You know, this here rap game is a lot like March Madness, and the major labels are a lot like the teams that always win (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, etc...). Indie artists, on the other hand, are like the mid-major schools (Wichita St, Butler, VCU). When push comes to shove we would all much rather see the mid-major school prevail, because who doesn't want to see a bunch of unrecruited ballers win over a group of star-in-the-making marquee athletes? These days, whether it's fair or not, major labels are often demonized and artists who are independent are seen as a beacon of hope, something for all of us to rally around and support because they represent all that is good in music.
Sure, some labels are systematically tearing apart hip-hop, but I feel like, sometimes, they get a bad rap. It's easy for an artist to blame a label for poor sales or an underwhelming project, because it takes away their agency. I'm not saying majors are great, but it's not always their fault if a rapper's career doesn't pan out. You can't take away all of the artist's agency. Case in point Azealia Banks.
In case you couldn't figure it out, she is now free from her deal with Universal. So what does this mean for her music?
Basically, her oft-delayed album that was a headache of epic proportions, is finally hers to do what she wants with*. No more "old white guys" to tell her "about my black girl craft." So does that mean her music is going to change? Frankly, I had stopped paying much attention to Banks over the last year or so as she seemed to generate more Twitter beef and label conflicts than music. So now that she's indie, should I be giving her music my time again? Should you?
While only time will truly tell, we have been given a sneak preview of what we can expect from her forthcoming body of work with her first post-label release, "Heavy Metal & Reflective."
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Honestly, I don't see a lick of a difference between this and anything she released while she was signed. I guess the only difference is that this is much worse. The production is kind of cool, but her flow is terrible. Considering the vibe of the beat, I would have loved to hear a more energetic, passionate approach. I've never been a big fan of her electronic style, but I can find the value in songs like "212" (her biggest hit so far). The beat is irritating, but her flow is unique and the energy is there, so at the very least it's dynamic.
On "Heavy Metal And Reflective," any unique, dynamic edge is substituted for a bland, lazy, and muffled flow. If you are going to blame the "old white guys" or anyone for that matter, you better make sure your first indie release blows us away. If you know your ex is going to be somewhere, you want to look damn good, not like you just rolled out of bed and threw on the first thing you could find. If this is the best she has to offer, I'm not impressed.
So, is Azealia Banks worth your time? There might be some Banks fans out there who might get me to appreciate her music even a little more. But in the meantime, tell 'em, Mike!
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]