Album of the Week: Action Bronson – Blue Chips 7000

When it comes to Action Bronson there’s very little that’s subtle or inconspicuous about the New York rapper. His style lands stinging blows across stuttering musical assemblages that steal from a vast palette of influences, while self-deprecating lyrics about food, the opposite sex, and smoking illicit substances bring Action Bronson’s wry and crass sense of  humour to the fore. His onstage antics, whether he’s handing out free steak dinners or fighting with security guards, are about as delicate as the monster truck he rides in his new video for Let me Breathe and have lived on in infamy, compounding on the caricature of the artist and the music.

But as the first stabs of Augusto Martelli’s piano leads the post-introduction to “Wolfpack” from Blue Chips 7000 it indicates a change of speed for Action Bronson’s music. Not so much in the character and the ego of the artist, but rather in the context it finds itself. The production duo Party Supplies, sets the tone for an album that lends more from Jazz than the Funk that Action Bronson’s previous records were known for. Long-term collaborators Alchemist, Knxwledge and Harry Fraud expound on this sound, softening the edges of Action Bronson’s sound on the third instalment of his  Blue Chip mixtape series.

Action Bronson, an American-Albanian born Ariyan Arslani, launched his career at the height of the online mixtape hype, heralded by the likes of Pitchfork and Fact Mag for his distinctly New York Boom-Bap style in the studio. A lauded New York chef, he took to music after breaking his leg, but can still be found in the kitchen for his Viceland show, “Fuck, That’s Delicious”. After a succession of mixtapes his Dr Lecter debut album caught the attention of the wider world in 2011, riding a tide of Hip Hop, that included the likes of  Chance the Rapper and Odd Future and their various solo projects. Two more albums followed including 2015’s Mr. Wonderful, by which time Action Bronson would start the first of the Blue Chip mixtape series with Party Supplies. Blue Chip 7000 is the last of these mixtapes and the only one to receive a physical release.

Blue Chip 7000 dials down the bright staccato stabs of earlier Action Bronson releases in favour of something a little more refined, coming together around unlikely samples from Erykah Badu, Akula Owu Onyeara, and Leo’s Sunshipp. Rhodes electric pianos playing around syncopated rhythms and elastic bass lines conjuring expressive melodies combine in cohesive tracks, that saunter around the lower tempos. Arslani’s lyrics are as coarse as ever, bringing the elevated samples  back down to earth as he ponders familiar themes with his usual hubris and mordacity.

Action Bronson is still the larger than life presence that ties the record together, but the contrast between his rugged lyrical delivery and the production on Blue Chips 7000 make this record a very unique Hip Hop experience for 2018. He  had certainly taken the funk sound of Action Bronson’s earlier records to their conclusion on Mr. Wonderful and Blue Chips 7000, makes a refreshing change of pace for New York rapper.