It’s been almost three years since Harlem-born rapper Azealia Banks exploded into the public’s consciousness with her controversial single, 212 – characterised by it’s catchy melody and expletive-heavy lyrics. A combination of social media feuds with other artists and clashes with her record label (Universal Music Group) has meant that only now, four months since her departure, are we privy to the efforts of her long-anticipated debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste – surprise-released on iTunes last week.
Like a shaken fizzy drink, there is a perceptible overspill of energy in every song, and as first exhibited with her pre-album mix-tape, Fantasea, the artist’s distinctive genre-bending is still very much intact, if not even more prevalent. Eclectic influences recall everything from house, to hints of garage, salsa, and even a sample of a dog whining at the end of Wallace – but what remains uncompromised is Banks’ controlled splutter of hypnotic rhyme.
ELLE talks to the artist about her new album here…
ELLE: It’s been three years since 212 was released – this album must feel like a long-time coming?
AB: Better late than never!
ELLE: Can you talk about the surprise-release aspect of the album?
AB: That’s actually something I’ve always done. People were saying, ‘Azealia pulled a Beyoncé’. Actually I pulled an Azealia. I think the only difference was that this time people knew my album was coming, they just didn’t know when.
ELLE: How did you come up with the name of the album?
AB: When I came up with the name of the album, I was broke and I wanted all these things I couldn’t afford, and that’s just what it was.
ELLE: Where do you get inspiration for the lyrics?
AB: I wanted it to be like literary nonsense - like Lewis Carroll. There’s such a difference between nonsense and non-sense. And I wanted it be the latter.
ELLE: Describe your album in five words
AB: I would pick one word, and it would be psychedelic.
ELLE: What do you think has been the highlight of your career so far?
AB: The first highlight was Coachella (2012) and the second highlight was Glastonbury (2013). I love performing and just being on stage.
ELLE: What kind of artists did you listen to growing up?
AB: I listened to a lot of musical theatre, believe it or not! The Annie soundtrack was my favourite. I would stand there with a towel on and a hairbrush and sing songs from Annie for my family in the living room.
ELLE: What artist alive or dead do you wish you could collaborate with?
AB: Ella Fitzgerald, hands down.
ELLE: What would be the song to the soundtrack of your life?
AB: Miss Camaraderie. That song is the song of my life. When I give birth to my first child and when I get married, that song is going to be playing in my head. When I die, that horn section at the end of Miss Camaraderie – that is what my death will sound like. I have such a crazy connection to that song. I don’t think I’ll ever write a better song in my life.