It’s difficult to tell whether beard rap apologist Action Bronson hates lesbians or is completely obsessed with them. Either way, the word dyke makes plentiful appearances on the Flushing, Queens MC’s latest collaboration with veteran L.A. producer Alchemist, “Rare Chandeliers.” Were it not for the hash-stained big boy spliffs that perpetually hang from Bronson’s lips in interviews, videos, and concerts, one might guess that the workwear draped MC had just chopped down an entire forest somewhere in British Columbia (to the soundtrack of ‘Superfly’). Bronson has been known to instagram snapshots of duck confit and compose deeply offensive tweets about your mom’s p****, and then rap about it. This character is in fine form on “Rare Chandeliers,” as the 320-pound chef-turned-rapper curates an exhaustive thirteen-course rehashing of 90’s rap, the art of braggadocio, and your mom’s p****.
The recent Warner/Vice signee has had an enormous year, releasing two mixtapes, two full-length albums and a number of show-stealing guest verses, all of them brimming with his signature tightly-packed syllables and gourmet witticisms. While his debut “Dr. Lecter” (produced entirely by unheralded New York beatsmith Tommy Mas) might remain his chef-d’oeuvre, “Rare Chandeliers” is his tangiest, most sonically dynamic offering yet.
The most distinctive aspect of “Chandeliers” is the effect the Alchemist’s rich extraterrestrial soundscapes have had on Bronson’s flow and cadence; the producer sneakily teleports Bronson’s 90’s rap aesthetic into an all-audio 70’s Blaxploitation flick. After establishing himself as one of the foremost purveyors of that grimey New York sound of Mobb Deep in the early 2000s, the Alchemist went into relative hiding for a half decade or so, recently exploding into an enormously productive 2012. On “Rare Chandeliers,” he weaves the skull-breaking hard drums that have historically characterized his signature sound into the more abstract and experimental layerings he’s been exploring in recent years past.
Bronson effervescently floats above in a smoke-spewing spaceship, grafting various non-humble brags and iterations of his preference in females onto his signature nasal flow. The project’s lead single, ‘The Symbol,’ received a zany and hilarious blaxploitation-style music video recently – Harvard rap nerds like myself will rejoice at its shout-out to the illustrious institution: “My brain was sculpted at Harvard.” The reference makes an uncomfortable amount of sense alongside the song’s introductory spoken credo: “Fuckin’ throw up on the floor shit. Get the cleanin’ lady, my bad.” I digress.
On the album’s centerpiece, ‘Randy The Musical,’ the duo rifle through beats, the Alchemist shifting the dial frantically at Bronson’s command between three barely-contiguous productions. Action sounds like a hungry 007 atop a triumphant arrangement of Motown horns, bragging: “Drivin’ gloves with some Asian bitches rubbin’ me with some sponges/ Expensive lunches, wagers offa hunches.” After briefly jogging over a gritty, whirring two-note loop that sounds like a refracted RZA beat, Bronson interrupts Alchemist again, requesting that he, “slow it down a little man, slow it down 30 gigahertz.” The chemist finally finds the right groove: an ice cold, mellow collection of Rhodes keys and yawning strings. Bronson hits the nail on the head, proclaiming that his “Kush is by prescription, prolific in the kitchen/ People on my dick because I’m vicious with the diction.” The song contains everything that is right with “Rare Chandeliers.”
‘Demolition Man’ is another standout; Schoolboy Q’s frantic ad-lib-laden tough guy talk provides a welcome alternative to Bronson’s hypersyllabic routine. While Q arguably steals the show, Action still sprinkles in the song’s most memorable line: “I lace my shoes tight, I’m ready for the paper chase/ I like my girls with African bodies and Asian face.” Bronson invites New York’s underground champ Roc Marciano to a toe-to-toe on ‘Modern Day Revelations,’ a bombastic soul-shifting Alchemist backdrop. Marciano lays rich, menacing punchlines in a gravelly baritone: “The older ladies scream preach, my gun was in reach/ We run the streets, rock fleece and bubble geese.” On ‘Bitch I Deserve,’ Bronson and Evidence go head-to-head with a wistful arrangement of keys and horns. Bronson does what he does best, tying five tightly-wrought syllables into a chuckling reiteration of the classic “have sex with lots of girls” rap motif: “Strip a vixen out the blouse/ Put the pickle in her pouch.” The project’s finale, ‘Michael Vick,’ will most likely be decried by the perpetually, endlessly hatin’ ass organization called PETA. Action Bronson gets existential with the animal brutality trope: “When you down the people kick you, when you up the bitches lick you/ Chill dogs, don’t wanna have to Michael Vick you.”
I could keep trying to produce fancy words about my favorite moments in the album, but put basically: “Rare Chandeliers” will have you chuckling and choking on smoke, while you feel like an asshole. There’s only one semi-dud on the project: the Styles P-featuring ‘Gateway to Wizardry,’ so it’s pretty impossible to get bored for the just under 40 minutes Bronson raps for. Need I say more? Probably not. Action Bronson doesn’t give a flying f***, or – for that matter – a stinking s***, what I think.