By now we’ve all uttered the words “Oh, have you heard that Azealia Banks chick? You know the ‘212’ one?” to countless people and usually received an acknowledged nod in return or an enthusiastic “I LOVE ‘212’!” followed by chants of “Ima ruin you cunt!” to the nearest person. However, despite ‘212’ being the track that indefinitely catapulted her into the spotlight, I’m sure we’re all intrigued as to what else she can bring to the table. Banks has released Fantasea, a 19 track mix tape, free of charge! I’m starting to wonder when Azealia Banks will start charging people for her music. Her debut Broke With Expensive Taste is due for release in September this year, but after releasing this mix tape a week after the scheduled release date, we shouldn’t get our hopes set on one date. With her first EP, 1991, comprising of only two unheard songs, it’s nice to hear something new and fresh from Banks in the form of 10 brand new tracks alongside old and recent tracks that have been floating around the internet.
Banks herself has placed the album under the genre of ‘Witch-Hop’ and has described this mix tape as an ‘experimental test run’ before her LP drops later this year. This sums up the album quite well to be honest; it is an eclectic mix showing all sides of what Banks has to offer and hints to the audience elements of what to expect for the future. The sea themed mix tape has spurred from being referred to as a mermaid, from that point onwards she’s ran with it. Neptune better tell Aerial to watch out, there’s another musical mermaid on the scene. With some high profile collaborations, such as the notorious Diplo on ‘Fuck Up The Fun’ and Styles P on ‘Nathan’, the mix tape is incredibly interesting to listen to. This could be seen as a tactical move from Miss Banks who is simply holding on to an audience until her debut album, maintaining the interest in her music and giving people LOTS of material to keep them going until September. For those of you who thought it couldn’t get any ruder than ‘212’, think again. After listening to the mix tape you’re left wondering how many more times she can fit every single explicatory possible into each 4 minute song. If you’re not used to the abrupt lyrical skills Azealia brings to the table then steer clear of this mix tape. Another disclaimer, I wouldn’t listen to it with your parents around.
Hip Hop fans may be confused by her choice of beats throughout the mix tape. The first half of it has a distinct rave element, for example tracks such as ‘Out of Space’, ‘Neptune’ and ‘Fantasea’ and unfortunately these occasionally overshadow Azealia’s vocals. Having said this, ‘Out of Space’ is a great opener to Fantasea. Who would have ever expected Banks to cover the anthemic Prodigy track? She even mixes things up by sampling some Max Romeo in the middle of the song to properly mash up reggae and rap, which works amazingly by the way! The latter half of the album (my favourite half) appeals to the Hip Hop side of the audience. One of the stand out tracks for me is the already released ‘Jumanji’. The song oozes with Caribbean vibes by featuring instruments such as steel drums alongside Azealia’s trademark rapping ability. ‘Este Noche’ is another great track. It is sensual and sounds very much like the classic RnB we are used to hearing from the likes of Nelly and Usher. She mixes this with screeching synthetic noise, which in some way, takes the song down a notch but I guess could make it appeal to both the rave side of the audience as well as those who like classic hip hop.
Despite giving the album such high praise I can’t help but notice that there are only a few songs that having staying power. I will often find myself skipping through track after track to get to the aforementioned stand out tunes. So if only half of this mix tape is good, let’s hope she can pull a hard-hitting LP out of the bag in September this year. One that includes hit after hit rather than a few good tracks.
Download Fantasea for FREE here.