For some time now hip hop has surfaced as the overwhelming voice of the youth. Corporations that once shuddered at the thought of this genre representing their products, now throw millions at artists for endorsement deals in hopes to of capitalizing on this wave that seems permanent. What has been lost during the rise of popularity and paychecks however, has been the art of the music. Albums specifically. More and more the search for the radio hit takes precedent over the constructing of an actual body of work. With so much competition nowadays, a rapper has a small window from getting your attention, to producing quality verses, to actually graduating to an artist that can carry their own project. The Flushing Queens MC has had the attention of hip hop fans for a minute, Mr. Wonderful is the attempt to make you a permanent fan.
Gone are the days when you would hear Action and label him a carbon copy of Ghostface Killah. The New York influence and accent are unmistakable but since coming on the scene, Bronson has solidified his place with his critically acclaimed “Blue Chips” series and the excellent “Rare Chandeliers” mixtapes. Those projects were effortless rhymes of exaggerated trips around the world over grimey beats illustrated like only Action Bronson can. “Mr. Wonderful” is his first actual album, and with this release, Bronsalini dips out of his comfort zone in order to explore the artist in him. The album starts with “Brand New Car” and right away you’re greeted with Action’s trademark humor in attempting to sing the hook over a Mark Ronson produced throwback beat. When the rapping finally begins it is interrupted again with Action complaining about his vocals. It’s a fitting start to an album that ultimately leaves the listener underwhelmed.
“Terry” is the 3rd track and some of Action’s best work, as he easily spits “Don’t sneeze on my shit, cause for shiz I’mma flip ya/pedicured foot slide in the slipper, tryna do the remix with Pitbull” over Alchemist’s best contribution to the album. “Actin Crazy” follows that with a strong back to back after the album’s slow start. Midway through the album, Action inexplicably chooses what seems like an old, heartbroken man to sing accapella about his loss of a loved one in the “Thug Love Story 2017 The Musical (Interlude). “City Boy Blues” introduces Action Bronson fans to his singing vocals over 88-Keys production. In what seems like an impromptu jam session after a late night out, this was a real head scratcher. Maybe it will grow on me like Biggie’s “Playa Haters” did after some time, but for now this and his other two singing attempts along the album had me perplexed.
Possibly the highlight of the album, and what did work with Mr. Baklava singing, was Chicago MC Chance The Rapper’s assisted “Baby Blue.” The collaboration between these two was undeniable on Chance’s 2013 “Acid Rap” and the same remains on this track. Mark Ronson lays out a perfectly timed tempo that could get radio play for Action and Chance to describe experiences and misfortunes with women. Chance definitely steals the show with his witty 3rd verse. Chance raps “I hope you win the lottery and lose your ticket/I hope its Ben and Socrates poop all up in your kitchen/I hope the zipper on your jacket get stuck” before ultimately wishing his former flame happiness, and furthers frustrates us by not releasing more material (Shouts to Jay Electronica!).
Ultimately it’s a solid effort that has noticeable flaws. Bronson is embracing his creative juices and is experimenting with different sounds. His core fans won’t be affected but this project may not be the one to describe Action Bronson to the inquisitive first time listener. It’s not as big of a jump as Kendrick took on “To Pimp A Butterfly” or Kanye did on “Yeezus” but there is definitely more singing than expected and questionable beat selections. “Terry”, “Actin Crazy”, “Falconry”, and “Galactic Love” are all gems. That, coupled with Bronson’s larger than life persona, undeniable charm, humor, and pin point detail in his adventures, are all worth the price of admission. 6/10.
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