Yes, the similarities in their vocals are undeniable, but the fact is very few rappers are as arresting on the microphone as Ghostface is, weaving phrases together that shouldn’t make sense and somehow spinning sense into them. Action Bronson can’t, or at least, doesn’t do that. Like other internet-born rappers (think: Danny Brown), Action Bronson’s style relies heavily on absurdity first and foremost and narrative second (Ghostface is the opposite). He’s best at dropping one-or-two-liners of the memorable, meme-ready quality—often about food or women—that are practically built for people to tweet or compilations over at complex.com. Pitchfork’s Jordan Sargent dubs them “little dioramas”, and that basically sums it up. “Why the fuck would I have a bodyguard / When I look just like the motherfucking bodyguard?” he yells over silence in the middle of “Silverado” is the earliest such example, but there are plenty laced throughout Blue Chips 2.
Unfortunately, a lot of the problems on Blue Chips 2 has nothing to do with Action Bronson—it’s because of producer Party Supplies. It might seem like a match made out of heaven; Party Supplies enjoys a back-to-basics approach where Action Bronson so obviously thrives and he has a predilection for rummaging through Youtube for samples that match Action Bronson’s absurdity. Unfortunately, he’s a far cry from Harry Fraud, who had given Action Bronson seven choice beats to rap over on the Saaab Stories EP released earlier this year. That being said, to his credit, Party Supplies does have the versatility that Harry Fraud often gets praised with. A quick preview of the first five tracks will tell you that much: “Silverado” is a piano-driven banger; “Intro”, with its skygazing fingerpicked guitar could have been fleshed out into a cloud rap track; the “Tequila” sampling “Pepe Lopez” is a spirited dance party; “The Don’s Cheek” is a decent ‘90s throwback and “It Concerns Me” features heliumed-soul that we once heard so much from Kanye West a decade ago. Elsewhere, the instrumental of “It’s Me” could have been an advertisement for a Hawaiian resort; it wouldn’t surprise me if the sample was actually taken from one.
That certainly sounds impressive, but unfortunately, a lot of the songs on Blue Chips 2 are just there—there’s no attempt to make most of these songs go anywhere. The additional fact that this one is 19 tracks long (the largest number of tracks on any Action Bronson effort so far) doesn’t help their cause. Party Supplies will take a sample (often from a well-known source, no less), add drums underneath (if we’re lucky) and then loop it. For example, that’s the case with both “Silverado” (with drums!) or “Amadu Diablo” (no drums!). I’m actually irked that he decides to end either song with letting the original sample sources’ hook run just once (Elton John’s “Island Girl” and Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” respectively), as if to tell us where the song’s sample came from, or else an incredibly lazy excuse for the new song’s own hook. There are tons of other examples, and most of them do thankfully survive because of the rapping; Action Bronson squeezes the hilarious “I nutted in three strokes / Shit, now that’s no way to rep the East Coast” on “Amadu Diablo”, while Ab-Soul provides a solid verse on “Through the Eyes of a G”.
Meanwhile, only a few of the longer tracks are worth their time. “Rolling Thunder”, complete with lines like “She took a bump then started dancing like Elaine Benes” and “I’m rare like a fucking Asian playing hockey”, has the best beat on the album, thanks to soul sample and the stuttering drums underneath (made even more prominent in the instrumental outro). On the other hand, “9.24.13”—the sequel to Blue Chips’ “9-24-11”—squanders its psychedelic beat by wasting time through Bronson’s telling and re-telling and another re-telling of how he rigged game 7 of 1995’s Eastern Conference Finals and later, Bid Body Bes doing whatever it is Big Body Bes normally does on the song’s outro.
Even the oft-talked about “Contemporary Man” is just a smorgasbord of small songs stitched together, which wouldn’t be so much a problem if the stitches weren’t so visible. For example, I have no idea what the unmistakable and brief appearance Phil Collins’ is doing there, other than briefly reuniting with Peter Gabriel (also sampled on the same track). Elsewhere, songs often start or end with a sample or skit and you’ll be lucky if half of them are funny in any way; I laughed the first time I heard the incredibly long list of doctor’s warnings that end “It’s Me”, before I realized it occupies exactly a minute out of a track that runs for 2:20. That being said, I do like Action Bronson’s stoned out “I look European on the—on the screen” (“You definitely look European!”) that opens “In the City” while closer “I Adore You”—whose drums too minimalistic for its own good—exists only for his vulnerable outro, “What I would do without you? I need you…Please, don’t go.”
Blue Chips 2 certainly has enough tracks that make it a worthy addition to Action Bronson’s growing prolificness, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it could have been if Party Supplies expanded on his ideas instead of just giving them to us as they were.
// Notes from the Road
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