Album Review: Action Bronson Doesn't Mess With His Recipe on Major Label Debut 'Mr. Wonderful'
Five years ago, Action Bronson was a sous chef with big dreams -- until a workplace tumble left him sitting at home with a broken leg. He poured the new downtime into his sideline fantasy -- becoming a rapper -- and never looked back. Today, the Queens native is an offbeat but always on-point lyricist making the leap to the majors with his Atlantic/Vice debut, Mr. Wonderful. Molding Bronson’s madcap foodie raps into something more accessible isn’t an insurmountable task -- 2013’s “Strictly for My Jeeps” got respectable burn on New York hip-hop radio -- but the album’s really only concerned with being the purest, best Action record it can be. In other words, it’s awash in good eats, beautiful women, exotic locales -- and dusty beats to extol them over.
Mr. Wonderful doesn’t try to reinvent Bronson’s wheel, but label backing does provide a few high-profile connections: “Actin Crazy” taps Drake associate Noah “40” Shebib for downbeat, aqueous keys, and the Chance the Rapper-assisted “Baby Blue” nabs “Uptown Funk!” architect Mark Ronson for piano rock so plush that Bronson works up the courage to sing serviceably on the chorus. In large part, though, the cast of collaborators is familiar to anyone following the last three years of Action’s mixtape career. Los Angeles beatsmith The Alchemist, who helmed 2012’s Rare Chandeliers, shares a chunk of the production with Party Supplies of Bronson’s Blue Chips mixtape series. Each grounds these songs in a lively, sample-based yacht-rap sound that nicely complements Bronson’s lamb-chop daydreams.
The LP presents Bronson’s id -- the Billy Joel-loving sex maniac with a flair for fine dining -- and cuts it loose alongside his favorite co-conspirators. Together they craft a persona every bit as cartoonish and delightfully wigged out as the one hitting a full split in the album’s cover art. It’s the rare major-label debut that trusts the artist’s aesthetic enough to not tamper with it.