If you consider Blue Chips 2 to be nothing more than an open practice on the playground, there’s a lot of fun to be had watching. If, like Bronson, you consider it to be an extended prequel to next year’s full label debut, Blue Chips 2 is full of plenty of reasons to be excited for 2014.
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Parker Evans is an economics senior and Mustang News music columnist.
It should say something that a 5’7″ overweight Albanian American with a ragged red beard draws continual comparisons to Ghostface Killah. Rap-wise, if not aesthetically, it’s a fair assessment, but it’s safe to say there’s nobody in the rap game quite like Action Bronson.
After leaving his job as a sous chef in his native New York, Bronson turned to rap, where he put to work the hustle he learned in the kitchen. Since 2011, he’s released seven full-length independent albums and mixtapes, but he made his major label debut in June with the EP Saaab Stories. Oh, and there’s a full release planned for early 2014. That work ethic combined with an unmistakable East Coast rap sensibility has earmarked Action Bronson as a fast-rising star and his newfound success has afforded him some of his favorite vices. In no particular order, Action Bronson loves good food, cars, dirty sex, weed and semi-obscure athletes.
His most recent release, Blue Chips 2, is mostly a two-man operation. Aside from a handful of scattered guest verses from Ab-Soul, Mac Miller and friends, Blue Chips 2 puts Action Bronson front and center, equips him with some mildly clever beats from producer Party Supplies and lets his charisma do the rest. Over the course of 19 tracks, Bronson makes a solid case for why he’s a rapper worth paying attention to.
The ambitious “Contemporary Man” is an impressive exercise. Party Supplies switches up the sample no less than five times, jumping from Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins (twice) to John Mellencamp. Action gamely tweaks his flow accordingly, but there’s not much rhyme or reason to the change-ups, save for a comical opportunity for Action to try his hand at ‘80s ballad-singing for a couple of lines. It’s not entirely fair to criticize a mixtape for lack of focus, but “Contemporary Man” is a prime example of the divergence of Blue Chips 2 from its predecessor.
One reason Action draws the Ghostface comparison is their shared penchant for narrative. “Thug Love Story 2012” on the original Blue Chips was a concentrated dose of New York realism, but the sequel doesn’t have any compelling stories at all. To keep you listening, Blue Chips 2 relies on a combination of Bronson’s punchy two-liners and some of Party Supplies’ more gimmicky samples. When they come together like they do on “Pepe Lopez,” which samples The Champs’ seminal “Tequila,” the results are electric, but even if the narratives aren’t there, Bronson’s eye for detail is as refined as his palate. “I had the fish it was delicious, had hibiscus syrup / Trips to Europe / B**** I’m here, cheer up,” he raps on the excellent second verse of “In The City.” Although Bronsoliño always makes sure to devote some time to cuisine and prostitutes, sports fans should get a kick out of shout-outs to Plácido Polanco and Nick Van Exel.
When it works, Bronson’s swagger is infectious. I think it’s safe to say there’s nobody else out there who can drop one-two “punches” like “ … steer the whip with one arm like Jim Abbott / Chocolate sauce over thin rabbit” on “Midget Cough.” Even so, for every time I laughed on Blue Chips 2, I cringed at an off-color line about Asian prostitutes or misogynistic toilet humor. Your mileage may vary, but at least Bronson thinks he’s funny. On the totally unedited “9.24.13,” it takes him three tries to get through the line “smoke budder the same color as The Weeknd” without laughing.
Reviewing a mix tape is always difficult. It’s hard to recommend to an unfamiliar listener something that requires actively seeking out a large collection of songs that are partially unfinished and unedited by the artist’s own admission. The centerpiece “Practice” opens with a clip from Allen Iverson’s famous 2002 press conference: “I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re in here talking about practice … ” Iverson says. “ … not a game, we talkin’ about practice.”
If you consider Blue Chips 2 to be nothing more than an open practice on the playground, there’s a lot of fun to be had watching. If, like Bronson, you consider it to be an extended prequel to next year’s full label debut, Blue Chips 2 is full of plenty of reasons to be excited for 2014. Either way, it’s a compelling release from one of rap’s more compelling artists.