When almost three years ago (THREE YEARS!) Azealia Banks broke into the mainstream with her massive hit ‘212’, she looked like she was about to take over the world with her brand of Hip-Hop infused with house music. Then her album got delayed numerous times until now when she’s finally released it and there’s still somehow a fair amount of buzz surrounding it still. Mostly due to the fact that Banks has stayed in the public eye due to a load of singles she released that kept her reasonably relevant, but it was mostly her online persona that kept her relevant. She has been outspoken many times over the last few years having beefs with multiple artists (She’s done it since the release of the album already, throwing verbal punches at Eminem). Of course all of this has distracted people from what she’s actually doing, making Hip-Hop music fused with House.
This album is going to shock the people who’ve only heard ‘212’ from the singer/rapper. This album is filled with strange deep house beats, and not actually a lot of the hyperactivity showcased on that single. The main focus on this album for the most part actually seems to be on the beats rather than Banks’ ability as a rapper. Which is a bit of a shame because she does have moments when she really shines as a rapper with her having a pretty decent flow. These beats are brilliant a lot of the time whether they’re drawing from industrial influences like on the song ‘Heavy Metal And Reflective’, or just straight up haunting deep house/ UK Garage flavored songs like on ‘Desperado’ which was produced by none other than MJ Cole. Compared to these songs the old material really feels out-of-place on here, as she’s clearly going for a more dark, and moody atmosphere on this album. Compared to the instrumentals on ‘212’ a lot of these tracks feel so much more varied whether we have horn sections, hard-hitting bass and synth attacks, or even some Latin music where Banks raps in Spanish. It feels like the more party orientated songs would have benefited from being on a separate project all together.
Yet with all of these great ambitious house beats she has to offer, the darker songs somehow fall short and feel rather forced compared to her old singles. This is due to the fact that Banks herself doesn’t always slot into these beats all that well, it often feels like Banks has simply been edited in to an already existing beat for some sort of remix, even though her rapping is solid she sometimes puts on this weird voice that feels too deep to suit her. This is even worse when she decides to sing over the beats, as a lot of the time it feels just so unnatural and forced like the song ‘Luxury’ which has her in the upper parts of her vocal register delivering a questionable performance. Then we have the song ‘Nude Beach a Go-Go’ which is probably the worst song on the LP, as it has this weird Beach Boys on acid feel to it, and it’s worse when you know that the beat itself is to be taken from the new Ariel Pink record.
At the end of the day this record just feels like it could have used so much refinement to it. You could take away maybe 6 or 7 of the songs on here and you’d have a well-rounded LP, somewhere in here there is a great album dying to be heard. As it stands it feels like a mish-mash of Banks trying and failing to put together a record with varied influences where she’s a prominent part of the mix, but ends up sounding like she’s edited herself in to a bunch of different beats given to her over the years.