Photo: flickr/Jeremy Perez Photos.

Album Review: Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

Action_Bronson_Mr._Wonderful“I got brand new car! I got a jazz guitar!” ‘Mr. Wonderful’ starts in familiar Bronson style, colourful and packed with humour. And familiar might be a good word to describe ‘Mr. Wonderful’ with. To fans, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ will feel familiar. But in no way is this a bad thing.

Action Bronson has come a long way from ‘Dr. Lecter’. He is no longer a Ghostface Killah sound-alike (if he ever was one). He even references this now ancient dispute on ‘Falconry’: “Somebody get the kid a deal he sound like me”. ‘Mr. Wonderful’ feels like a culmination of Bronson’s career since ‘Dr. Lecter’. It has some flair from ‘Well Done’, the crazy action-hero persona that was prominent on ‘Rare Chandeliers’, and last but not least the 80s feeling of the ‘Blue Chips’ tapes. Previous collaborators return as well, with features from Chance the Rapper and Meyhem Lauren, and production from Party Supplies and the Alchemist among others. Action Bronson has spent these years finding the right ingredients, and on ‘Mr. Wonderful’ the former gourmet chef serves us the product of his winning recipe.

Originality is another fitting description of ‘Mr. Wonderful’. It has less choppy YouTube samples, and more lush instrumentation. The producers have done a beautiful job in creating the 80s background to Bronson’s escapades this time around. Instead of rhyming over samples from this era, the beats are re-imaginations of the 80s feel. ‘The Passage [Live from Prague]’ (the interlude to the album’s first single ‘Easy Rider’) sounds like it is taken straight out of a Guns N’ Roses live album. Party Supplies and Bronson really capture the 80s on ‘Only in America’. With its catchy chorus and guitar leads, it is one of the stand-out tracks on the album. While Action still wears his inspirations on his sleeve, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ feels like his most original and complete work to date.

Action Bronson has spent these years finding the right ingredients, and on ‘Mr. Wonderful’ the former gourmet chef serves us the product of his winning recipe.

Action also relies less on similes here. Instead of constantly comparing himself to 80s icons and action heroes, his rapping persona is more and more becoming the icon. Most of the storytelling still comes through these self-portraits. The random scenarios and references are the elements that gives Bronson a personal flair.

Bronson’s character is also given at tiny bit more depth. The pain of women only being attracted by his wealth is dealt with on ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘City Boy Blues’. On the former Chance the Rapper delivers a solid feature. He keeps wishing bad things for his ex, only to abandon this resentment for forgiveness, in the end. Hoping the woman “ruined this shit for a reason”. Coping with drug addiction is also prevalent theme on the album (‘Terry’, ‘A Light In The Addict’). The spiritual sequel to ‘Thug Love Story 2012’ appears as a 3 minute skit, with what presumably is a drug addict singing his heart out about looking for his missing lover. The homeless guy finishes by highlighting the ambiguity of the story: “See you could go two ways, it can be about drugs or it could be about a woman”. This fits perfectly with the tone of the album, both for making the listener chuckle at the absurdity of the situation, and for illuminating a side to the recurring themes of drugs and love. While Action Bronson’s projects will always be fun and light-hearted, these themes add a little bit of depth, which makes Bronson overall a more interesting rapper.

The humour Bronson’s projects are famous for is still present to a large degree. He brags to the point of absurdity. Describing his birth as popping out from a lion, that has been injected with fossilised dinosaur blood, “holding an iron with a visor on”. There’s also no Bronson album without a rant from Big Body Bess, who seems to have become more central in the promotion of this album and delivers two filthy features.

There is a certain lack of intensity on the album.

As described in the introduction to this review Action Bronson has attempted to perfect his recipe on ‘Mr. Wonderful’. While the “ingredients” he makes use of works well, the album still has its shortcomings. There is a certain lack of intensity on the album. Most on notably the two introductory racks. While both tracks are entertaining, Bronson can feel a bit monotonous at times. Another issue the writer has with the album is the lack of new material. Four singles and in addition to ‘A Light in the Addict’, which was originally released as a Party Supplies single, came about before the album. Adding this to the many interludes and ‘City Boy Blues’, there is not much new material presented on ‘Mr. Wonderful’.

Despite these shortcomings ‘Mr. Wonderful’ still is an enjoyable studio album from Action Bronson, which will unbeatably stand as one of the most interesting hip hop releases of 2015.

Key tracks: ‘Easy Rider’, ‘Actin Crazy’, ‘Baby Blue’


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