Music

Strange Appetites

Action Bronson's Big Adventure

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IT'S ONE of the most iconic film scenes of my lifetime: In a grimy biker bar, about to get his teeth knocked out, Pee-wee Herman grabs some platform shoes, cues "Tequila" on the jukebox, and jumps up on a table.

The dance that follows is a lot like Action Bronson: equal parts childish and perverse.

Come to think of it, Pee-wee's got plenty in common with Bronson, the rotund rapper from Queens (born Arian Asllani). Both tug nostalgically at our hearts. Both are winking, goofy, and great for parties. And both have offended with unbridled sexual displays.

As such, I recently sought a pair of neutral ears and cranked up Bronson's latest mixtape, Blue Chips 2, in the car. My passenger bounced along with "Pepe Lopez" (which samples the aforementioned "Tequila"). I skipped ahead to "Contemporary Man," a ludicrous dial-spin of '80s hits that leaps abruptly from one iconic hook to the next, including Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," Phil Collins' "Sussudio," as well as John Cougar and Huey Lewis. One of Bronson's lines took my passenger out of the moment.

"Ewwwww," she squealed, repeating the line: "'Eat your pussy with a plastic bag covering that.' What the fuck?"

Indeed, Bronson takes his licks, too, from critics who find his sexual fascinations limiting. Perhaps they'd prefer the former chef rap more about food.

What I hear, though, is a guy putting out, stream-of-conscious style, everything that pops into his head, be it appetite or nonsense, as long as both the rhymes and images twist. Besides, there's plenty more about Bronson to talk about. Without being a biter, his tonality and cadence are greatly reminiscent of Ghostface. And he's prolific, releasing something like six albums/mixtapes and two EPs since 2011. His mixtapes are mixtapes in the more traditional sense: Bronson just raps, no choruses, no reliance on vocal hooks, and when ideas run their course they simply move on—as if he views the songs more like sketches. Whatever you call 'em, they're great for parties, as the beats are all buttery, warm, scratchy soul.

Back in 2011, New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica wrote: "Action Bronson is one of the most promising prospects in New York hiphop." And while he's no longer just a prospect, Bronson remains one of New York's finest.

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