“I like making full plates,” Action Bronson said of his music in a recent No Jumper interview and as a longtime fan of the anomalous MC, I can say that Bronson’s been making full plates for listeners since Bon Appetit…Bitch, back in 2011. While it’s clear that Bronson is in a whole other stratosphere than he was back when I first saw the “Imported Goods” video (you’ll notice, for one, that his sound is no longer primarily in the boom-bap realm), the man continues to provide his own unique stew of artistry, replete with trademark absurdism and obscure references touching on everything from ’80s action flicks to fine cuisine to bodybuilders.
While Mr. Wonderful may have been a shock to the system for some (and even to me at first), Blue Chips 7000 succeeds in putting its predecessor into perspective. Action Bronson isn’t the painter to draw a piece of fruit on a table. He’s the painter that is going to try to recreate how that fruit tasted and smelled to him. Bronson’s never truly saying much of anything, but the art is in the wordplay and wit, not to mention the production. While I definitely miss the consistency that production duo Party Supplies brought to the previous two Blue Chips projects, there’s enough here to keep a person interested and amused.
If you’re like me, your first stop on a new Bronson album is the Meyhem Lauren feature and “Hot Pepper” featuring reggae singer Jah Tiger does not disappoint one accustomed to the long history of Bronson/Lauren collaborations. Meyhem, in his trademark aggressive delivery, floats on this record, even dropping the hilarious insult: “You the type to compliment a [Rolex] at a urinal” amidst the regular fare these two generally cook up together.
The album’s flaws are things that seem completely intentional. I’m sure most people don’t want to hear Bronson coughing and muttering in various skits preceding songs, but it’s become somewhat of a staple in Bronson’s music to tolerate these moments for art’s sake. For example, “La Luna” begins with the rapper on the phone trying to get a car to Madison Square Garden and being placed on hold, at which point he comments on how “funky” the elevator music is (and it was) and starts freestyling to it. Ever indulgent, it’s almost two minutes in that the “rapping in the bathroom to elevator music playing from my phone” quality morphs into a whole song, with Bronson dropping lines like: “My first joint was like an odyssey / the second joint straight raw like a shaman’s feet” over the almost comically mellow keys. As with much of Bronson’s work, even if you can’t personally get into it, you couldn’t ever call it boring.
Action Bronson seems to be in the unique position of being an MC who can make the music he wants to make and take every risk along the way. While still upholding the tenets of the culture and the artform, he’s managed to carve out his own lane for absurdist rap, powered by the crowd-pleasing energy of his live show. He’s stated in interviews that his album has been held back for some time due to sample clearance issues, which is obvious from the obscure sounds patched together throughout Blue Chips 7000. For fans, it’s more of what you’ve come to love about Bronson, plus a little age and world travel peppered in, opening up his canvas to include a bigger world view that manifests in the production choices. Even given this experimentation, Bronson keeps it in the family with both production and features, bringing along all the usual suspects behind the boards, including friend and co-host Alchemist, not to mention Meyhem and breakout star Big Body Bes. The result, ultimately, is an Action Bronson album for Action Bronson fans (and whoever else is down for a wild ride). After the sparse, at times bizarrely paced Mr. Wonderful, what more could you ask for but an improvement on the formula you’ve come to appreciate?