Action Bronson’s Return to Form — Blue Chips 7000 Review
When Action Bronson threatened to leak Blue Chips 7000 back in May 2017, my only thought was, “If any motherf*cker will leak his own album, it’s gonna be Bronson.” Though the leak never surfaced — phenomena like Tyler, the Creator’s coming out party, Flower Boy leaking two weeks early is becoming more of the norm — I could only fear the worst, anticipating Bronson’s work suffering through label hell and that it may never see the light of day. Month after month it seemed like Mr. Wonderful foretold a new release date, only for him to eventually lock in August 24 earlier that same month. Although SOHH reported that Bronson’s threats lead to him being taken more seriously, my inner thoughts concerning BC7000 swirled about like the exit narration to a Dragon Ball Z episode.
“Will Action Bronson finally release his album? Will fans enjoy it more than Mr. Wonderful? And can Big Body Bes top his past feature performances? Find out next time on TripleOT!!”
Of course, listening to this album illuminates all three of these questions (you know every Bes feature is his best one) but the mere fact that Bronson could manage a release following months of musical purgatory is commendable. The pessimist in me even began to doubt Bronson after a while; his infatuation with starring in episodes of F*ck, That’s Delicious, watching Ancient Aliens with his buds and penning his latest cookbook had me weary of a Childish Gambin- wait, Donald Glover, styled transition away from music and into fame. Bronson’s musical persona has always embodied an underground charm from his old-school, sample laden production to his outright love affair with wordplay, so the transition to mainstream media, while a welcome addition, weighed heavily in my mind.
Lo and behold, Blue Chips 7000 has dropped, and its 13 song track list is everything a Bronson fan could want, doubling down on his excessively overbearing and outlandish character by pinpointing top-notch production and revitalizing his lyrical base back to its once storied, pre-Mr. Wonderful quality.
To touch on one of the aforementioned questions, I have had the hardest time deciding whether I love, hate or am indifferent to Bronson’s debut studio album, Mr. Wonderful. Since its release in March 2015, Mr. Wonderful has clearly been deemed one of Bronson’s most “safe” projects, if only due to its enormous backing from Atlantic and Vice. Bronsolino’s past works include a wealth of brash, and even disturbing references, all of which feed into his nonchalant characterization. Unforgettably, Bronson trivialized a terrifying reality with his track “Consensual Rape,” and followed up such efforts with bars about “sniffing coke off of crisp hundreds” and gallivanting with “hookers at the point.” To an extent, Bronson thrives off of this shock value, leading to bars like the one on Rare Chandalier’s “Dennis Haskins” in which he raps “Smoke the wax like a candle/ It be that shit you can’t handle/ Look just like doodoo in the pamper/ Like when my son drinks too much apple juice, loose/ When he was four he got his dick sucked by a prostitute.”
To this day, I’ll never understand that last line’s purpose, if only because it should set off any and all child endangerment sensors (though at the time Bronson didn’t have a son, but did have a daughter, Hannah). These bars aside, I’m a Bronson fan through and through, even though tossing between Mr. Wonderful’s high points (“Actin Crazy,” “Terry,” “Baby Blue,” and “Galactic Love”) and the lows (“Thug Life Story 2017 The Musical” and “Only In America”) is a personal struggle I might not be qualified to settle. Ultimately, his last album’s more “mainstream” production and suspicious lack of Harry Fraud are outweighed by the variety of emotions Bronson portrays on the album (lovestruck, pensive, elated, etc.) and his cleanly structured lyrical patterns.
With Blue Chips 7000, the “work-in-progress” tone with which Bronson approached his previous tapes in the series — verses are often interrupted by comments to those around him, the production is peppered with outtakes and ill-fitting transitions — has returned in full force. From the jump, “Wolf Pack” begins with a skit of Action getting his mother high (despite her mellow disdain) only to cut into a beat that sounds like the long lost brother to “Galactic Love.” The tempered piano and bass beat gives way to a brass refrain that allows Bronson to flow, sans a hook, from one verse to another, commenting on his pregame ritual of coke and “aerobics by the ocean” while rocking “Puerto Rican Air Force 1s at the wedding.” Throughout the track, Bam Bam giggles at his remarks and provides a second track of ad libs that instantly make Blue Chips 7000 feel like home. Gone are the tightly wound verses of Mr. Wonderful, having been replaced by jazzy and noir production from The Alchemist, Party Supplies and, gasp, Harry Fraud.
Surprisingly, my disdain for skits in hip-hop works is completely subverted on BC7000. The second track, “La Luna” innocently begins with Bronson requesting someone order a luxury car from the titular service, only for him to be mesmerized by the call waiting music pumping through the speakers. “Yo what beat is that? I could rhyme on this,” touts Bronson, only for him to spit a solid verse over the watered down, lo-fi recording that breaks into a fully mastered version of the same beat. Regardless of whether the call was staged solely for the track, the creative notion that “inspiration is everywhere” is vivid and indicative of Bronson’s heavy handed control in the tape’s creative process. Bronson assures his rapping chops are thriving on “The Chairman’s Intent” and teams up with fellow big body, Rick Ross for a lazily majestic collab on “9–24–7000.” Even, the Jamaican tinted cut “Hot Pepper” (featuring Meyhem Lauren and Jah Tiger) which was featured in the “Long Time Friends” episode of his food/culture program F*ck, That’s Delicious, feels appropriately frolicking, symbolic of the antics Mey and Bronson fall into on their world tour.
Even some of that emotional vulnerability from Mr. Wonderful finds its way into Blue Chips 7000, as on the track “My Right Lung.” “I’d give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time,” Bronson repeats on the hook, a sobering request that, while probably not intended to be taken entirely seriously, bears a deal of weight. As a 6’6” individual who has been capable of dunking through much of his adolescence, I can sympathize with Bronson. Physical limitations, however self-imposed or entirely debilitating, can make even the most fringe dream seem like an insurmountable peak, and the free form synth jazz lends itself to the track being one of Blue Chips 7000’s more thought-provoking cuts.
Bronson’s longtime cohort Big Body is back in full force, shouting over “TANK,” words of empowerment like “Only God can bench us!” and “I told you to stop blocking the TV, I’m trying to watch Maury!” “Let Me Breathe” is a shameless take on mid-2000s ring-tone rap, with Bronson musing, “If I could just make a dance that goes with this song/ Imma be on!” Then, the lead single, “Chairman’s Intent” is something of a final fusion of all of his movie and film references into a kung-fu themed rap-fest that has a music video as stylized as its production.
I realize I never truly answered that second question I brought up oh so many paragraphs ago. Over the some 20 times I’ve replayed Mr. Wonderful leading up to BC7000, I’ve found it’s merits to be a refreshing switch up to the grungy, blue collar raps of Bronson’s underground career. Sure the bars are pristine and the lack of spliced in movie quotes is jarring, but the album signified Bronson’s ability to work within the confines of label pressure while still maintaining his individuality. Too many albums are cycled through the suit-wearing music industry ringer, while too many artists miss out on payday by staying independent to preserve their integrity. Blue Chips 7000 is Action Bronson’s call out to both camps — it’s a guiding light searing through that Industry/Indie tunnel, illuminating everything in its path.
Blue Chips 7000 is available now.
Originally published at tripleot.com on August 25, 2017.