Monday, March 23, 2015

Action Bronson - Mr.Wonderful Review

Despite a large following in the underground Action Bronson has somewhat always been an underdog in the Hip-Hop scene, many voicing their belief of his inability to expand anywhere past the scope he already encompasses. This is largely due, either coincidently or intentionally, to his striking similarities to fellow New York City rapper, and legendary member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah both in voice and style. So, how does one draw his own lane when the path he starts out on has already been worn down for 20 years? Simply, he creates a shtick, one that listeners can attach to when a certain mood is met, in his case copious amounts of food lingo and comedy, along with the litany of other stereotypical rap cliches. An enormous facet of Bronson's character however is his over-the-top demeanor, often times found in his music videos, like 'Easy Rider,' Mr.Wonderful's cinematic closer, where the overweight goof rides his Harley into the sunset whilst tripping on acid in search of his guitar. It's a style that never takes itself seriously, but one not easily converted to a coherent album with a purpose. This is Action Bronson, this is where he thrives, unfortunately Mr.Wonderful does not. 

Rappers, or musicians not named Weird Al in general, stylizing themselves as comedians have never maintained a prosperous career as the charm of their allure wears thin when compared to their contemporaries in album form. Just look at Weird Al, remembered not for his collective albums on a grand scale, but rather his hilarious music videos that accompany the songs. Youtube has allowed artists like Bronson, or Riff Raff, or Yung Lean, to maintain relevancy with their combination of sound and visuals, but when transitioned to a sonic work a large chunk of the comedy gets shredded. 'Easy Rider' may not be the perfect example, as the song itself is a exclamatory finale to his album featuring a zany guitar riff and haunting background vocals, but the comedy of the video is largely missing from the track itself. And this defines one of Mr.Wonderful's largest pitfalls, its aim to never take itself seriously despite the content within containing a seriousness missing in his videos. With the food shtick recently off the table and now, in most parts, the comedy, Bronson's footing is left to the overused stereotypes, with the quality of his music and the depth of his content suffering immensely.

What Mr.Wonderful boils itself down to is braggadocios Hip-Hop with an odd amount of romantic songs that harp on Bronson's lack of maintaining a girl. Surprisingly the former, in the cases at which he uses it, works best. The intro 'Brand New Car' is Bronson proving why he's Mr.Wonderful through as many one-liners as he can as he simultaneously throws in the most comedic song here. The follow-up, 'The Rising,' is another great example as he gears up for his spot in stardom. These songs, and a handful more, don't attempt to portray a meaning other than upping the ante in bragging rights, which benefits Bronson in the best way. However, a discouragingly large amount of tracks here try their hand at Bronson's failed love life, the irony pouring through the lyrics at every crease. See, when you constantly call women sluts, whores, and hoes they typically don't intend to settle down with you and would rather just profit off your money and desperation. He displays bikini-clad women in chains on his covers and talks endlessly about his thriving sex life where girls beg for a spot in bed and then sings "they only want money from me, love from somebody else" on 'City Boy Blues' failing to look internally at his own short-comings. Bronson even calls on Chance The Rapper in 'Baby Blue' to wish horrible things upon a girl for being childish ignoring Bronson ironically doing the same in grandiose fashion on a song.

These moments are far too common and overwhelming to ignore, despite Mr.Wonderful's respectable selection of beats. If there's one thing Bronson, and other comedic rappers similar to him, can thrive on it's a knack for choosing good beats and producers. Bronson enforces long-time contributors The Alchemist, Oh No, Party Supplies, and more for his production, and while some beats are incredibly lackluster and forgettable, others heighten the sound to something that can be blasted with the windows rolled down. 'Actin' Crazy' features a bloopy synth collage that stutters as if attempting to be rewound along with a wall-shaking bass, while 'Falconry' reincarnates the non-grimy side of RZA, adding a litany of non-conformist sound effects adding to its allure. It's unfortunate to know though that the crowning beacon of Mr.Wonderful in both lyrics and sound is 'Easy Rider,' a track that's been out for more than half a year. Nothing here really comes close, as the disparity between the airy chorus and grizzled verses maximize Action Bronson's potential to its greatest effect. It's not all highs though, tracks like 'Galactic Love' and 'Terry' are so mind-numbingly boring in their beats that the complacency is the only thing overwhelming as they inadvertently lull you off to sleep.

Action Bronson's full-length debut is about what you'd expect, nothing memorable except for the stellar single that kicked off its hype train. Besides the passing beats almost nothing Bronson brings, outside of hilarity, in which he's even ousted on by Chance, posits any sort of distancing from the pack. Whether citing concrete bars or nonsensical riffs, Bronson's lyrics remain stagnantly bland lacking any sort of personal touch. His self-reflective lyrics on 'A Light In The Addict,' going from suicidal thoughts to taking the rap crown to murder to shotty's laying under beds in a matter of four bars is comical even if not intended due to how mundane the topics are. Then there's 'Terry' where a string of absurd lyrics is followed by "don't hurt me again" in the chorus, as a reminder that, shockingly, this is a melodramatic track. But, above all else, it was expected. Mr.Wonderful, as the title even attributes to, is an emcee who sees no flaws about himself despite a handful being displayed clearly, proclaiming greatness and originality while presenting none of it, distancing himself from what made him worthwhile.

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