Loma Vista Recordings
There’s a certain flavour to a lot of New York hip hop that rises to the palate, even through roughly five decades of evolution – especially when it comes to the various kingpins of the five boroughs. It’s the sound of the come-up, and the celebration of hard won success in arguably the world’s most competitive city.
One could argue that Action Bronson, 14 years into a stellar career built on a bedrock of braggadocio and a love of old school jazz, funk and fusion influences, is approaching kingpin status. Whereas many of his modern peers have abandoned the classic influences of older hop hop in favour of a clinical, hollow sparseness in both sound and flow, Action supplies a fat blunt before setting the table for a veritable feast. And then, when the meal is finished, he slams you through said table.
These analogies are not careless – AB’s lyrics are flavoured by a love of good food, great weed and old school pro wrestling. His sexual appetites match that of his culinary ones, and his ego rises to the occasion of both. This is the music of plenty: A bounty of stylistic influences, with a lust for life that has not dimmed with accumulated success.
It’s refreshing to see a regular, sustainable level of arrogance in a modern rapper, with the genre polluted and diluted by the god complexes of mental children with little to no talent. The success is acknowledged, but no laurels are rested on. Latest album Cocodrilo Turbo is a fine example: It’s a breezy, yet satisfying 30 minute adventure through a musical jungle that packs more into that time than most of his contemporaries manage in several albums. It’s a mostly laidback affair, luxuriating in the warmth of it’s old school sound without indulging cliche, and never resting long enough to become stagnant.
There’s not really a standout track on the album, and that’s not a bad thing – it feels like a multi-course meal to be consumed as a whole, the flavors working in relation to each other harmoniously. It follows previous outing Only For Dolphins in both the aquatic animal inagery, and the lushness of production, seeming almost like a sequel at times, but not derivatively.
Aggression comes in many forms, and while the delivery is laidback and the vibes are mellow, there is plenty of bite when needed; This is a grown ass, fully self made man in a genre needlessly obsessed with youth, and drowning in youthful insecurity. AB has the advantage of a timeless sound that follows clear musical and cultural lineage, playing the long game instead of grapsing desperately for the proverbial 15 minutes by wasting 10.
Older classics like ‘Mongolia’ and ‘The Chairman’s Intent’ show a mastery of the form fairly early in a career that has been built on careful iteration and exploration – a recipe refined over years, if you will. There is a density and variety to these musucal offerings, but no shortage of nuanced restraint either. Very few artists learn to let their music breathe this well, in any genre – and that’s as much about not pausing too long as it is about knowing when to pause.
Hip hop at it’s core is a melting pot, much like the great city that birthed it. It’s not about carbon copied drum triggers and mumbling monoculture, but a rich, complex bounty of flavour and culture, served here by a literal, certified chef of both music and cuisine.