Acting and rapping: Action Bronson’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’
Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, April 8, 2015
A major label debut album is an important step in any rapper’s career. After a few years of mixtapes, EPs, singles and Youtube videos, any rapper with a burgeoning fan base and broadening influence is going to get a chance to tackle this behemoth. If you’re Action Bronson and you have a belly almost as big as your fan base, then tackling things isn’t going to be that much of an issue. On March 23, Bronsolino (one of the big man’s many nicknames) introduced himself to the big leagues with “Mr. Wonderful.” Despite a few missteps, this debut album is, for lack of any better words, wonderful.
Action Bronson is to greasy New York culture what Riff Raff is to trashy Los Angeles culture. Like the Neon Icon, Action Bronson fully embraces the character he’s developed, this parody of himself that indulges in profanities, rocks obscure sports references and definitely enjoys gourmet meals. Fun fact: his Vice web series “F***, That’s Delicious” is awesome and only further proves this point.
These little quirks and many others come out all over “Mr. Wonderful” and really show how Action Bronson shines. Bam Bam (another of Bronson’s nicknames) is an absolutely hilarious guy whose sharp wit and quick thinking create some of the best lyrics of 2015 so far. Definitely check out “Actin’ Crazy,” in which Bronson brags about his salsa dancing skills, excretes out of excitement, swaggers about his gourmet sustenance habits and tells his mom he’s still her little baby.
Speaking of Bronson’s mom, Bronsolino takes several breaks in “Galactic Love” to call her on the phone, tell her about how he’s been typecast in films as a generic Hollywood heartthrob and discuss how her knee is doing. Songs like “Actin’ Crazy,” “Galactic Love” and the smooth, guitar-laden “Terry” exemplify the Bronson we’ve come to know and love: a rapper who’s approachable, likeable and comical.
As great of a rapper as Action Bronson is, he cannot sing nearly as well. Unfortunately, he spends a good portion of the album attempting to do so. In the middle of the album, Action Bronson engages in a mini conceptual piece, “THUG LOVE STORY 2017 THE MUSICAL.” This three-song and one-interlude musical piece isn’t exactly the highlight of the album and feels out of place, although it is cool that Bronson brought in some classic, bluesy New York sounds to “Mr. Wonderful,” much like fellow Big Apple native Ghostface Killah did with last year’s “36 Seasons.” (Both rappers share similar vocal styles.)
Chance the Rapper’s guest verse at the end of “Baby Blue” makes up for most of this mess though, because in about 30 seconds he cracks more jokes and creates more laughs than Bronson did over the whole musical.
While I am glad Bronson is expanding and attempting to diversify his sound with unique pieces like this, he is definitely at his best when he’s rapping hilarious things over sick beats. And sick beats are definitely not lacking on “Mr. Wonderful.” “Galactic Love” features a dirty, thumping bass line that is rarely found in modern rap, while “Brand New Car” has a pretty cool piano backing the track.
Some backing doesn’t work though, like the live crowd in “The Passage – Live From Prague.” This live rendition fits into “Mr. Wonderful” about as well as Kanye West’s “Pinocchio Story (Freestyle Live From Singapore)” fit into “808s and Heartbreaks.” (Hint: not well.)
Despite these minor flaws, Action Bronson has created a wonderful major label debut in “Mr. Wonderful,” especially when he embraces and flaunts the awesome character he’s created, and gives plenty of reason to look forward to his future.