Action Bronson is a purveyor of delicious unexpectedness. Before he’s a heralded rap artist, who shares the same Goliath management as Eminem, Atlantic Records label as Boosie Badazz and facial hair with Rick Ross, he’s Arian Asllani, a Queens New York-bred, Albanian and Jewish culinary chef with his own cooking show. Fans of the stage and stove, can easily find the impresario shopping stateside for heirloom tomatoes or overseas for samples. His fresh herb affinity ranges from cilantro to sour diesel. His commanding presence leans more towards a concerto tenor than master of ceremony, but his 14 karat rhyme bars exorcise wordsmiths like Kool G. Rap. Verses are delivered with the recklessness of a black market AR15, yet come bejeweled with sharp wit and highbrow hilarity. This isn’t your father’s favorite rapper. In a new world where rap fans are colorless and the Internet dictates TV, Action Bronson is a super hero whose physique ironically resembles a Viking warrior.
Since entering rap’s ring four years ago, Bronson has operated in large and cohesive fashion. His introductory appetizers began his penchant for having entire compositions produced by a single maestro. The break beat-powered, Tommy Maas-produced Dr. Lecter established Action as an MC purist focused on adding to the art form, while the Statik Selektah-scored Well Done showcased the early respect its author accrued via guests like Lil Fame. After dropping the audio feast that was the 2012 mixtape Blue Chips (co-piloted by Fools Gold Records DJ/production duo Party Supplies), the renaissance scribe inked a management deal with Eminem’s partner and manager Paul Rosenberg, then landed his first recording contract with Warner Bros via VICE’s label. The result would be more collaborative projects (AB and Alchemist’s Rare Chandeliers) major performances (Coachella 2013) and accolades (XXL Magazine’s Freshman class cover).
After switching from Warner to Atlantic Records mid-2013, Action released his first EP Saaab Stories, produced entirely by Harry Fraud, with premium guests like Raekwon and Wiz Khalifa. While taking 2014 to construct his debut LP, Bronson would expand his brand by launching his online cooking show, Fuck, That’s Delicious. The program not only placed a larger spotlight on Action’s certified kitchen skills, but his infectiously vivid personality as well. To keep the Bronson rap faithful snacking until the entree, a second installment of the Blue Chip mixtape was released to overwhelming acclaim––both Rolling Stone and XXL placed it in the top 5 of their Best Mixtapes of 2013 list. Now the main course has arrived.
Action’s first full-length release Mr. Wonderful is a culmination of every ingredient that’s made his discography delectable, then taken levels higher. The album blends the MC’s influences––from Cam’ron’s Purple Haze to Hendrix’s––then colors a currently tope rap game with red-eyed global perspective. The musicality is grade A; live instrumentation turns Mr. Wonderful into a wonderland of sonic discovery. “A Light In The Addict,” featuring Party Supplies and Fools Gold vocalist Black Atlass, and “City Boy Blues,” which boasts the bottom production of 88 Keys and top coating of Party Supplies, both soar with gorgeous orchestration. The latter track in such a zone that Bronson doesn’t spit a single bar, instead letting his vocals ride the wave of soulful rock.
Rare Chandeliers co-conspirator, Alchemist assists with much of the album’s jazz vibe. On “Galactic Love,” over silky bass play, Bronson is on the phone with mom and in his comfort zone of comedic randomness (“Took a meeting up at Paramount/type-casted as a romantic lead”). But it’s Al’s lush setting for “Terry” that is Action’s favorite beat on his album. The thirteen-year chef even contributes to his album’s soundscape. It was he who brought the great Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse) and Statik Selektah, a heavenly slice of Billy Joel’s “Zanzibar” to birth the sterling “Brand New Car.” In fact, hand written letters from Bronson and Ronson to Mr. Joel secured the sample clearance.
Although Zane Lowe pops in to co-write the melodic hook for the Chance The Rapper-featured “Baby Blue,” when it’s time to remind planet Hip-hop who’s one of the new school’s toughest mic wielders, Bronson commands his pen to camel clutch the production of Noah “40” Shebib (Drake) and Omen (Ludacris) on the single “Actin’ Crazy,” while getting cinematic on its predecessor “Easy Rider” and flexing super lyrical for pure sport on “Only In America” (“Barry Bonds Barracuda Chattanooga…”).
Once again, Action Bronson’s latest work is his best. Mr. Wonderful’s balance of aggressive flows and easy listening instrumentation, trippy sounds under dead-arm punch lines, make for hip-hop 2015’s finest cuisine. “I gave this my most incredible effort,” says Bronson of his debut. “If you listen to everything I’ve put out and then listen to this you’ll hear the steps that I’ve taken to go all out and show progression.”