SOUND VS. STYLE: AZEALIA BANKS
by Jeremy Danté
a static black backdrop with the hashag #BWET appears on her website as the landing page, leaving you nowhere else to turn. the road to this release for banks has been a long and winding road. after much turmoil though social media, thanks to her reckless mouth; i was beginning to doubt the release would even see the light of day. this day in age, there are many struggles in the music industry; and an artist being signed one day, only to be dropped from the roster the next is not a new concept. azealia banks has been an artist more richly developed in comparison to other respective females in the rap market. and while her musical presence seems all inclusive of house, rap, as well as R&B; what’s more engaging of her style is her presence over complicated production. we’ve already gotten acquainted with the dangerously animated rapper with her internationally acclaimed track, “212”. and with the release of this record came many expectations far and wide. performances at the house of fendi, and a gang of gaga-esque costumes; this journey for azealia, the artist, has been just that, a journey. complete with moments of fleeting as well as retreating emotions.
like many journeys for artists, banks’ own did not come without it’s share of disappointments, re-routing or simple doubt at times. it’s hard to pin marketability on artists nowadays, as the market seems to shift with increasing demands of new music, as artists are faced with the grappling struggle to produce for these accelerated demands, while not tarnishing the art of balancing major label interest with an indie style creative approach. azealia is a leader in more forms than one, and while her image has seen accusations of copycatting, one cannot argue that she is clearly representing many musical formalities that are at the root in new york city culture. from ballroom elements of voguing, to stuttering production that reminds us of our own evolution past the early 2000’s, there is a relentless energy that azealia contains as a young woman and artist. an vivid combination of trill, fashion and intelligent choices by voice, and sound compilation.
with women like nicki minaj on the scene, the rap market for females seems to be widening, but everything is not what is seems. with minaj’s dominance in a varied range of markets from fragrance to apparel; artists like banks seem to cater to the cooler demographic. unlike minaj, banks makes no attempts to appeal to a mass audience like nicki. in fact, her approach is a clear reminder of her independent roots. there is an unapologetic enigma that bleeds from the lyrics, that runs rampant on the production and slaughters the stage every time she is booked. explosive with energy, banks really represents a new and different grade of artistic approach. an artist who is able to make mistakes in the public eye, but to still contain a powerful and persistent approach to evolution in writing. layered vocals, and interesting choices liter her major label debut. and while i have had my doubts with the possibilities of this release, banks is no stranger demands and putting out content. mixtape after mixtape, she has been killing it; and raising the bar every step of the way.
her extensive projects on the mixtape circuit in just about every corner of the internet had so many of us fans wondering how much longer we’d have to wait until we’d hear the final, glossy and sparkly finished product. new york is the best way to describe the album. a varied set of influences that is so uniquely american. there is a international appeal that resonates with the endless cool of that london musical scene, but still- it’s accentuated by a true american spirit. it’s american like the internet. and this is the ground where azalea breaks most powerfully. whether a release on soundcloud, or a viral record that has surged the internet for several years, the album is a true trophy of achievement, not just for banks, but for us fans who have remained both dedicated and hopeful that her artistic expression would be seen on a larger platform. the expression? perfect. and most powerfully to true fans of banks’ music, for sure. you know i don’t take opportunities to make any marks of disapproval in my style vs. sound series; instead, i leave it for you to interpret. whether you love her or hate her, one must- absolutely must respect the hustle. to respect that hustle means to acknowledge the level of growth that azealia has displayed while remaining so beautifully true to her own sonic aesthetic. and this cover? flawless in such emblematic form. it’s genius, even the title, “broke with expensive taste” blends a mantra of my generation in a soft, yet violent way.