A larger than life former Albanian chef from Queens, Action Bronson treats the art of making hip-hop much like how he approaches cuisine. After a gauntlet of mixtapes and multiple collaborations with producers like Party Supplies and Statik Selektah, Bronson has finally released Mr. Wonderful, the culmination of the sound and image he’s been uncompromisingly striving for since 2011. Bronson’s major label debut features a vast amount of genre bending influences that are layered within the beat production. For instance, “Only in America” featuring Bronson’s close friend and producer Party Supplies has a very strong 80’s power rock influence to it, which shows the vast growth and variety Bronson has imbued in his effort to create a promising debut.
With the very opening electric guitar riff of “Only in America” it is quite clear this is nothing like Bronson’s previous work. Having already created a lengthy catalog of work with Party Supplies (Blue Chips 1 and 2), it is easy to understand that the rapper/producer duo’s musical relationship has developed into a fruitful partnership that has allowed them to experiment with new elements on this album. The Rising, featuring an “inspired” spoken word outro from Bronson’s cousin and frequent collaborator, Big Body Bes, showcases one of the most bombastic (and frankly best) instrumentals of the year, and Bronson glides over the beat as he tends to do, handling instrumentals that have such heft with a nonchalant but composed hand.
The production of this album is key to what makes it unique from Bronson’s previous records. Bronson took a unique direction and got the services of Mark Ronson (of Uptown Funk fame) to executive produce and provide guidance throughout the album. Recruiting Ronson was a smart move for Bronson, as this is not Ronson’s first time producing rap projects (he at one point executive produced rapper Wale’s music), nor is it the first time Ronson has scored a musical hit (see Uptown Funk as the most recent example). The song “Baby Blue” with Chance the Rapper is undeniably Bronson’s ticket to the hit league. Bronson’s partnership with Mark Ronson is in full effect here, and Chance the Rapper’s closing verse is a standout with elements of awkward hilarity that only make the song more enjoyable. Baby Blue brings out a more tender side of Bronson that is rarely seen in his usual braggadocio lyrical abilities, and this combined with a production push from Mark Ronson, makes the song a notable component of the New York MC’s official album debut.
The only issue with the album falls in the fact for most of Bronson’s very new career, he has stuck to the formula of songs that has worked for him, and only with his debut album has he concerted a larger effort to try new things, and as a result he is still finding a niche sound and approach that suits him. The album is relatively cohesive but tends to drag in places, and showcases a lack of variety that has plagued some of his other projects. “The Passage (Live From Prague)”, the penultimate track on the album that seems to be some sort of interlude, in particular is too long and drags, as does “Thug Love Story 2017: The Musical (Interlude)” in the same way. However, the album is laced with deft lyrical punchlines, zany food and pop culture references, Queen like production nuances, and Bronson’s larger than life mic presence, to make up for all of these low points.
Overall, Bronson’s first album for Atlantic Records is a solid effort that shows the true makings of a rapper that is here to stay. Bronson’s foray into genre bending and more experimentation proves that there is an outlet for growth in his craft and that perhaps we can hope for an even more polished endeavor with his musical projects after this.