After working exclusively with Party Supplies on 2012’s Blue Chips and then Alchemist on Rare Chandeliers, Action Bronson tapped longtime collaborator and NYC whiz kid Harry Fraud for his latest body of work, Saaab Stories. For Bronson, even with the steady brilliance and brash wit that made the aforementioned projects so enjoyable, Fraud’s production matches his laconic delivery in a way that other producers’ work just hasn’t. This makes Saaab Stories a much more cohesive mixtape than it would have been otherwise.
When Harry Fraud is at his best, he’s crafting dreamscapes that transport listeners into some unreal world surrounded by gently swirling smoke where everything moves in slow motion. “Triple Backflip” embodies that world, with a beat that makes you feel as if you’re in the center of a universe that’s drifting indifferently around you, the lyrics layered gently in the atmosphere. Bronson doesn’t deviate far from his usual lyrical arsenal of food, sports and irreverent sexual imagery, but his tone does, allowing him to paint much darker pictures than fans have grown accustomed to.
Saaab Stories isn’t entirely dark—with Bronson, it never will be—and “No Time” and “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” offer up vivid quips and tongue-in-cheek references. “The Rockers” is a great example of this, where a shout out to an insignificant ’90s professional wrestler becomes an enthralling hook. It’s the second half of “Alligator” where Bronsolino takes his usual subject matter and flips it into a realm that he rarely visits. It’s not that he’s never alluded to pain and hardships before, but he’s never done it so hopelessly and without a hint of his goofball charm or a sly smile aimed toward redemption of some sort. It’s jarring and compelling, and it opens the door to a whole other planet of possibilities for him. It’s this track that makes it clear: Action Bronson’s no longer the one-dimensional rapper sucking on the G-Pen and laughing to himself in the corner while carving up a cheesesteak. He’s got a depth to him that’s beginning to emerge with regularity. It bodes well for the future.—Dan Rys (@danrys)