I skipped this column last week because the entire Stereogum crew was at SXSW, but a whole lot happened in the mixtape universe in the past two weeks. Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Allderice turns out to be a massively pleasant distillation of every float-rap thing that guy does right, and its release was such a big deal that it crashed online mixtape clearinghouse DatPiff. Lil B’s gargantuan God’s Father is a long trip through the more recognizably human parts of that maniac’s brain, and it’s the most fun thing he’s done in the past year or so. Gunplay’s Bogota Rich is a chaotic and explosive burst of rabid-pitbull threats, and it makes me want to put people’s faces through car windshields. And then there’s Titus Andronicus, one of the best rock bands on the face of the earth, who released a rarities collection as a mixtape this past week. But the real Mixtape Of The Week is also the best one I’ve heard all year, and maybe the best full-length I’ve heard in any genre.
For those who don’t know: Action Bronson is a massive, massively tattooed redbearded white rapper from Queens by way of Albania. He’s a classic New York shit-talker with a voice that will instantly remind you of Ghostface Killah, though his style has grown so distinct that nobody is likely to confuse the two ever again (more on that below). He floats from one random-ass pop-culture reference to the next, but he doesn’t make a huge show of it; it’s more the product of weed-addled synapses firing free-associatively. And his persona is that of a man with a powerful appetite for the finer things in live: Sex, drugs, and, most notably, food. (He worked as a gourmet chef before his rap days, and he talks about eating in a way that makes me think someone at the Food Network is right this second trying to figure out how to build a reality show around him.) Blue Chips pairs him with the Brooklyn producer and Fool’s Gold affiliate Party Supplies, whose hazed-out dank lopes fit his voice just perfectly.
Blue Chips opens with a drumless loop of strings, taken from some old pop record that I can almost but not quite identify. Bronson starts rapping like this: “Been on the honor roll / Sculptures of my body out in Nagano / My shorty features like Madonna.” Then he trails off: “I ain’t like that one.” Then he coughs. Then he mentions a bunch of sports things that don’t have anything to do with anything: “Giambi lenses. Ken Caminiti. Bosworth.” Then he starts rapping again.
When he’s rapping, it’s like he dives into his own brain, comes up with a few things he likes, and snaps together a few insanely slick rap lines in the amount of time it takes most of us to remember out own zipcode. But he’s also funny in the old ignorant headcrack New York rap way. His lines aren’t constructed like punchlines. They’re not constructed at all. They just happen. Consider this: “Green Tims / Out in Vegas, I’m like Steve Wynn / At the same time, fellatio from three twins / Those are triplets / I’ve been wilding since the rabbi snipped it / Then they laughed and made brisket / Fuck.” Or this: “Salamander tux / Fuckin’ Alabama butts / Unh! / We known to gallivant in trucks / With an Irish bitch to put a fuckin’ hammer to ya nuts.” You need to keep an active Wikipedia hand to get all his references, and even then you probably won’t. (I have no idea what “salamander tux” means, or if I even heard that right.) But even if half of it just floats right past you, you still get the main point: Action Bronson is having way more fun than you.
I loved Dr. Lecter, Bronson’s 2011 album, partly because of the funky neck-snap old-school beats from producer Tommy Mas. And even though I probably prefer Mas’s production style in isolation, Party Supplies is definitely a better producer for Bronson. The beats on Blue Chips stay out of Bronson’s way, but they also create their own little referential worlds, chopping up things like the Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You” and turning them into smoke-dazed head-trips. In a new Village Voice profile, Party Supplies talks about he and Bronson would put the songs together by going on epic YouTube benders, Bronson finding videos of whatever he was talking about and then Party Supplies using whatever audio he found to make beats on the spot. This would explain, then, how a song called “Ron Simmons,” named after the sort of legendary professional wrestler who’s only a legend if you’re already a huge wrestling fan, uses Simmons’s WWE-era catchphrase — “Damn!” — as part of its percussion track.
Those appetites, and that dense randomness, as well as the simple grain of Bronson’s voice, once made me think of Bronson as something like an extremely good Ghostface Killah tribute act. But Blue Chips, more than anything else he’s done, establishes Bronson as entirely his own thing, a lighthearted rap savant who loves words more than maybe any other rapper out right now. And because I just can’t help myself with this shit, here’s one more extended quote: “Shooting juice in my upper cheek / Shorty dripping like a tunnel leak / You know your whole team pussy like a muffin sheet / Stay balanced like a runner’s feet / It’s me.” It’s him.
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