Some weeks, I have to dig deep into the internet’s weirder recesses to find anything remotely worth writing about in this column. And some weeks, the deluge comes: A wave of mixtapes so good, and so varied, and so complicated that it almost doesn’t seem fair to pick one and then write about it. This is one of those weeks. In the past few days, we’ve been gifted with Heems’s delayed feverish head-trip Wild Water Kingdom. With Mykki Blanco’s knotty, club-friendly, gender-fucked, unapologetic Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/Ss. With Cities Aviv’s hissing postpunk rap experiment Black Pleasure. With Mouse’s Louisiana funk barrage Millionaire Dreamzzz. With French Montana’s mumblecore blockbuster Mac And Cheese 3. Any of these are worthy subjects for this column, and all of them come from fascinating and singular voices. But in a week where they’re up against fractured Queens glutton Action Bronson, following up my favorite mixtape of the year, all of them are out of luck.
Lately, Action Bronson’s been getting a bit of disdain from certain corners of the rap internet. On Twitter recently, Noz more or less dismissed him as a Ghostface imitator with a fat white nerd’s food fixations and terrible gender ideas — a shallow huckster who’s managed to sell his own free-associative nonsense to Tumblr types better than a more understated peer like Roc Marciano has. I can see this criticism, and to at least some extent, it’s one of the things I like about Bronson. His voice and delivery punch certain Pavlovian New York rap pleasure-receptors, but his whole outsized persona is just absurd. He’s the guy sweating in the kitchen, spending the dead stretches of time between the lunch and dinner rushes imagining himself as some avenging bad-guy Sam Kinison pimp, then somehow willing that goofy-ass persona into something resembling reality. His punchlines land hard, his dream-logic transitions are fun to follow, and he’s just savvy enough to make his particular epicurean halfassery sound amazing. He’s having more evident fun than almost anyone else in rap right now, and that matters.
Rare Chandeliers, which unites Bronson with busy veteran boom-bap mutator Alchemist, isn’t the equal of Blue Chips, its predecessor, mostly because its not as slapdash. On Blue Chips, Bronson and producer Party Supplies found sloppy nirvana by throwing beats together with the same no-fucks-given improvisational elan that animates Bronson’s rapping. Bronson names a song after WCW legend Ron Simmons, so Party Supplies turns Simmons’s trademark interjection (“Damn!”) into part of the beat. Even at their most heady, Alchemist’s tracks come with a grander sweep than that; his current style is stoner-rap as rendered by someone who knows what it’s like to have his beats in heavy rotation. Bronson’s not as great a match for Alchemist as, for instance, Curren$y, Alc’s partner on last year’s great Covert Coup mixtape. But it’s still fun to hear Bronson on a more cleaned-up version of his regular sound, and this is still very much a Bronson mixtape.
Both guys here have great taste in collaborators: Schoolboy Q breathing fire on “Demolition Man,” Sean Price acting unjustifiably confident on “Blood Of The Goat,” old Bronson buddies Meyhem Lauren and Ag Da Coroner doing hallucinatory tough-guy head-knocker stuff on the excellently titled “Sylvester Lundgren.” (Ag: “I’m Dexter with the blood-spatter / Have you shaking in the backseat with JFK, covered in brain matter.”) But this is all Bronson’s show, and that means that I was severely tempted to do nothing but quote his lines in this post. So fuck it, I’ll end this by quoting a bunch of his lines: “Put my head right through the Monet / Olé! / All the drugs I smoke, my lungs are prob’ly coal-grey.” “Live the rest of my days on top of mountain / Everything is free-range, piranha in the fountain.” “Sick shit like Ferrara with the footage / Stick shift in Ferrari, oh my goodness.” “Behind-the-back pass, Arvydas Sabonis / Rare intelligence, you know I’m smoking weed in diplomas / Catch a case, then I flee to Tacoma / Come back, new face, 103 and Corona.” And maybe the least seductive sex-talk line I’ve ever heard: “My bitch thick like Jon Lovitz.” I could go on. I just love this fucking guy.
Download Rare Chandeliers for free here.