Review: Action Bronson, Blue Chips 7000

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Action Bronson Blue Chips 7000

During the first stretch of the decade, Action Bronson seemed like Ghostface Killah doing Danny Brown one-liners, one of the better rappers to grace beats by Harry Fraud and responsible for one of the Alchemist’s best projects in Rare Chandeliers. During this time, he released the first two instalments of Blue Chips; his love for older music (especially the 70s and 80s) giving producer Party Supplies an excuse to create beats out of fairly obvious samples (including but not limited to big hits by Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Dean Martin). To put it bluntly, I thought his major record debut sucked. Wishing for something more in-line with what he had been putting out for years, he opted to sing more (when he can’t sing) and rap less. I agree with his defense on Twitter against the backlash: “GOOD MUSIC IS GOOD MUSIC”; Mr. Wonderful just didn’t have much of that.

No longer under the pressure of a major record debut, he returns with something more in-line with what he had been putting out for years, capping off the aforementioned Blue Chips trilogy with the 7000th installment. There’s a key difference this time: Blue Chips 7000 is out on Atlantic, which means sample clearance issues that won’t let him so easily get away with “Silverado”, so the production rosters opens up: Party Supplies gets joined by the Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Knxwledge and Daringer. Which means this is a Blue Chips album in name only. Which is fine: Bronson still creates a respectable hip-hop trilogy (not many of those), and gives us his most worthwhile long-player since 2012’s Rare Chandeliers.

It helps that Blue Chips 7000 cuts out the bullshit of “Brand New Car” or interludes/codas of Mr. Wonderful that a more conceptually-minded artist could’ve pulled off; the only skippable moments are the skits that introduce songs (including him and his mother (?) smoking a joint on “Wolfpack” and a woman moaning on “Let It Rain”). Second-tier songs still offer some pleasures: both “My Right Lung” and “TANK” are worth it to hear Bronson at his most sincere. On the former, Bronson laments, “I’d give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time” while Harry Fraud offers an organ-led instrumental that’s both bright and soulful enough to add weight to those lines. On the latter, “I do it for myself because there should’ve been a sequel / But there was complications during birth …” comes out of nowhere. (Shame about the stilted beat.) And I wish “Chop Chop Chop” closed the album instead of “Durag vs. Headband,” a Knxwledge beat that admittedly has a good knock from the bass and drum, but not enough to carry Bronson on its own. (One cool moment, when the heavenly spotlight comes down to “Don't make me bring the white guitar out / Like the one in Wayne's World / That was shining in the window”).

Bronson’s style is still problematic to me. Some of his lines are funny: “Wolfpack”’s second verse starts with “This dick'll make an R&B chick write a song / About the rain when it falls and the pain that it causes” and goes on to tell you that “You smoke little blunts like Kevin Hart's arms.” And some are clever for their rhymes: he follows the Kevin Hart line up with “My bloodline predate Aardvark and large shark / And cookin’ flesh off of charred bark” and/or the image they evoke, like “Let It Rain”’s “But the fact is, I stand alone like cactus / Hide money under tempurpedic mattresses.” But some of them are absurd for absurdity’s sake, which is to say, there’s nothing to be gained from “This is Blue Chips 7 not Usher” or “I’m in a club with a condom on.” Elsewhere, the only reason “The Choreographer” works is because of Daringer’s great beat (the vocals just gliding over the liquid bass); the entire first verse is non-clever brags set to rhyme and the second verse is a write-off.

Which brings me to the beats, which are appropriately retro and luxurious to match Bronson’s lifestyle, while varied enough to keep listeners engaged. “Wolfpack” doesn’t bother with a hook so Party Supplies finds a hooky horn line to evoke summer parties (backed by bongos and connected by a keyboard line); Knxwledge bringing the party to the beach on “Hot Pepper”; Harry Fraud moving it to the club on “Let Me Breathe” and to the pool for “9-24-7000.” And the Alchemist more than makes up for “TANK”; “La Luna” starts oddly at first, with the beat far-away and letting Bronson take the spotlight before the Alchemist unveils the curtains for the funkiest beat on the album. (Though I really wish this track did away the skit; the sequencing throws the album off a little.) And on the other side of the album, bringing in the electric guitar that Bronson has sounded so good over in the past (i.e. “The Symbol”) and filling in the empty space with stretched vocal loops. Having briefly lost me with Mr. Wonderful, I’m glad to have Bronson back, especially if he keeps making quality projects like this one. His prolific-ness seems to have waned (understandable, given his other interests outside of music), but I’m hoping that this one generates enough positive reception to get him back on track again. B PLUS