REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

"Mother Of Hip Hop" Azealia Banks Delivers On Her Long Awaited Debut

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Azealia Banks’ reign as the self-proclaimed “mother of hip-hop” has begun; the outrageous Broke With Expensive Taste has finally arrived and not a moment too soon. Three years since she first broke the scene, Miss Banks’ genre-bending debut LP received its surprise release, emerging on streaming services on Nov 6th.

After she first appeared in 2011 with seminal Lazy Jay produced single 212’, an incendiary, C-bomb glorifying assault on the female rap scene, Azealia Banks made instant waves and her acid-tongued rhymes delivered with machine gun articulation made her a staple fixture in both the UK charts and club scenes.

After a promising start to her career, a slew of releases surfaced - a remarkable Interpol ‘Slow Hands’ cover, the bewitching Fantasea mixtape and the '1991' EP in 2012, further demonstrating her vocal talents; a BBC Sound of 2012 nomination followed and her prowess as performer seemed concrete. Hence, when Banks announced she was working on an LP, you can imagine the buzz that ensued when Broke With Expensive Taste was revealed for a 2013 release.

However, numerous push-backs, label spats, Twitter altercations and a lengthy hiatus from the music scene implied Azealia Banks would soon be outshone as releases from her contemporaries gained weight.

Despite the delays and label beef, 2014 felt like the prophesied year of Azealia Banks’ triumph when a number of singles from the album were shared, including a gas-guzzling Rob Soucy & Nick Ace directed music video for 'Heavy Metal and Reflective'. Optimistic excitement (naivety) and restless anticipation all pointed towards BWET’s imminent turn up. Then, the day all ‘212’-clingers-on had been praying for arrived in the form of a surprise digital release on Nov 6th.

From the get-go it’s clear Banks hasn’t been letting the last few years pass her idly by - (incoming title-related pun). Opener, ‘Idle Delilah’ - (there it is) - features her distinctive flow over a bewilderingly playful tropical beat, opening the floodgates to 1hr 19sec of flipped-out hip hop experimentality. The track precedes the triumphant ‘Gimme A Chance,’ a horn-heavy hit heralding the return of Azealia Banks. But before you get chance to settle in, it breaks off into a salsa cubana number with Banks serenading the listener with exotic Spanish vocals. It’s a startling reminder of her talents, pulled off to success.

The alchemy of BWET doesn’t stop there. Despite its title, on ‘Broke…’ Azealia discovers a wealth of creativity; in between more accessible club beats (‘212,’ ‘Ice Princess,’ ‘Miss Camaraderie,’) Banks tries her hand at 90’s dub (‘Soda’), house (lead single ‘Chasing Time’) and even Beach Boys-esque surf-pop on ‘Nude Beach A-Go-Go’ - Azealia fans, yes, you really did read that.

You only have to check her recent social media posts to remind yourself this is an artist who’s truly passionate about her art, and no matter which genre Banks turns to, she gives it her all and manages to hold her own with reassuring flows taking center stage here, not the beats - contrary to her industry contemporaries.

Despite its accessibility, ‘Broke…’ rarely strays into ‘mainstream’ territory, holding true to Banks’ desire to “stay away from anything too mainstream, like dubstep.” (Because that’s so 2011…).

She comes into her own on the tracks which exemplify the ‘witch-hop’ genre she helped create. Amongst convulsive synths and formidable rhymes on ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective,’ you hear Banks coo “it’s the loveliest thing I’ve ever heard.” Lovely like a scoop of Toxic Waste sour candy ice cream perhaps, but hey, there are people out there who go for that kind of kick, and I’d bet those same people are Azealia Banks fans. ‘Yung Rapunxel,’ the artistic embodiment of one of Azealia’s alter-egos perfectly captures the hard hitting, abrasive attitude of the artist, featuring an acid-tongued loudspeaker rant as its hook; “I’m so tired… tired of all this drama” she finds time to gibe.

What it lacks in cohesion, Broke With Expensive Taste more than makes up for in boundary-pushing, forward-thinking hip-hop. It’s a reminder of what it means to make an album: it’s a personal, creative outlet, that, with the right amount of self-belief and dedication, can have lasting consequences.

For a while it seemed like Azealia Banks’ debut would be too little too late, in fact, what the world received, on first listen, teetered on too much too soon. However, in a genre accustomed to auto-tune, twerking and creative stagnation, this could be the album that shakes hip-hop into action.

To visit Azealia Banks website click here.

Words by Dylan Jay Morin