If you were worried that Azealia was just a flash in the pan, I direct you to her official mixtape-turned-pseudo-debut album, Fantasea. Jazz, reggae, hip-hop, ambient, pop, dance, and “witch hop” all make appearances. Her featured artists, such as tough sound-alike Shystie and vicious Styles P, only serve as foil for her masterful characterizations. Fear not, she’s still as foulmouthed as you remember!
The album opens with the cartoony swivel of [Out of Space]. Although the album is named nautically, there are also numerous references to extraterrestrials throughout the album with this track’s cosmically bouncing ambience leading the charge. The second track finds a  rehash with a guest star: Shystie’s English-flecked rap sounds even more Nicki than Azealia’s, but both find enough of their own voices to be fervently post-Nicki. [Neptune]’s spacy-vibe and pop-y hook continue to promise the kind of radio-friendly music Azealia could be capable of if she were interested. [Atlantis] hits and hits hard enough to repeat the same verse twice, just on the off chance you didn’t catch it, ‘cause you probably didn’t and ends jazzy-fresh into the titular track. Chipmunk voices aside, she calls Nicki out with references to Pepsi and false celebrations and ends with a voiceover ruminating on life and the choices we make. Another jazz outro leads us into the drum line of Diplo produced [Fuck Up the Fun], one of my favorite tracks on the album. It came out a few weeks prior, floating around Soundcloud, and would be an awesome single.
“’All queens think they’re fierce.’ And I said, ‘Miss Thing, all queens and me!’” divined one Elder Gay, the track is witch house all day long. It’s like H∆LҒ†LIҒΞ’s [Beth] inspired by the tales of an old New York queen. RuPaul’s Drag Race has just imploded drag culture [Ima Read] into the mainstream and with even more straight allies, we are starting to really make a difference. Her attitude toward gay people, as it exists at all, means a lot for our cause and understanding the grit, swag, and hustle of gay life. Also her stance on the word “nigga” is interesting, seeming to not only to apply to her own race, but to anyone she’s hanging out with. Especially in [Liquorice], on 1991, she very specifically refers to white guys as “niggas”. On my trip to D.C., I spoke with two extraordinarily awesome people while out and about, about what that word means to them and how we can stop the proliferation of the Man’s words that demean those not like Him. It seems to me that appropriating them not only to refer to ourselves in the positive and inclusive but also referring to others “in the same boat” will widen the net. I don’t want any more guns in their arsenal.
“Hi, ribbon up my mind, open up my eyes, realize this, and show me […] one-time” demands the chorus on [Chips] one of the hardest tracks on Fantasea about bad bitches and their accoutrements. It follows in the same vein as the previous two tracks with softball ambient touches and heavy electro punches but those electro punches turn into bombs on [Nathan] featuring Styles P where both rappers go head to head on a polished track with a chorus that comprises enough of the ‘n’ word to last a life-time: “Y’all niggas, stay hatin’” pretty much sums up the track.
[L8R] follows with an archetypical hip-hop track and one of her oldest. It’s a great track and appropriately only a minute and a half long: “If it ain’t about a dollar, I’mma holla at ya later.” [Jumanji]’s Under the Sea-flow is hard to miss on Fantasea and features steel drums and timpani. [Aquababe] fucks with the classic dance-pop structure and fuses hard hip-hop and ambient to create one of the most interesting tracks on the album. Baby voices, underwater synths, and radar pings complement Azealia’s rap about gold-diggers just getting sex instead of money and how much better she is than every other woman on the grid. [Runnin’] and [US] are more archetypical hip-hop slammers and feature Azealia in her gangster attire. She talks about hipsters as if they are the death of the ghetto, and they may well be exactly that, but her attitude is awful in general on both tracks. This is real Azealia, she’s not sugar or straight fierce bitch, she’s still ratchet as hell. She’s not putting out any feel-good shit like Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga. If you’re unattractive: don’t bother.
[Paradiso]’s little moment of jazzy reprieve is quickly negated by the sizzling bass of [Luxury]. She sings more here than on the rest of the album; and it’s jazzy and mostly lazy. Issue: still sounds good. It fits well with the album’s devil-may-care attitude toward cohesiveness and genre. A rehash of the first jazz skit finds Azealia thanking her fans, labels, and producers. This all leads into [Esta Noche], the most openly radio-friendly thing she’s done ever. 212-like beat opens the dance track and features lyrics typical of Azealia. A sample of Montell Jordan’s 1999 hit single [Get It on Tonite] runs the interlude before a swiveling, skewed synth scribbles across the record. It’s what you want in the car on the way to the club, in the club, on the radio in the background at the IHOP afterwards, and on the iPod of the guy you go home with. “Drink in my hand, hand on my chips. A vamp bitch do it like this.” [Salute] then finalizes the deal, demanding respect to the fast-paced boom of what feels like interstate traffic, lights flashing by.
Azealia Banks finds solid ground to build from here and with 1991 already out, her debut can only be better: fingers crossed. She’s still ghetto, still hood, still foulmouthed, still gangsta, still Uptown. When it comes to the rap game, it feels like one loses credibility as soon as they take that first meeting with any Scandinavian producer, and with Nicki thoroughly out on tour and not holding NYC down, Azealia has set herself up as the next female MC in the two decade lineage from Lil Kim to Nicki Minaj. It will remain to be seen how real she remains the closer she gets to a legitimate Billboard entry.