Release Date: Nov 15, 2012
Record label: Vice
Like the slabs of steak this part-time chef hands out at his shows, Action Bronson's musical formula is easy to love: nunchakus-speed boasts about weed, fellatio, food and B-film schemes ("Flick chives in the soup/Stick knives where you poop"), Nineties-baby shout-outs (Danny Tanner, "Bitches blowin' on my dick like a [video game] cartridge") and narrative scenes dense enough to make Ghostface salivate. He doesn't tweak it on this mixtape except to bring in Alchemist, Eminem's DJ, as producer for extra-claustrophobic menace (see the skull-crushing guitars on "The Symbol"). It's shtick, sure, but one only a dour vegan would gripe about.
Possibly the last free release before Action Bronson drops his debut studio album, Rare Chandeliers sees the emergence of an artist stubbornly mastering his form. Bronson, as per usual, breaks into rhyme as organically as a flower sprouting its first petal. However, it's when producer the Alchemist trims and arranges that Bronson becomes a salable bouquet.
When Action Bronson, for all intents and purposes, debuted two years ago with Dr. Lecter, he presented rappers of these days and times with the perfect template to instantly attract the eyes and ears of hip-hop addicts young and old alike. The former chef appeared fully formed from the jump, equal parts Ghostface Killah and Big Punisher (to my ears, mostly the latter) and entirely absurd.
With every release, Action Bronson rewrites his personal mythos. During his two-year career he's gone from a wisecracking, heavy-lidded foodie (2011's Bon Appetite... Bitch!!!!!) to a wry Gogolesque gourmand (2012's Blue Chips). On Rare Chandeliers he reaches a self-referential apex, styling himself as a hyper-masculine Lothario: a fast-talking, cheeba-smoking, leather-jacketed action hero who has to "sip before he raps." Though Bronson's now more Eataly than Woo Chon (that is, less Queens, more downtown), he still raps about sex, cooking and blowing smoke with that shrill, aluminum flow and heaving, lip-smacking vigour.
Action Bronson and the Alchemist are an obvious pairing. Both revive and tweak classic New York rap, and are expertly good at doing so. Some things just make sense, and this is one of those things -- or at least you'd think it would be. On paper, their collaborative mixtape Rare Chandeliers should have no trouble living up to its expectations, but in practice it reveals cracks in Bronson's highly tailored aesthetic.
Of the blogosphere’s most beloved rappers, Action Bronson is far and away the most compelling. From his backstory (son of Albanian immigrants and a professional chef for the New York Mets) to his penchant for pissing mid-concert and, of course, his undeniable presence and rhyme skills. The problem is, Bronson has yet to do anything to really bring himself to the next echelon, not yet unveiling that huge release or dropping that groundbreaking song to secure his much-deserved spot.
Action Bronson has a limitless appetite when it comes to food, sex, weed, money, exploitation movies, ’90s sitcoms, professional wrestling and dick jokes. Over the last year, particularly on his brilliant, gut-busting mixtape Blue Chips, he’s gotten increasingly better at finding inventive and absurd ways to describe his own compulsive behavior, using his gruff (and, yes, Ghostface-like) flow to bum rush beats with lovingly chosen cultural references, gross-out punchlines and the occasional bit of poignant self-reflection. His work is less biography or reportage, and more like a catalog of desires, fantasies and obsessions.