It was only Five years ago Action Bronson was working as a chef when he took a fall and broke his leg. No longer able to work he was broken and bed bound. Now with the release of his debut album, the cover shows Bronson with his legs split on a gold throne whilst sincerely not giving a single fuck. It's this attitude which makes the fittingly named ‘Mr. Wonderful’ such a great listen. In the start of 2015 we have been spoilt for choice with hip hop records, yet there hasn't been a huge feel good factor. Bronson delivers on that end of the spectrum. Bronson has always been much more than just a rapper, firstly a chef and now a tv personality, ‘Mr.Wonderful’ is a culmination of everything. Whilst the re-emergence of lyrical precision and grand narrative isn't just welcome but desperately needed, Bronson goes for the much simpler approach of showing not telling, something that many rappers fail to do. When its allover you come out knowing exactly who ‘Mr. Wonderful’ is and you feel a better person for it.
One of the many reasons for Bronson’s success is that he has one of the best ears in the industry, and this proves vital to success of the album. With a couple of hugely successful mixtapes under his belt, his transition to a major label release has proved to be an evolution rather than a compromise. In typical Bronson fashion he starts off the album singing the lyrics to Billy Joel’s ‘Zanzibar’ over a piano sample from the song, a perfect reminder that Bam Bam is still the showman he will always be. But with major label backing Bronson has tailor picked an album to best suit himself. On ‘Actin Crazy’ he calls on Drake affiliate Noah “40” Shebib for a downbeat, spaced out playing field for Bronson to gloat “All I do is eat oysters, and speak six languages in three voices.” He once again teams up with the Alchemist of whom provides one of the album highlights with the sun soaked ‘Terry’ in which Bronson preaches his mantra “Smoke good, fuck, eat, drink, drive nice car, wear all green mink.” Bronson has used the aid of a major label to add a certain finesse to his first major release.
This isn't to say there aren’t any risks taken on ‘Mr. Wonderful’, in fact Bronson has made some major changes from what his fans have come to expect. We find Bronson entering new territory as he sings on a few songs such as ‘City Boy Blues.’ Coming as a surprise many may be put off, but as part of the character of ‘Mr. Wonderful’ his off key voice is oddly infectious. He again comes with another u-turn, with a number of tracks featuring next to no vocals. ‘The Passage’ being an example of this. Bronson spoke on how he wanted to create a feeling rather than a meaning, but the instrumentals cant help but feel bare without the touch of Mr. Wonderful himself.
However taking these oddball risks actually leads to the best song off the record and probably one with the most mass appeal, the Mark Ronson produced ‘Baby Blue.’ Serving as a duet with Chance the Rapper we find Action singing once again, as the two mull over past petty relationships with Chance serving up the best line “I hope your titties all saggy in your early 20’s, I hope there’s always snow in your driveway.”
‘Mr. Wonderful’ is a celebration of everything that Action Bronson embraces, from Billy Joel to mushrooms. Serving as a continuation of the same and an experimental playground for some new endeavours, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ is never once complacent, and as his first major label release he should be credited for that. A lot of rides on whether you buy into the persona of ‘Mr. Wonderful’. However if you do, by the time the ending track ‘Easy Rider’ finishes you are right on board riding the harley into the sunset.
Words: Jacob Roy