Rapper Azealia Banks has rush-released (?) her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste, even though it hardly feels like a rush after originally being announced in 2012. Banks walks a fine line between being a serious artist and, to be honest, a joke. From her countless and pointless Twitter feuds, album delays and label droppings, expectations for Broke with Expensive Taste were a bit ‘meh’. For this to be Azealia’s debut album, would it really live up to the hype after two years? Very few artists can go without releasing music that long, most of whom are seasoned artists with an army of fans.
Broke With Expensive Taste features a beefy 16 tracks, including the single ‘212’ from her 2012 released EP 1991. From the beginning, the album gets off to a bit of a rocky start, feeling more like an easy listening album with little lyrics and actual content, but by the middle of Broke with Expensive Taste, Azealia Banks has hit her stride and the album takes a solid turn for the best.
Track #1 – ‘Idle Delilah’
The album opens with a 45 second instrumental before Banks begins singing tongue twisting lyrics that seem a bit like a nursery rhyme at times. Can an album open with filler? ‘Idle Delilah’ is forgettable and boring. The track comes in at 4:30, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a good 2 minutes of it was instrumental or incoherent warbling.
Track #2 – ‘Gimme a Chance’
Azealia gets into her groove after a boring intro, and ‘Gimme a Chance’ exceeds expectations. She showcases her rapping talents over a fun and playful beat. The track does suffer from a similar problem as ‘Idle Delilah’, though: runtime. It’s half a minute shorter at 3:53, but still feels a bit long. ‘Gimme a Chance’ starts strong, but after the 2 minute mark, it all feels a bit superfluous and just unnecessary. Banks is best when she’s rapping hard, and this track proves that.
Track #3 – ‘Desperado’
Is Azealia Banks releasing an easy listening album? ‘Desperado’ takes another 45 second instrumental before getting to Azealia’s lyrics. The track continues like the two before it in being good when she actually does sing, but that seems to be few and far between. Has Broke with Expensive Taste been delayed all these years for a lack of actual content rather than something else behind the scenes? It sure seems like it.
Track #4 – ‘JFK (Featuring Theophilus London)’
Perhaps Theophilus London worked some magic on ‘JFK’, or it could just be that Azealia’s voice works best when it’s paired with a male’s vocals. More likely is the fact that ‘JFK’ isn’t entirely lacking in good lyrics. But, like the tracks before it, the majority of the FIVE minute track (seriously?) is an ordinary instrumental that seems lackluster in production. The track just ends abruptly (and so do a few of the tracks before it.) It gives the album a feeling of lacking cohesiveness.
Track #5 – ‘212 (Featuring Lazy Jay)’
‘212’ is probably the one Azealia Banks track the public at large has heard, and for good reason. It’s a fantastic track, and if Broke with Expensive Taste followed more in ‘212’s footsteps, it would have been a total banger. It comes in at a nice 3:24, and never goes too long without vocals.
Track #6 – ‘Wallace’
‘Wallace’ at least finds Banks singing for a good portion of the track, but in all honesty – what is she singing about? ‘Wallace’ comes across as babbling and incoherent.
Bow-wow yippee-yo yippee-yay
Poochie, you big dog? then bite for a taste!
Kitty in many cities, you licking for a lay?
Claiming the big ticket then pay what you say!
Track #7 – ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’
‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ is a standout on the album. The beat is impressive and addictive, and Azealia’s singing is almost robotic, but purposefully and artistically. In an album of 4:30 tracks, ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ is a measly 2:36, but it makes me wonder if Azealia is best in small doses.
Track #8 – ‘BBD’
‘BBD’ continues in the vein of ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ with Banks being more radio friendly, and the track is good. Her rhymes are tight, the beat is memorable without being overbearing, and if ‘BBD’ had a more dance driven remix, I could easily see it tearing up a club. As it is, it’s a track for jamming out in the car to if you’re a hardcore Azealia fan.
Track #9 – ‘Ice Princess’
It seems as if by the middle of the album, Banks is finally in her stride. ‘Ice Princess’ is a wonderful track with smart and memorable lyrics and a dark beat that is driven by Azealia’s voice. The track also flows perfectly to ‘Yung Rapunxel’. Despite a rough start, it seems Broke with Expensive Taste isn’t too bad after all.
Track #10 – ‘Yung Rapunxel’
‘Yung Rapunxel’ is similar to ‘212’, but holds its own. Oddly enough, ‘Yung Rapunxel’ was released in early 2013 (you can watch the video below). The track sees Azealia singing ‘I wanna be free’ x4, and seems almost prophetic about her career and the release of Broke with Expensive Taste. Now that she has more artistic freedom, will the result be magical like the second half of the album, or stumble around like the first half?
Remember the Apple commercials that featured people walking down the street listening to that underground song from that artist no one knew yet, but everyone had heard the song and fell in love with it? ‘Soda’ is reminiscent of those songs, and is fun and airy. It’s different entirely to the tracks before it; there’s nothing dark or even hip-hop/urban about ‘Soda’. Azealia actually sounds great on this purely bubble pop record, and the track is very enjoyable.
Track #12 – ‘Chasing Time’
The album seems to be progressing to a more mainstream pop sound, and ‘Chasing Time’ features all the makings of a radio friendly smash, from it’s catchy chorus right down to it’s exact 3:30 runtime. Should Broke with Expensive Taste still be holding steam next year, ‘Chasing Time’ would make for a nice spring/summer single, and it could possibly do very well on the charts if handled properly.
Track #13 – ‘Luxury’
‘Luxury’ sounds a bit like filler compared to the strong tracks before it, but it’s not bad by any means. It has the potential of being a grower, but upon first listen it’s a little bit forgettable. Despite being under 3 minutes, it never seems to get its footing and gets borderline boring in the second half.
Track #14 – ‘Nude Beach a Go-Go’
Azealia is giving an obvious throwback to pop songs of yesteryear, and any of her young audience that grew up listening to their parents’ records, or participated in their school chorus, will appreciate the cheeky nods to those songs in this pure Californian surfer pop record. ‘Nude Beach a Go-Go’ is cute and will surely put you in a good mood. Love it.
Track #15 – ‘Miss Amor’
Broke with Expensive Taste begins to wind down with ‘Miss Amor’, which manages to do what the album’s opening tracks failed. Even though it’s rather long at 4:28, ‘Miss Amor’ is full of lighthearded and enjoyable lyrics rather than 2 minutes of average and forgettable instrumentals. ‘Miss Amor’ is more filler, but it fits nicely on the album.
Track #16 – ‘Miss Camaraderie’
Azealia closes Broke with Expensive Taste with ‘Miss Camaraderie’, which seems a bit awkward with her past making her seem less than friendly towards her peers. Like ‘Miss Amor’ before it, it’s enjoyable but still filler and forgettable, much like the rest of the album. ‘Miss Camaraderie’ is the longest track on the album, and ends with an instrumental outro. If you’ve made it this far into the album, you’re probably thinking ‘At least there were some good tracks in the middle so this wasn’t a complete waste of time.’
Despite a rough start, Broke with Expensive Taste, eventually finds its footing, but it never really manages to take off properly. The highlight tracks are few and far between, and overall the album feels disappointing after such a long wait. Would it have been better had Banks waited even longer and made sure the album was more finessed and filled with quality over quantity? Perhaps, but we will never know. Azealia shines on the tracks where she does what the public have comes to love her for, and even shows promise on tracks with a more pure pop-driven sound. Although it’s forgettable, Broke with Expensive Taste may be a catalyst for Banks that will get her some new fans that she will hopefully listen to as she continues to refine her talents and find her niche in pop music.