In her amazing debut EP, Azealia Banks delivers smack rap of a high order
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Only four tracks make up the amazing debut EP of bisexual hip-hopper Azealia Banks, but they are enough to get your heart racing.
On 1991, the 20-year-old gets her bona fides with a major label release, even though she made her big buzz late last year with “212,” one of the tracks on this CD. While she’ll likely get comparisons to Nicki Minaj as the new rap princess, Banks flows with refreshing energy and some badass rhyming that’s truer to the genre than Minaj ever could be.
For someone so young, Banks plays like an old pro.
Her ability to merge her fast-talking lyrics onto club-type beats makes the EP bounce with major attitude. She’s unapologetic, rebellious and antiestablishment, and yet her cute and sexy demeanor gives 1991 added electricity.
Her hip-house sound boldly kicks off with the title track. The trippy grooves and beat set a high bar and an infectious tone that’s consistent and exciting. There’s a party going on already — all that’s missing are the guests and beer.
Banks’ swagger kicks in most on “Van Vogue.”
There’s affability to her sound. You hear that rap songbird of youth in the mix, but her mastery over the art is distinct. She’s a prodigy and yet she’s a party girl with some major beats under her belt. “Van Vogue” isn’t for the faint of ears. It’s only the second song, and she’s already cussed up a storm. (It finishes on an ad-lib where Banks speaks in the altered voice a movie serial killer makes. It’s silly, but entertaining.)
When that beat drops on “212,” Banks will officially make you her bitch. That bum-de-bum-bum mixes heavy house sound against dirty rap sensibilities. Named after the Harlem area code where Banks grew up, the song is a mash-up of personalities from sassy to street to outrageous. With some vocal arrangements worked in when the song takes a sharp right, she brings back the rap with a vengeance as it loops back around. Seriously, I had to get up and dance to the rest of this track before moving on.
Her second single, “Liquorice,” is much more geared toward mainstream radio (minus the countless uses of the word “niggas”); though with a catchy hook, it’s no less effective. Banks teases with sexy vocals before going studly in her rhyming. Although she’s prone to throwing down the mega-fast rap, it’s best displayed here. It’s flat out remarkable to hear this talent unfold and the boldness of her fronting on mixed race hookups is a knockout. And by that, I mean it knocks you out when she lets loose with They just want the pumpernickel sis in the linens with ’em / So since you vanilla men spend / Can my hot fudge bitches get with your vanilla friends / Hey, I’m the liquorice bitch.
In just those four songs, Banks gives one hell of a prequel to her planned autumn full-length release, tentatively titled Broke with Expensive Taste. That could be a curious drop: With major skills as a rapper, Banks recently tweeted that she’s already out of the rap game and will focus more on singing in the future. Hopefully we haven’t already lost one of the best rappers in the game because 1991 is destined to leave people wanting much more.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 20, 2012.