So, it’s finally here. Action Bronson/Bronsolino/Mr. Wonderful, whichever of his many nicknames (most of which the rapper comes up with himself) you choose, has released his major label debut album. I’m going to be honest; my favourite release by Action Bronson has always been Blue Chips. It was released in 2012 and was the first time I’d ever really heard of him. It saw him work harmoniously with producer Party Supplies across a sublime 45-minute mixtape that flowed well and sampled adventurously.
Since then, the Queens, New York rapper has seemed to favour quantity over quality in terms of his releases, putting out a string of mixtapes in quick succession, while his reputation for being a wacky character has accelerated his online presence. The Rare Chandeliers mixtape, a collaboration with producer The Alchemist, came just 8 months after Blue Chips and took things on a cinematic tip.
The Saaab Stories EP was released in June 2013 produced solely by Harry Fraud, and featured the more hook-led single ‘Strictly 4 My Jeeps’. It’s probably just my personal preference, but I’ve never liked Action Bronson’s output when it tries to incorporate a hook. I think I’m the same when it comes to all music in general, but Bronson especially isn’t an artist who needs to rely on hooks within his music.
In November 2013, the second instalment of Blue Chips arrived. It couldn’t quite match up to the first one, but with some Nightmares On Wax and Phil Collins samples featured on the tape, it wasn’t a bad effort.
Released on March 23rd, Mr. Wonderful sees Action Bronson at his most comical. His crooning on ‘Baby Blue’ is frankly hilarious, and he manages to convey emotions that everyone’s going to be able to relate to, which is refreshing. The inclusion of the equally loved Chance the Rapper is a good fit here, and the Chicago rapper’s tongue-in-cheek lines finish of the tune nicely.
I was amazed to learn Mark Ronson (Ronson and Bronson?!) produced ‘Baby Blue’, as well as album opener ‘Brand New Car’. In previous releases, Bronson has almost exclusively worked with one producer for every track and this can definitely be heard on Mr. Wonderful. The beats are much more diverse, but because of that the album seems to flow less and sounds more inconsistent too when compared to the likes of Blue Chips and Rare Chandeliers.
I can see why ‘Actin Crazy’ was chosen as a single. The beat backs up and backs up on itself before it kicks in, and has a distinctly more modern feel than what you’d normally find Bronson on. To his credit, he can do his thing on both styles and pull it off either way. The Alchemist-produced ‘Terry’ is smooth as butter, ‘Only In America’ is rifftastic and ‘A Light in the Addict’ is bluesy. Despite this, nothing really stands out on the album and Action Bronson’s wordplay can feel a tad tired as he raps about food (he used to be a chef, and a good one at that), cars and chicks.
These days, when Bronson isn’t rapping he’s starring in a video about food (his cookery background coming to the fore again) or responding to comments on YouTube for one of Vice’s many online media networks, which is great. However, there’s probably more kids who know him for his quirky antics on the internet than his body of music, which is a shame.
Fellow NYC spitter Joey Bada$$ has already underwhelmed in 2015 with his debut studio album B4.DA.$$, after showing lots of promise on early mixtapes. Unfortunately, Action Bronson’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’ is only continuing that trend…