Azealia Banks // Fantasea // July 11 // Self Released
Azealia Banks doesn’t play by the rules. First she gets famous off the back of a single track that is only memorable because of enormous amount of swearing. Suddenly she is the queen of hip hop with only one EP that hardly counts as hip hop. Weird isn’t it? Fantasea is a free mixtape, Banks’ first one. Isn’t this the sort of stuff that you get famous of as opposed to a single hit. After all, Banks isn’t the one to follow and while most of her material is very 90s dance, Fantasea finally shows what she is capable of in the more traditional hip hop sense.
Fantasea is full with ocean imagery, from song titles to the cover. It’s even weirder to find that the best tracks on here are basically seapunk slowed down to hip hop pace. Jumanji and Aquababe and the title track are just few among many that stand out while hitting hard. Not only they both shit upon 212, they’re experimental and yet have a broad pop appeal, the sort of stuff that Banks always shown promise of delivering before retreating to basic dancefloor rapping. Fantasea features more rapping than ever before. Ever the sung parts sound like she’s just messing with you before dropping another verse that mostly deals with how awesome she is, how hot is her body and how the opposition shouldn’t even bother. Luckily on Fantasea the latter claim actually makes some sense.
Fantasea is mostly Banks’ gig. Styles P shows up on Nathan while Neptune features London rapper Shystie. Both don’t really give anything to the record that is as much about the rhymes as it is about production which is incredibly bassy and full of detail to the point where some of the tracks start sounding like an acid trip. Such lack of sense works in both ways. The title track spends half of its time being an instrumental that sounds like a relic of the big beat era before turning into a jazz coda while Aquababe rivals Come On The Cone as the most batshit awesome track of the year featuring anything from buzzing synths to cat meows being used as a glitched out hook. Amazing stuff. Fantasea is ADD stuff and the short songs and bangers is what works the best one here. The longer moments like Fierce or Chips don’t feature enough movement to make them danceable and to be fair to anyone concerned, rhyming abilities aside, Azealia Banks still has absolutely nothing interesting or valuable to say.
Never mind the lyrical matters, Fantasea is a banger full of her typical 90s dancefloor stuff and also bass heavy beats that wouldn’t embarrass any rapper out there. Fantasea is not necessarily a game changer for Banks but it does feel like a free outlet for all her crazy ideas while her major label stuff is more straightforward. 212 and Liquorice are good tracks, make no mistake, but here’s a hoping that her debut LP Broke With Expensive Taste is more like Fantasea.