Album Review: Azealia Banks – 1991 EP




Just barely a teenager, Harlem’s Azealia Banks would have been discovering Diplo and M.I.A.’s take on Brazilian baile funk with 2004’s Piracy Funds Terrorism. After dropping out of Manhattan’s prestigious LaGuardia High School in 2007 to pursue her dreams of becoming a recording artist, the self-proclaimed musical theater geek was drawing inspiration from Santigold’s eponymous debut, coincidentally co-produced by Diplo. Later, that inspiration came to fruition as Banks worked with the Philly producer himself on “Seventeen”, a brash single that spread more quickly than her recent Twitter tiffs with just about every female emcee. With a taste-making success rate better than Jrue Holiday’s playoff free-throw stats, Diplo squeaks closer to 1.00 as Banks continues to train her Olympic-paced tongue and aggro-bitch wit on the fresh EP 1991.

At only 16:10, the EP’s four tracks are more vulgar and over quicker than the lunchroom girl fights that Banks wants you to believe she has instigated on the regular. “Ya been did that/Ya been with dat/Ya been been that, bitch/But they all forget you when they spin this shit/Making plans against you, cause you ain’t legit,” Banks threatens on “Van Vogue”. Produced by North Carolina’s machinedrum, the underlying glitch-hop contains more bends and abrasive references than Banks’ sometimes unintelligible delivery. When was the last time you heard a dog bark sampled mid pop hook?

The title track balances Banks’ unabashed narcissism (“Elite rap bitch, I gotta send that beat back quick/Tip-tippin on these niggas, suck a T.I. dick/Cause you gonna be a bitch nigga/I’ma be that bitch”) with an aura of innocence that lingers on her tongue as she sings through the track’s final clicks.

Previous singles “212” and “Liquorice” close out the EP. Each track attest to the upstart’s ability to form her lyrics around an ever-shifting frame of dance-floor ready progressive beats. For a change of perspective, “Liquorice” casts the now 21-year-old into the role of lovelorn schoolgirl, not the confident badass that rocks the former tracks of the EP.

Still young, Banks has worked with talented producers on 1991 to successfully expand her sound from early influences. Now assisted by the Midas-like touch of producer Paul Epworth, this EP may be the final diss-laden hypefest before your mom starts inquiring about that “liquorice bitch”.

Essential Tracks: “212” (feat Lazy Jay), “Van Vogue”

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