12 June 2013

REVIEW: Action Bronson - Saaab Stories

Queens stand up. It's a relief to see an emcee come up lately that doesn't look/sound like he came from the "Fisher Price: I'm a Rapper" assembly line. Even though Action Bronson sounds like a Ghostface sibling, he actually sites Kool G Rap as one of his biggest influences. If you're acquainted with his body of work so far, (mostly mixtapes and a few independent tapes) then Saaab Stories couldn't come sooner. I was going to do a quick bio, but you can Google that anywhere. Do yourself a favor though, after you run through this album, catch up on his previous tapes.

Bronson starts his first major label LP with the track 72 Virgins. The appetizer is just that, a short 2:50 track where he raps for about a minute. He recalls meeting a friend of a friend, and linking up while he began his underworld activities. This newcomer was older than him, but once they started making money it was him who started snitching. Bronson has to deal with him and continues in this lifestyle but explains that the end game is to leave his family straight. The instrumental sets up a cop drama type canvas where Bronson is able to paint this gritty portrait. The flow and cadence are perfectly intertwined to pair with the track.

No Time is set to a straight mid 90s boom bap type instrumental. Lyrically I think this track is where the Ghostface cadence in unquestionable. My first impression of Bronson has always been that he has a hybrid style: yes he seems to set his lyrical foundation with a 90s influence, but he is able to incorporate a 2000 plus rhyme flow and melody. This is even more impressive considering he didn't come up like a Nas, Common or Ghostface, and didn't have the luxury of evolving over time. This track is not theme specific, instead it comes off as just cool spontaneous bars that he spit in a cipher stairwell.

This is easily the track that I most wanted to hear once I saw that track listing a few weeks back. Seven Series Triplets features Prodigy and Raekwon. This street epic instrumental sounds like if RZA scored the Scarface movie. Yeah, it's that kind of set up. Action Bronson flow is like a slow motion machine gun. The way he is able to make you visually picture his lyrics is reminiscent of some Raekwon ish. His fellow Queens-mate Prodigy takes the baton and doesn't miss a beat. And of course, you save the best for last. Raekwon finishes the leg of this track with his legendary street flow.

The previous line is definitely not meant as disrespect. Seven Series Triplets is by far my favorite track and bars from Saaab Stories. But even Bronson acknowledges the fact that while he is compared to Ghostface, (and Raekwon could be interchanged here) he is still essentially a rookie being compared to legends. But his lyrical skill is undeniable. Bronson has set a foundation that further raises the expectation from his future projects. He was able to keep his mixtape game up, but an LP (where decisions are made by a label) is another animal altogether. I won't say this is better than I expected, but I will say he meet the hype build-up to his debut release. Again, not a dis. Especially considering the buzz was very high. The production is off the charts thanks to Harry Fraud. In a short time these two artists have found a formula that most emcee/producers strive for their entire career. 

One issue I can see is that this only a 7 track album. Especially now, the Hip-hop community expects albums in the mid-teens. My issue is not with quantity over quality though. Paid in Full and Illmatic were both essentially 9 track albums. But every track off of Illmatic was a classic. Saaab Stories is not full of 7 classic tracks. Many are. And the rest are great tracks. It might seem like an unfair way to review this young (in the game) emcee, but this is only due to his amazing lyrical skills and to his elite potential. This is a DEF must cop for the lyric aficionado Hip-hop head.

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