Before I was rapping Action Bronson lyrics at the grocery store - "I'm rocking very loose pants!!!" - I fell in love with Action Bronson the human being. Between his absurd videos, his stellar artwork, his love of food and of course the beard, Action became one of my favorite figures in hip-hop. I hadn't listened to even one project all the way through - Blue Chips was just to gritty for me - but I had seen every "Fuck That's Delicious" twice; I loved how each meal is his favorite meal ever. Bronson cartwheeled his way into my heart, but he just couldn't fit in my ears. The deeper I fell in love with him, the more frustrating it was that I couldn't get into his music. It's not that he was bad, or made bad music, but it just wasn't exactly my speed. I could bump songs like "9-24-11," but after two spins I would start to get overwhlemed. He has such a raw style that, for me, it would overwhelm the food references and the lighter side of his music that I connected with. I tried. I would even tell people how dope he is in an effort to trick myself into loving him. Full-fledged fandom seemed mysteriously just out of my reach and as much as I hated it, I was resigned to the fact that I would never love the music the same way I love the man who makes it.
Until I pressed play on his new album, Mr. Wonderful.
All the reasons why I fell in love with Action the person were suddenly, exactly palpable on this album. Very few artists create music that encompasses their personality more than Action Bronson. You often like Kanye the artist in spite of Kanye the person, but knowing who Action is when he's not on the mic really helps you appreciate his music because in real life he appears to be the exact same person. I don't think I've ever laughed this hard while listening to an album and yet it didn't lack lyrical prowess. He's so eloquently brash, exuberance and downright absurd, but it all sounds so natural. I know the food references are coming, but even still they get me every time; remind me to try some squid ink soup. He shouts out Snapple, calls his mom a "lucky slut," do I even need to mention the irrelevant beauty in "I feel so alive I think I shit myself"? When I saw the title "Falconry" I chuckled, but I straight up laughed at:
"I was made like the beginning of Jurassic Park
When they took the fucking blood from the mosquito with a dope needle
Then they shot it in a wild lion, 1983
I popped out holdin' an iron with a visor on"
He spends 15 seconds on an elaborate, off-the-wall metaphor based around Jurassic Park. That line makes no sense, has no basis in reality, doesn't really even rhyme, and yet it's one of the best on the album. The man is a poet. I'm not being hyperbolic or trying to be funny. Action Bronson has a lyrical style and ability that is unlike anyone else in rap. He is the most fun, entertaining emcee in the game. He's a blast.
When I say things like I had "so much fun" or "he's a blast," I can't help but feel like I'm selling Action short, especially on this album. I see a growing trend of "fun" music being given a pass for its lack of musicality or originality; you don't need an instrumental break, any semblance of lyricism or even a good singing voice when you have a hook like "No Flex Zone" because drunk people love it. Fun is fine, but fun doesn't mean good. So when I say Action is fun, he is, but what really sold me on Mr. Wonderful was that it's also so musically intricate. Nobody can be so raw, gritty, and outrageous yet also so textured, vivid, and intricate. Action doesn't tell stories, but he paints beautiful pictures. His rhymes are like a Piccasso; seemingly weird, nonsensical caricatures, but they have a certain eloquence and beauty to them. There isn't a cohesive feel between the songs, no over-arching story or social commentary, but it works because he gives you an experience that can not be replicated and he really puts himself into the music.Those are signs of a true artist. He may make you laugh and you'll have a blast, but he's no joke.
I know enough about Action to know that his brand of lyricism is not a new development. What is though, and ultimately what made me a true Bronson believer, was the experimental, diverse production on this album. "A Light In Addict" has an amazing progression; the way it builds in the beginning, the instrumental solos, it makes me feel like I'm in a smoky blues club drowning my sorrows in whiskey. When not trying his hand at a little bit of bluesy rock ("City Boy Blues") you can hear Action rapping over an instrumental that has a little bit of hair metal to it; it made me want to break out my dope Journey t-shirt. "Baby Blue" has me fiending for a Phony Ppl and Bronson collaboration; I swear there's a flip of "Why iii Love The Moon" in there. "Easy Rider" is one of my favorite beats in a hot minute. Of course there's still the dirty New York City feel older Action fans will love, but what makes Mr. Wonderful so fucking wonderful is when Bronson swan dives into uncharted waters. He could have stayed in his "lane," catered to a fan-base made up largely of hip-hop heads and been fine, but he chose to branch out. He's the same dude from Queens he's always been, but he's also doing songs with Drake's go-to-guy Noah "40" Shebib and Mark Ronson in the name of artistic curiosity. I came for the food-references, but I stayed for the great music.
I've been on the verge of becoming a card-carrying member of the Action Bronson Alliance for a minute now, this is the album that convinced me to sign up. Mr. Wonderful managed to give me everything I wanted without being anything like what I expected, and to be able to do something like that as an artist puts Action in very rare company.
I'm all in. I'm sold. Most importantly, I'M ROCKING VERY LOOSE PANTS!!!!!
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]