03 April 2015

REVIEW: Action Bronson - Mr. Wonderful

"There's no hit records on the demo..."

Even though this album isn't a demo, that line sets the tone. Action Bronson is continuing the trend of artists who aren't conforming to industry standards for studio albums, but instead are just creating great music that appeals to a broad range of tastes in Hip-hop. It's about time Bronsolino took a crack at the majors. Not sacrificing any of the charm and individuality we've grown to love from him, Action Bronson hits us with a solid debut album in Mr. Wonderful. He has enlisted the help of several top-tier producers for this project including The Alchemist, Mark Ronson, 40, and Statik Selektah  that may have you thinking the album should sound like a boom-bap classic, but Bronson's crazy unique style and personality remains intact throughout. Best In The Mix head honcho The Niftian put it best, Action Bronson can do no wrong. He has a certain distinctness about his cadence, voice, and flow that allow him the freedom to spit on anything and it'll probably come across as hot...even though when you break down his lyrics, he is pretty much spitting pure nonsense, albeit clever as hell. Not many artists can get away with this, but because he reminds you so much of a certain Wu-Tang clan member, fans tend to give him a pass (even though most of us know Bronson's music sounds nothing like he-who-will-not-be-named-because-the-comparisons-are-played-out-in-2015).

The thing is, this only applies to when he is rapping. Throughout Mr. Wonderful, Bronson catches the Billy Joel bug and attempts to flex his vocals with mixed results.  Being that this is his first major label release, it's evident more time was taken in the production department and  in the variety of the overall sound. He takes a few risks in an attempt to hone in on who he is as an artist. Songs like the heavy drug-induced "City Boy Blues," which follows a truly horrible acapella skit beforehand, don't quite hit the mark at all, and will most likely get constant skips from long-time Bronson fans. Other songs like "A Light In The Addict" and the intro track "Brand New Car" hit that sweet spot where he just sings the hook and it works well. Luckily the risks are few and far between, with the essence of Bronson still taking center stage.

Standout tracks on the album include the anti-bitch anthem "Baby Blue" with an amazingly witty feature from Chance the Rapper, where he hits a girl with lines like "I hope you never get off Fridays, and you work at a Fridays that's always busy on Friday." The jazzy Alchemist-produced "Terry" is a track I find myself coming back to the most, as it's one of the more accessible tracks found on the album. The same goes for "Easy Rider," which may be the hottest song on the album despite being leaked months ago. Overall it doesn't take much to enjoy an Action Bronson project, and Mr. Wonderful is no exception.

Fans who have been around for awhile should not expect this to sound like another entry in the Blue Chips series, though. He's attempting to spread his wings and establish himself as an artist outside of his mixtapes. He hasn't quite discovered his fearless artistic side yet with this album, but it's nice to see him branching out and trying new things instead of remaining in his comfort zone. The problem is there are so many other great albums that have come out in 2015 that Mr. Wonderful runs the risk of being buried under the heap. They say timing is important in Hip-hop, but who could have predicted so many quality projects dropping only three months into the year? It's rare that those who are introduced to Bronson's music end up not liking him, but he definitely would have benefitted from releasing this album a little later on in the year. There are no over-arching themes or deep messages here, Mr. Wonderful is just easy listening. And for that fact alone, this album has the power to be your daily driver if your brain needs a rest from the likes of Kendrick Lamar's magnum opus or Lupe Fiasco's Tetsuo & Youth. It will be interesting to see the direction Action Bronson's career goes in after this album.
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