke With Expensive Taste exudes originality and in my view, offers a glimpse into the future, with its genre-bending beats, lyricism and vocal melodies. For me, the combination of all these aspects has culminated in the creation of an underground modern classic. Definitely worth a listen.


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