Prolific. Misogynistic. Brutish. Excessive. These terms all describe Action Bronson’s music. Over the last three years, the material he’s released has been some of the most intriguing in all of hip-hop. Working within the traditional single producer/rapper format, renowned producers such as Statik Selektah and the Alchemist have lent their East Coast styles to his sound. But it’s his work with emerging producers Harry Fraud and Party Supplies that have shown how great he can be.
Blue Chips 2 is a continuation of his first collaboration with Party Supplies, back in 2012, and further develops Action Bronson’s persona. His biggest strength is his ability to develop a character within an airtight, finely defined aesthetic. He hits you with his New York roots and attitudes through pop-culture based images that listeners easily identify with the gangster-ism of the ’90s.
Yet, while landmark albums from that era like Reasonable Doubt, It Was Written, or Only Built for Cuban Linx . . . relied on a decent degree of verisimilitude, Action Bronson has gone in the complete opposite direction. His over-the-top approach fabricates a cinematic feel that projects to be far from reality. The outcome is a less taxing listening experience. The listener no longer needs to process the world Action Bronson lives in to be something of social implication but only enjoy it.
Molding a hyperbolic persona is something that’s been done in hip-hop. But to the extent that it goes into Action Bronson’s aesthetic is unprecedented. It consumes him and it oozes out of every line he spits. He’s relentless in this regard. His execution is flawless as he drops line after line of luxurious and decadent materialistic depictions.
This is something Action Bronson is very aware of. In the track ‘Rolling Thunder’, he spits, “You ain’t got to open a comic book to see who the villain be / It’s me doing perfect dives in the Sicilian Sea.” He would rather you see him as the villain of a Hong Kong action thriller/Blaxploitation film than a real hood. This is not to say that the things he talks about have no weight behind them. But it allows a freedom in his aesthetic that can surpass the boundaries of his “realness.”
Technically, he’s an acrobat that synthesizes concepts of different lines together as good as any punchline rapper ever has. His set ups are unexpected and his finish is always strong. An example would be on ‘Flip Ya’ when he drops, “You see me with a bitch like Vanna White at the benefit for battered wives.” He connects lines in interesting ways often circumventing the original meaning by positing another phrase to alter its context. He can raise the level of his wordplay and rhyme schemes at a whim and he switches back and forth between simplicity and complexity in his technique depending on how he wants to attack the beat.
With this being the case, Party Supplies created a diverse set of beats for Action Bronson to work with. With such an eclectic mix, you can hear how Action Bronson’s flow is more versatile and adaptive than most would think. The structure for each beat is simple. Pick a sample; add a drumbeat, and then loop. It’s a simple formula that’s tried and true and allows the rapper to shine.
Party Supplies’ overall approach at production matches Action Bronson’s own extravagant musical propensities, which makes them a perfect match. His sample cuts seem like they would frame a scene within a movie perfectly. The contexts of his samples are built on film threads that are instantly recognizable. Using the doo-wop sample ‘Tears on my Pillow’ by Little Anthony and the Imperials on ‘Rolling Thunder’ is reminiscent of how Martin Scorsese would use ’60s R&B or using an Asian sample for the ‘Don’s Cheek’ throws back to ’80s martial arts action flicks.
At this point of his career, after exploding into the forefront of hip-hop’s consciousness with Blue Chips, it has become expected that his work will be grandiose and unabashed. While people debate his misogynistic lyrics and whether he copped his flow off Ghostface, the reality is his own personality and style have started to evolve into something unique within hip-hop.