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Azaelia Banks
1991

Written by Fletcher Diamantis on 2nd June, 2012

Anyone who even pretends to know anything about the current hip hop scene will have had their eyes on this EP for some time now. Azealia Banks is to the hip hop world what Lana Del Rey is to the pop world: the ‘name check’ of the moment. Having topped NME’s ‘Cool List’ and having left a crowd speechless at Coachella, Banks is certainly one to watch.

There were some delays in bringing this hyped-up record out, the production levels went up, and it certainly worked in her favour. 1991 is a new frontier in modern rap and hip hop; it is the breath of fresh air this somewhat stagnant aspect of the music industry required.

This EP does make me feel a lot of worry for Banks’ health. I believe she must have some kind of bizarre tongue masseuse because the speed of her rhymes and lyricism is beyond impressive.

Banks’ snappy tongue is on full, raw display in the title track, which itself is a reference to her birth year and speaks of her New York childhood. The vocal sampling is used to great effect, creating a spectrum of vocal tonality not often seen in hip hop music. The soul bridge at the end of the track is a perfectly smooth end to what could have potentially been seen as a harsh track.

Van Vogue
’s lyricism is so percussive it’s almost as if it’s part of the music. The track, whilst not differentiating itself greatly, is a natural progression from the first. The major obvious change is from the soulful tones of 1991 to the dance beats of this song. Again, vocal sampling is used to great effect and should be a credit to both Banks’ song writing and the production process of this record.

212 is possibly one of the most sexually blunt songs I’ve heard in my life. If it wasn’t so damned catchy, I don’t think I would love it like I do. Instrumentally the song is a typical, contemporary hip hop song and is a testament to the decision to head back into production process. The major difference comes in the flare that Banks’ brings to every track she records.

In the closing track, Liquorice,she asks her audience if she “can be your light”. This track will certainly be lighting up clubs and dance floors with its irresistible synth lines and deceptively fun lyricism.

There has been a trend in the last four or five years to attempt to rap the entirety of a Kanye West track at parties. I can see Azealia Banks heading in a similar direction if things keep progressing the way they are. The songs have enough swagger to draw in a large and diverse audience of music fans and I think her Splendour in the Grass performance will only help solidify this.

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