Growing up in Europe in the early ’90s meant that you were bombarded with a ubiquitous sound: Eurodance. The formula went a little something like “take a good looking female singer, synths and keyboards, repetitive pulsing drum, add rapper, stir.” Usually there were two verses sung by the singer with the third, final one being provided by the rapper, followed by a couple more renditions of the hook. 2 Unlimited, Twenty 4 Seven, 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor, T-Spoon and countless others followed what seemed like an invincible formula at the time. It was like a house equivalent of Puffy’s mixed breed of rap and r&b.
Why am I reminiscing on this less than musically adventurous and formulaic part of pop history? Because it’s exactly what Azealia Banks’ oft-delayed 1991 EP reminds me of, and that’s not just because of the aptly chosen title. Take the keyboard stabs on ‘Liquorice’ and tell me they wouldn’t fit right at home on one of those exuberantly trashy cuts from the aforementioned era. It relishes in the unpretentious fun the sounds provide without a hint of irony and adopts the same pace that made those tracks such easy but effective dancefloor-fillers. Luckily, the EP isn’t simply a nostalgic trip towards the time Jim Carrey was bobbing his head to Haddaway on SNL, that would probably grow tired quick enough to even outstay its welcome on a four track EP.
1991 differs from most of the tunes from those years on two points: The tracks easily do away with the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-rap-chorus-chorus structure and thankfully focus much more heavily on the rapping. Good rapping, no less. While her male counterparts from the sonically similar times were serviceable at best, miss Banks is fast paced, funny, confident and sexually aggressive without coming off as slutty. Sure, her lyrics offer little besides brags ‘n boasts, threats at (imaginary) adversaries and party fodder, but they’re brought with joy and charisma.
Azealia Banks stripmines a musical past most would’ve chosen to forget, takes the parts that work, and repurposes them for some inventive dancefloor rap. There’s no substance whatsoever but it’s certainly hard to ignore such tasty snacks. Leave your thinking cap off and bring on the weekend!