broke with expensive taste

It’s brilliant. 

Like, let’s start with that. It’s smart and weird and progressive and brilliant. Azealia’s vision is so clear and important. She is more than a rapper and more than a singer. She is a visionary with a specific idea of the world she wants to build and live within. That world is bright and flashy and beautiful and glamorous. It is not 2014.

No, the way she creates music is both in homage to the creators of the past and in reflection of her specific, not-of-this-musical-world future. Songs like “Desperado” and “Gimme a Chance” reminded me of the early 90s house of Soho, of Pal Joey.

I also immediately thought of the Party Girl soundtrack, which features gems from Deee-lite, Channelle, and Tom Tom Club. That soundtrack is something both of its time and progressive, weird, still relevant. I listen to it and it doesn’t feel old, only just what it is. Ultimately, I think Broke with Expensive Taste will have the same legacy. It is its own thing, singular. 

I can understand why it was shelved by her record label. Azealia was on a major label and major labels in 2012 and 2013 and 2014 require specific things, namely deference to the trends of the day. There is nothing on BWET – even “212” – that fits in with the current radio. No, the tracks are ultimately smarter and more layered than most anything else out now. If she was an indie artist, I would know exactly how to promote this.

BWET is ultimately an album of aesthetics. Words and phrases repeat themselves throughout the album. But that’s OK! I’m more drawn to and interested in the way Azealia uses her voice and her flow as if they were samples for manipulation. Album opener “Idle Delilah” is a great example of this. So too is the super-strange, misplaced, but adorable “Nude Beach a-Go-Go” which sounds straight out of a 60s teen beach film, or a Britney Spears Pepsi commercial. Each vocal coo is a synth. Each verse is an 808 beat. 

She’s an atmospheric artist, like a producer who just happens to rap and sing to elevate productions and execute ideas and emotions of lust and anger and bad bitchery. 

Remember that “212” features a powerful instrumental from Lazy Jay, but it’s Azealia’s diction (and manipulation of that diction as layers upon layers of lyrical instrumentation) that makes it masterful. I’m thinking of this verse:

 I am that young sis the beacon
The bitch who wants to compete and
I can freak a fit that pump with the peep and
You know what your bitch become when her weave in
I just wanna sip that punch with your peeps and
Sit in that lunch if you’re treatin’
Kick it with the bitch who comes from Parisian
She know where I get mine from and the season
Now she wanna lick my plum in the evenin’
And fit that tongue tongue d-deep in
I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten

Or this one:

See even if you do want to bust
Your bitch’ll get you cut and touch your crew up too
Pop you playin’ with your butter
Like your boo won’t chew
Cock the gun too
Where you do eat poon hun

Like … I would argue that “212” is one of the only songs released within the past 5 years that will stand the test of the time. It is so WEIRD and STRONG. BWET is great, but hearing “212” never gets old. It’s something special, timeless, and better than anything any of your favs have made. It just is. Accept it. 

One of the worst arguments against Azealia is that she’s not a rapper. It’s both a lazy argument AND one that is also acceptable in its accuracy. Yes, Azealia is not just a rapper or even a definitive, capital ‘r’ Rapper. Her music is doing something more. Rap is merely a method of articulating, enhancing and defining the music.

Same is her use of her vocals. Azealia was and is a character, but behind all of that was a woman who also understood the power of a good producer and beat. Her most memorable jams from earlier singles and EPs include the likes of Machinedrum and Lone, producers with singular visions also in reference to the past, but not beholden to it. Machinedrum is not just footwork. Lone is not just house. They are more. 

I’ll be excited to hear more of Azealia’s thoughts behind the record. She might not say anything and merely let the album speak for itself. If that is the case, I am OK with that. A quick listen says it enough.