Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Azealia Banks

  • 1991 [Interscope EP, 2012] A
  • Fantasea [self-released download, 2012] **
  • Broke With Expensive Taste [Prospect Park, 2014] A
  • Slay-Z [self-released, 2016] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

1991 [Interscope EP, 2012]
Four tracks, 14 minutes of music, topped inevitably by "212" (and if you're not among the video's 20 million hits, succumb now). All of said songs top this eye-on-the-prize Harlemite's many other YouTube offerings, some of which might in turn sound dandy mixed into the mixtape and official album we are assured will soon-come. One might bitch about the chopped-and-screwed monologue that brings total time to 16 minutes, only it's funnier and more pointed than the Clyde Smith skits it bites from Ghostface. So I hope this is the dancey hip-hop Nicki Minaj's haters claim to miss and know full well it's too effing dancey for 'em--not to mention too virtuosic, beatwise, layered, less-is-more, and much. Quick-tongued, lascivious, catchy, and delighted with itself, there hasn't been a more pleasurable record all year and probably won't be--not even by her. A

Fantasea [self-released download, 2012]
Irreverent lip and talent-show talent there, musical follow-through not so much ("Fuck Up the Fun," "Jimanji") **

Broke With Expensive Taste [Prospect Park, 2014]
The articulation of our most musical young rapper is crystalline without flaunting its precision. Her singing rolls full and easy from somewhere in her torso. The grain of her voice is both pretty and sensual. And unlike her male counterparts she doesn't equate sex with power--there's verbal as well as vocal evidence that she feels it elsewhere than her genitalia. That said, she does seem to equate rapping with power--her troubles are the usual star-time overindulgences, and just about every terrific song here is a boast one way or another. Yet just about every song is a serious pleasure regardless. Here's hoping that when she achieves the security she deserves, she uses her IQ for something more useful than battling a melanin-deprived rival who admits more vulnerabilities than she does. A

Slay-Z [self-released, 2016]
Seriously fluent, seriously flaky rapper as the dancefloor diva you love more than her beats--or, obviously, her tweets. ("Along the Coast," "The Big Big Beat") **