Action Bronson could’ve been a lot of things. He’s got extraordinary talent as a culinary artist, (just peep his incredible internet cooking show, Fuck, That’s Delicious) he’s got the persona of a professional wrestler, and the build of a celebrity bodyguard or mafia boss—but thankfully after a broken leg that sidelined him from the kitchen, Bronsolino decided on rapping and hasn’t looked back since. Bronson has been established his stardom within the mixtape world by linking up with incredible producers (Alchemist, Party Supplies and Harry Fraud to name a few) and crafting incredibly polished, cohesive, wholesome projects that are proficient at balancing cutthroat bars and an incredibly diverse and interesting character. In fact, the most gravitating aspect of Action Bronson is his character above all else—his raps and music videos often portray him being an outrageously humorous and kick-ass movie lead, yet every so often he has lines or songs in general that peek into his personal life to bring him back down to Earth. Bronson’s character is as intriguing and outrageous as someone like Riff Raff, but has the personable and relatable qualities to steer clear from fiction, making it very clear that Action Bronson is unapologetically and entirely himself. Bronson brings his bizarre, quirky bravado and much more to his anticipated debut studio album, Mr. Wonderful.
Usually, an Action Bronson project starts off with an incredibly hard beat with rhymes to match, but the Flushing, Queens native instead begins his debut with ‘Brand New Car’, with a beaming and jazzy Mark Ronson beat and Action singing as a Glee-club member before introducing everyone to his outrageous self with bars like “Yo, fuck this jacket I turn this shit to 85 napkins/Since Jeter’s done I’m now the captain” and my personal favorite, “I’m by the bar lookin’ Swedish in the trenchcoat stupid/The only one drinkin’ mango lassi in the bullpen”. Everything here is just as we expected—Bronson flaunting his ability to simultaneously dip into worlds of luxury while still hanging with the grimy gangsters of his hometown, his incredibly specific and quirky food obsessions, and women being objectified in some lines while also being muses of love and heartbreak in others. After this incredible introduction, we are greeted with more glistening bangers like ‘Terry’ with a gliding, soulful sample-based beat courtesy of familiar friend Alchemist, and the standout single ‘Actin Crazy’ with an incredibly modern take on the signature New York-banger crafted by none other than Drake’s right hand man, 40. Action nails the hook and effortlessly crashes it into his verses as the kicks knock and the snares roll, and raps as iron-tough as ever.
‘Falconry’ possesses the possibility for a street-single with it’s organ-based bounce and Bronson trading gut-busting punchlines with friend and frequent collaborator, Mayhem Lauren, and the always quotable, always extraordinary Big Body Bes who exits the track with what might be the hardest bar on the album: “She only loves me when i’m naked”. There are more memorable lines here, but the monotony of the record begins to set in, just before Action switches it up for the ‘Thug Love Story 2017’ segment of the album. Yes, Action Bronson randomly placed a four-song conceptual “musical” on his debut album. It begins with an interlude that sounds like a street-singer belting out a heartbreaking tale of an unfaithful woman, and spirals into songs like ‘City Boy Blues’ and ‘A Light in the Addict’. The former has Bronson and guest vocalist Chauncey Sherod trading heartbreakingly soulful lines on a jazzy, almost country-style instrumental. It’s ambitious, sure, but ultimately comes across a little dull and draws on too long for any taste.
Thankfully, it transitions into the aforementioned ‘A Light in the Addict’ produced and featuring Party Supplies, featuring one of the most unique instrumentals on the project and an incredible performance from every member involved. Bronson’s rhymes are up to snuff with hilariousness like “Have a fuckin’ sleepover with my weapons/My Rambo knife is eating nuggets with my Smith & Wesson”, before Bronson and Black Atlass break it down blues-style with a gorgeous hook. The musical is concluded with another album standout, ‘Baby Blue’ featuring a verse from Chance the Rapper, a signature funky Mark Ronson beat, and additional writing from former BBC Radio kingpin, Zane Lowe. Action laments and grieves over a love lost while Chance wishes horrible things on an old flame, like “I hope every soda you drink already shaken up” or, “I hope your titties all saggy in your early 20’s”. Ouch. Bronson takes another risk with including ‘The Passage’, a live jam session recorded in a concert in Prague that is instrumentally amazing, but really only serves as an aimless transition into the album closer and lead single, ‘Easy Rider’. This song is again instrumentally unique, and features Bronson flowing to perfection before the album closes as he rides “the Harley into the sunset”.
Mr. Wonderful might be a fun and fulfilling first listen, but is not without it’s lulls and it’s dull moments in general. Although this might be expected in some capacity with a project that takes as many risks as Mr. Wonderful, the ultimate gripe found with this project is it’s lack of insight into Action Bronson as a person. Fans and Bronsolino-first timers alike might walk away with this project with plenty of quotable and Big Body monologues, but they will also leave without any real revelation about the real person behind the mic. Sure, Bronson might be the most interesting character in rap music right now, but without any real, touching personal moments on the record, the listener is left to believe Bronson is just as enigmatic as he was before the album started.
Mr. Wonderful might be filled to the brim with over-the-top punchlines, hilarious Twitter-material, instrumentally daring and ambitious, and undisputedly great car music, but lacks in furthering any personal storylines from the life or back-story of Bronson, and conclusively leaves listeners learning nothing new about the Queens MC. Still, the album is still a great addition to the Action Bronson catalog and is an absolute blast to listen to, and is still packed full of Bronson’s idiosyncratic persona, his alluring rap-image, and of course, his vigorously hard bars. Mr. Wonderful is an incredibly entertaining listen, but is missing a piece or two to really make this debut a rewarding, refreshing experience.