A former chef with the build of a man who clearly took pride in his work, Queens rapper Action Bronson has a sophisticated palate. Throughout Blue Chips, his Reebok-sponsored mixtape with producer Party Supplies, Bronson glamorizes fine cuisine with the kind of fawning prose that harder rappers reserve for only the whitest cocaine. “Bone-marrow roasted, spread it on the rosemary bread lightly toasted, drizzle with the vinaigrette,” he raps on “Tan Leather.” On “Ron Simmons,” he binges on gypsy salami, wild dandelion greens, parmesan crisps, and hazelnut spread. His preferred way of blowing money is eating “expensive lunches, from the farm right to the table, aired straight to the plate.”
Bronson is an unlikely bon vivant, since outside of the kitchen his tastes are anything but refined. When he isn’t dressing a lamb rack with fennel or dining with prestigious chefs, he’s watching wrestling and referencing trash cinema or forgotten sports figures. He celebrates New York as much for its squalor as its restaurants, capturing the city as it’s been immortalized in so many ’80s movies: a lawless melting pot of prostitutes, junkies, and loudmouths, where couples argue through open apartment windows and public urination is the norm. He sympathizes with the city’s scofflaws and wastrels, even if he can’t resist cracking jokes as he details their sad routines. Even a would-be message track like the domestic-violence case study “Thug Love Story 2012” is riddled with low-key puns and pervy details. Bronson is a powerful storyteller who’s too amused by all the dirty thoughts and funny rhymes pouring out of his mouth to get too caught up in sentiment.
He’s also a virtual sound-alike for Ghostface Killah, rapping in the same unmistakable deluge of half-finished thoughts and breathless narration. Another rapper working in this style with the same punchline mindset and food obsession could easily come off as a jokey, Weird Al-ified Xerox of the Wu-Tang vet, but Bronson’s worldview and his idiosyncratic interests are so distinctive on Blue Chips that the resemblance is barely a distraction. If his solid 2011 debut Dr. Lecter left any doubt, Blue Chips settles it: Bronson is a great rapper, not just a guy who happens to sound like a different great rapper.
For his part, Party Supplies lays down certified NYC soul and funk beats, which he constructs from YouTube samples. The approach costs the mixtape some fidelity and polish—a sample in “Hookers At The Point” is briefly drowned out by the Mac volume-change blip—but lends it a rousing spontaneity. With an infinite archive of samples at his fingertips, he’s able to match the rapper thought for thought. When Bronson references a movie, Party Supplies samples it. When the tone of verse shifts abruptly, so does the beat. The duo reportedly culled samples together during freewheeling smoke sessions at Party Supplies’ studio, and as a result, the mixtape feels like a true collaboration in a way that most rapper/producer partnerships aren’t, a two-way conversation between a couple of talented guys with no shortage of wildly amusing things to say to each other.