Action Bronson “Mr. Wonderful”
4/5 [Album Review]

You are now in the presence of greatness

Very quickly, the man known as Action Bronson has become legendary. Perhaps that’s because he is currently the most outlandish character in all of hip-hop, more so than a pimp cup brandishing Lil Jon, a blonde wig wearing Andre 3000, or a cape-draped Kool Keith. To describe this man in mortal words doesn’t do justice for the 300+ lb Albanian New York City gourmet chef that one day decided on a career change to that of a very good rapper who suplexes stage-crashing fans and uses porta-potties during performances.

On his new album, Mr. Wonderful, Bronson reaches an apex of silliness, as if his Munchies foodie show, Fuck, That’s Delicious didn’t already raise the (seven-layer chocolate cheesecake) bar high enough. This is Bronson’s major label debut, after a series of stellar underground projects built him a cult following. Under the wing of manager Paul Rosenberg — who clearly understands how to market offbeat rappers, also repping Eminem and Danny Brown — Action maximizes the ridiculousness on this album as he enters the major label world. It’s evident that his personality is the selling point here, just like the WWF wrestler he borrows the album title’s namesake from. That’s not a slight on the music — it’s great — but Action’s marketability to younger rap fans with an untrained ear will first be through the larger-than-life character that he is. They’ll easily warm up to the music after.

Action breaks the mold a bit on Mr. Wonderful, delivering an unapologetic Billy Joel-esque piano ballad on the album opener, “Brand New Car” and later goes full-on Blues Brother on “City Boy Blues” and “Light In The Attic.” He stretches his musical boundaries all over this record, such as on the psychedelic tour-de-force “Easy Rider,” rather than just turning in a record full of dope rhymes and underground beats.

But those tracks are here too, such as “Actin Crazy” or “Falconry,” the latter which sounds like a circa 2003 Beatnuts white label — that’s a good thing —which is not surprising with him coming from Queens. His rhymes all over this record are bizarre, making boasts like “Yo fuck this jacket, I turn this shit to 85 napkins,” later countered with “I’ll resurrect Freaky Tah to do my adlibs.” The album is littered with these kind of threats, with new ones that you’ll pick up on with subsequent listens.

Thankfully, Action Bronson did not make his major label debut into a “commercial” record. Instead, he used it to up the production and song-writing value, as it’s clear he has no interest in doing otherwise. With hip-hop caught up to the internet, a level playing field has arrived, where artists like Bronson aren’t forced to pander to radio and cable video shows. While we will savor this one, we eagerly await his next dish.

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