Action Bronson has been around since 2011. The former gourmet New York City chef decided to leave the kitchen alone after breaking his leg on the job to focus solely on his rap career. First he released Dr. Lecter, an album filled with his calling cards—food, money, women, sports, and weed. The same can be said about a lot of rappers, but few can do it as humorously as Action can. He then followed that up with the impressive Statik Selektah-produced Well Done in the same year. Tracks like "Respect the Mustache," "White Silk," and "Not Enough Words" gave a glimpse of what he could do over great production.
That was a good segue into his Alchemist-laced Rare Chandeliers tape and his Blue Chips series with Party Supplies. As his status rose, he was labeled as a Ghostface Killah clone because their voices are so similar, although their styles aren't. Those three mixtapes are easily Bronson's best works, and Chandeliers and the first Blue Chips put him into a position to sign a major label deal with Atlantic Records, which led to the subsequent release of the seven-song EP Saaab Stories.
That brings us to Mr. Wonderful, a weird ride only Action Bronson could take you on. With Big Body Bes at his side as his spiritual guide, Action adds an interesting chapter to his extensive catalog. The 13-track album—counting an interlude and two jam sessions—features production from frequent collaborators the Alchemist and Party Supplies. There's also a rare Noah "40" Shebib-produced track that's a certified banger.
At first listen "Actin' Crazy" sounds like a track Drake passed on, and that may be the case. Action floats on it, though, as if he and 40 have been working together for years. The beat bounces like it's driving on a New York City street with a chorus you will repeat all day after one play.
"Opportunity be knockin', you gotta let a motherfucker in/I kiss my mother on the cheek, tell her that I love her/You ain't gotta worry 'bout a ting, I got it covered/Why you think I'm out here actin' crazy? Why you think I'm out here actin' crazy? Why you think I'm out here actin' crazy?/Ma, you know I'm still your little baby"
This joint has been getting play on New York-area radio and rightfully so.
Another hit is the Chance the Rapper-assisted, Mark Ronson-produced "Baby Blue." The piano, drums, and Action's chorus make this feel like a lounge song and Action is Frank Sinatra. Ronson really did a number on this beat. It's funky, soulful, and the trumpet solo at the end will make you get up and sing—"Why you always all on my back? Why you gotta do me like that? Why you gotta act like a bitch when I'm with you? Baby girl, I'm blue"—at the top of your lungs.
Big Body Bes—Bronson's felonious cousin who always seems to be fresh off a bid—really makes this an enjoyable listening experience. His rants at the end of "The Rising" and "Falconry" are Diddy-esque. He's self-described as the kind of guy whose face you might "find on a bag of dope on an unidentified corner with a Latin individual, corn rows, Foamposites, and all sorts of a felony in his waist." The combination of their street humor makes this album very New York—sample-heavy beats complemented with outlandish bars delivered in Action's Queens accent. You may even hear some Spanglish in a couple lines.
The album is very new york. You may even hear some Spanglish in a couple lines.
Two eventual hits aside, Mr. Wonderful won't gain new Action fans. Some might view that as a disappointment being that this is his major label debut. Bronson uses the same formula that got him here for the most part, except for the weirdly placed "City Boy Blues" and "The Passage [Live From Prague]." Both those tracks would've been best reserved for a mixtape as they throw off the flow of the album. The former is a four-minute blues/rock in which Action howls about a woman who took his soul, while the latter is a three-minute jam session that sounds pretty trippy but would've been best reserved at the beginning of "Easy Rider." In a perfect world both those songs would be shorter, but instead the listener has to wait for the album to get back on track.
Bronson will have to rely on his personality and videos to gain new listeners, which shouldn't be hard to do. And if he can get these newcomers out to his shows, it's a done deal: Some of these tracks will sound phenomenal live and Bronsolini is one of the best live performers the game has to offer.
Mr. Wonderful is a solid offering from a guy who consistently puts out quality music. With all the raps he gives us for free and the memorable live performances, it's only right you shell out nine bucks for this joint. If not for that, at least for the Billy Joel sample on "Brand New Car." Day one Action fans won't be disappointed, but they won't be impressed either.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.