Azealia Banks has released her first mixtape Fantasea and it’s another sign that she’s a talent to be watched, coming on the back of her fantastic 1991 EP.
Fantasea has been described by Banks as “a first album of sorts” and “a test run. I tried a lot of cool things, sounds I thought were progressive, beats made by close friends, different flows”, and that sums it up quite well.
It’s a lot more experimental and less focused than 1991, as you’d expect from a mixtape, and showcases all the sides of her personality as well as her musical tastes, right from the opening blur of rap and reggae, Out Of Space, which features a Max Romeo sample.
Shystie features on Neptune, which Banks released a day earlier than Fantasea, and if you’ve noticed an aquatic theme starting to build up, it’s not by accident, given her fascination with mermaids. That continues on Atlantis and the slightly eerie and dubsteppy title track, which finishes off with a nice bit of jazz.
Fuck Up The Fun is one of the familiar tracks on here and showcases the kind of quickfire rapping that people will recognise from 212, while the percussive production from Diplo and Master D sounds a bit like something Missy Elliott and Timbaland used to come up with.
That kind production is all across Fantasea, which rarely plays it straightforward and is all the better for it, and Fierce is another fine example. Of course, the danger of having a ‘sound’ like that is that you risk it all starting to come across as much of a muchness, so it’s a relief when the beefier Nathan shows up.
She’s described as being a response to her critics: “I’m that rap girl who’s out here and doesn’t have another rapper behind her, but she’s got all this mouth and she’s all over the place, So [this collaboration] was cool for me [because I'm like] ‘What ya’ll gonna say now, when I bust out with that Styles P record?’ Ya’ll not gon’ call me fake and make fun of me for having one song. Yeah, I make lil’ dance music and ya’ll got jokes, whatever—watch when I come out with the Styles P record.’”
And it’s a fine song too, with nice production from Drums Of Death and a feisty performance from Banks that puts it as the standout track here, possibly along with the shimmery dance track Jumanji, which is probably the kind of track that provokes the responses that she’s complaining about on Nathan. But both sides are what make her an interesting artist.
But, at the end of the day Fantasea is just a mixtape, and it’s far from perfect. There’s quite a few tracks that leave little impression and it’s a bit too long, but it does offer some more tantalising tastes of what we could hope to get from Broke With Expensive Taste, her first album proper, which is due later this year.