After initially being slated for release in late 2012, it’s hard to decide whether expectations were high or low for Azealia Banks’ debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. The album was delayed time and time again, with Banks eventually succeeding in her wish to be dropped from her label Interscope Records in mid-2014. Finally, more than two years after it was first due out, the album was released without warning. The result? The record Banks has wanted to release all along.
Broke With Expensive Taste is genre-bending, inventive and at times, a little bizarre. The album sees Banks explore new territory and expand her repertoire – tracks such as Soda and Chasing Time primarily consist of sugary vocals and pop hooks, rather than the fast-paced, aggressive rap that launched Banks to fame. Thumping club beats transform into Caribbean dancehall rhythms and catchy pop melodies. Gimme A Chance even finds inspiration as a salsa number, with Banks delivering a fluent Spanish verse to see the track out. The most bizarre inclusion however comes with Nude Beach A Go Go, which throws back to the ‘60s surf pop of the Beach Boys thanks to a cameo from Ariel Pink.
With 16 tracks clocking in at just over an hour, there is plenty of room for refinement with this album and with such a lengthy road to release; it’s disappointing to not see a more polished and sophisticated cut. While Banks’ experimentation may pay off with tracks such as Gimme A Chance and Heavy Metal and Reflective, others such as Nude Beach A Go Go and Yung Rapunxel simply don’t add anything to the album. What does become clear with Broke With Expensive Taste is Banks is at her best with the brash, flawless rhymes we first heard with 212. Even after three years, this track is still as catchy as ever, which begs the question: is this the peak for Azealia Banks?