Action Bronson: Rare Chandeliers

Action Bronson teams with the Alchemist to release a free album that may be the most absurd, hilarious hip-hop release since Ghostface Killah's Pretty Toney.

Action Bronson

Rare Chandeliers

Label: Vice
US Release Date: 2012-11-15
UK Release Date: 2012-11-15

When Action Bronson, for all intents and purposes, debuted two years ago with Dr. Lecter, he presented rappers of these days and times with the perfect template to instantly attract the eyes and ears of hip-hop addicts young and old alike. The former chef appeared fully formed from the jump, equal parts Ghostface Killah and Big Punisher (to my ears, mostly the latter) and entirely absurd. He was spitting comedy bars with all the seriousness of a Wu-Tang weed carrier – which is to say, a lot of seriousness. This quickly aligned Bronson with the more absurd traditions of New York rap, where wordplay and imagery takes an extreme front seat to plausibility.

In this form, Bronson could do as Pun did and play the role of player despite his extreme weight, and he could do as is every rapper's desire and play at stick-up man without any evidence to suggest he knew what he was talking about. It's a realm most rappers don't dare to enter – "Bird on a Wire" collaborator Riff Raff probably comes closest – where goofiness trumps talent, or realness. To Bronson's great credit, free release Rare Chandeliers confirms that Bronson may still lack the latter but he's in considerable possession of the former. Bronson's not necessarily the storyteller GFK is, but he sure knows how to collage words the way this album's cover does images.

It helps that this free LP/mixtape is entirely helmed by Los Angeles' the Alchemist, who may have made his name on early-2000s boom bap but has really come into his own in the last couple of years by embracing the weed rap circle and becoming one of hip-hop's most straight forwardly psychedelic producers. His increasing friendship with Madlib's brother Oh No appears to have rubbed off with him in all the right ways, as he creates a cinematic environment throughout Rare Chandeliers that doesn't feel too far from classic '70s blaxploitation – an irony that's not easily lost on either he nor Bronson, both white and apparent fetishists of a culture twice removed from themselves.

Album closer "Mike Vick", for example, lays out a template that would have felt right at home backing a driving montage from TNT Jackson while Bronson claims "Tandoori half-moons [are] in my haircut." It's a totally meaningless piece of imagery, given the Tandoor is a clay oven used to cook Indian dishes and has little to do with half-moons other than a restaurant in Half Moon Bay, California. And this is one of Bronson's tamer images. Lead single "The Symbol" will find the 300-plus pound rapper "handspring, half-twistin' to the Buick". This is not the only gymnastic move Bronson will bust out before the album's done.

Bronson – and, for the moment, Alchemist – approach rap like a Mr. Show or The State sketch. Throw ridiculous shit at the wall, and don't hope it sticks – make sure it does. Plenty of the lines Bronson proposes on Rare Chandeliers could one day be looked at by this generation the way Reggie Noble's "Switchin' speeds like Bruce Lee on a Fuji in a movie" has been revered for decades now. And if there's any question in your mind that Rare Chandeliers is a love letter to hip-hop, try to argue against the final third of "Eggs on the Floor", where Bronson impersonates mainstream Fat Joe atop a beat that's inarguably old school, Diggin' in the Crates Joe of the mid-'90s.

The overall effect of Rare Chandeliers is probably the most enjoyable straight up rap exhibition since Curren$y's Pilot Talk. Which, if you may have been turned off by due to Curren$y's laconic weed head drawl, Action Bronson is well prepared to smack you with a much more traditionally accepted delivery. Just getting an album that one could comfortably compare to Pilot Talk on a technical level is enough for me, but add often gut-bustingly hilarious punchlines and the cinematic flair of Alchemist's beats and you've got, for my money, the most immediately entertaining rap album that's dropped all year.

And it's completely free, because it's 2012 and the rap industry is insane.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.