Arian Arslani—better known as Action Bronson—was a well-respected chef in New York City when he broke his leg. After that, he turned all of his attention toward making rap music—something I’m grateful for. Bronson’s major label debut Mr. Wonderful was released on March 23. He’s promoted the album heavily in the past month, appearing on shows like ESPN2’s “Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable.” There was a lot of hype surrounding Mr. Wonderful, and it does not disappoint.
The record opens with “Brand New Car,” an upbeat song that starts with a piano riff reminiscent of a show tune. After a few lines of nonsensical lyrics, Bronson abruptly stops and says, “Ahem, let me get my voice right, Gary. Sorry, one, two, three, four!” The absurdity of lines like that is one reason why Bronson has become so popular. His music is not primarily focused on lyricism, but rather centered on having fun.
One of my favorite things about the album is the utilization of real instruments instead of relying primarily on synthesized sounds—something we see all too much of in rap music today. Nearly every track on the album uses a keyboard as a primary source of sound.
The best song on Mr. Wonderful is probably “A Light in the Addict.” The song delves into Bronson’s increased drug use due to his newfound fame. “Sittin’ first class, feeling like shit though/ … /thinkin’ if I jump, will I feel it when I hit the ground?”
“A Light in the Addict” is much more somber than the other songs on the album. Bronson raps a verse and a chorus, and then the rest of the song is instrumental. The long instrumental part allows for self-reflection in the middle of the album, bringing the audience back to reality.
“Baby Blue” features Chance the Rapper. Chance—a 21-year-old from Chicago—adds an element of lyricism that Bronson doesn’t always bring to the table.
The second to last song on the album “The Passage (Live from Prague)” is a unique song for a rap album––it’s nearly four minutes long and entirely instrumental. It serves as a bridge flowing straight into “Easy Rider,” which sounds like a hardcore psychedelic remix of a Grateful Dead song with rap lyrics over it. This eclectic combination is hauntingly beautiful and makes for a great listening experience.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a rap album with deep, complex lyrics, go for Kendrick Lamar. Mr. Wonderful is full of one-liners, but it’s first and foremost a fun album that’s easy to listen to.