Coming on the scene like a whirlwind of Santigold, Nicki Minaj, Grace Jones, and that killer remix of the Jungle Brothers track "I'll House You," Harlem rapper, singer, and "Liquorice Bitch" Azealia Banks made every "cool," "one to watch," and "wow" list that mattered in 2011, thanks in part to attractive tracks like "L8R" and her smooth cover of Interpol's "Slow Hands," but mostly because of "212." That New York-loving, tribal house monster with a Nina Simone-like break in the middle winds up on Banks' debut EP, clawing and kicking the competition to the curb with more cuss words than Scarface (and that's two-plus hours vs. three and a half minutes) and brilliant boast after brilliant boast ("You could see I been the bitch since the Pamper," with everything else being unquotable in mixed company). More lyrical wonder comes on the EP's title track with "Primadonna mama, like a virgin/Private jets, night flights, no fly Virgin" and some riveting juggling of faux-French nonsense. Then the Trans-Europe Expressin' "Van Vogue" proves this diva walks among us with the approachable "You stepped it up/You not in McDonalds, you in Chipotle." Fueling it all is production from Machinedrum, Jef Martens, and Matthew "Lone" Cutler with all parties on the same nostalgic page, as if this EP fell through the cracks of the Paradise Garage's sweaty disco floorboards and then evolved in some alternative and fierce universe. Ignoring the Flo Rida side of it all keeps 1991 wonderfully strange and sound, and even when there's a forward-thinking freedom here that comes from living in the post-M.I.A., post-Lil Wayne, post-Diplo world, Azealia acts as if she had been raised at a classic N.Y.C. loft party, one where you kept dancing and dissing, leaving little time to check the Internet. Most importantly, this short house-rap blast bottles all that "cool list" excitement into a sharp set, so jack your body and get your freak on because you're in her hut now.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries