If you mute the audio for Azealia Banks' "212" music video from last year, it would be hard to believe that innocent looking smiling girl in pigtails is spitting out some of the most crass proclamations of the year. And if Banks looks like she's barely 21 (20 when that video was released), that's because she is. Her official debut EP 1991 is named after the year of her birth and is just as eye-catching as the hype says it is, if only because Banks forces it to be.
The four-track EP holds a steady, bouncy bpm throughout as Banks blazes through with rapid-fire lyrics that jab at other female pop rappers du jour. Unlike these other of-the-moment starlets, Banks demands the spotlight with minimalist back tracks that focus on her fast and quippy lines. Littered with loads of assonance, consonance and every kind of literary device imaginable, Banks proves that she can not only spit eloquently at a million miles per hour but can also back up her blown-up self-image. And while Banks incorporates metaphor on metaphor galore, she's probably most memorable with she's bluntly bashing.
The previously released "Liquorice" unfortunately closes the EP with what could have been the perfect introduction to Banks: fast rhymes and controversial lyrics all over a pop vibe beat and tongue-in-cheek delivery. With lyrics like "Since you vanilla men spend / can my hot fudge bitches get with your vanilla friends? / Hey, I'm the liquorice bitch, you know I'm looking for these niggas if these niggas is rich," Bank's knows when to be cheeky to balance her forwardness elsewhere. In "Van Vogue," Banks more blatantly proclaims "You been with that / you been-been that, bitch / But they all forget you when I spin this shit" over a punchy back track (yes, that is the bark of a dog.)
Finally, the star of the EP is still "212," Banks' show-stealer from last September. It seems like this track will never really lose it's stamina, if Banks has anything to do with it. Her vocals are slightly more abrasive on this track and the lyrics are as vulgar as Banks can get. With a refrain of "I'mma ruin you, cunt," Banks really isn't kidding when it comes to blowing away the competition.
In anticipation for Banks' mixtape Fantasea, set for release on Independence Day, the 1991 EP only ups my confidence in her ability to steal the spotlight by sheer force, not that I'm complaining.