Just when we were beginning to give up, Yung Rapunxel has finally bounced back with her long-awaited debut LP. Since early 2012 the album has been in major label limbo, culminating in a plea by Miss Banks to relinquish her contract with Interscope after growing tired of consulting with ‘a group of old white guys’ about her ‘black girl craft’. Considering her rambunctious character, it was a surprise to receive the news of her album’s release via a slightly meek parade on Twitter, though the full-mouthed 16-track rollicking of Broke with Expensive Taste more than restores the balance of her unruly Harlemite charm.
Seeing as over half the album features pre-existing instrumental tracks used in their entirety as backing tracks, and the remaining songs have another producer’s name brandished in their credits, we raise two questions. Firstly, despite her divorce from Universal earlier this year, how much of the album can Banks really claim is ‘self-produced’? And secondly, how does she still manage to achieve originality and authenticity in her music? All odds are against her, yet she seems to get away with it.
Our first analysis is ‘Desperado’ which reaps up romantic nostalgia for an underground UK scene which Azealia Banks played no part in. The backing track is formerly recognised as the 2000 garage track ‘Bandelero Desperado‘ by MJ Cole and Danny Vicious. A sound that epitomised Mercury Records in the early noughties has been turned on its head by the Brooklyn babe spitting bars. However, retrospective homage is still paid. The track is reincarnated into Banks’ own, without wrecking what had been an urban floorfiller before our time.
Two highlights from Broke with Expensive Taste are ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ and ‘Soda’, both illustrating Azealia’s versatility in the realm of electronic music. Produced respectively by Lil Internet and SCNTST, one track explores the more industrial and thrashy side of the spectrum, whereas the other displays all the sugary sweet elements of dance music. Both songs retain their characteristic bounciness, energised by Azealia’s cute yet cut-throat lyrics.
Azealia’s most notable collaborators are Lone and Machinedrum, who are equally as present in the new album. She has these two names to thank for the beats behind classics ‘1991’ (‘DDD‘), ‘Liquorice’ (‘Pineapple Crush‘) and ‘Van Vogue’ (‘Van Vogue‘), and now the duo of originators continue their reign with numerous Broke with Expensive Taste productions.
The thirteenth track ‘Luxury’, first heard on Azealia Bank’s mixtape FANTASEA, was a joint venture between Travis ‘Machinedrum’ Stewart and Azealia dating from 2012. The two final tracks pastiche two belters by Matt ‘Lone’ Cutler that we fondly remember from 2011’s Echolocations EP. First up is ‘Miss Amor’, Azealia’s makeover of ‘Coreshine Voodoo‘, whose buoyant drum machine snaps are militarised by Azealia’s verbal ‘pump pa rrrrum pum pump‘ trumpeting.
The album’s finale, otherwise known as ‘Rapid Racer‘, follows Miss Camaraderie’s fantasy tale of magic and romance – a venture into emotions which is rare for Miss Banks, but authenticised by the fact that the storyline is brashly served to us over an explosive breakbeat of drum kicks easily distinguishable as Lone’s own. An apt curtain call over what is Banks’ most coherent and conclusive work yet.
Broke with Expensive Taste is out now, and available to buy from iTunes.