In an age of Internet transparency, constructing a creative narrative has almost replaced projecting authenticity as a viable marketing strategy. Action Bronson is possibly the most eccentric character navigating rap these days, and his appeal lies mostly within the minute details of an absurd, carefully crafted, larger-than-life persona. The chef-turned-rapper knows all about balance—when an ingredient is necessary and when a precise, measured approach is required—and that has served him well in the creating hip-hop’s most blatantly ridiculous caricature. On his latest effort, Action Bronson proves that sequels don’t always fall short of marks set by lofty expectations; in fact, sometimes they outperform their predecessor.
From the outset, you know what this is: Blue Chips 2 is a depiction of immeasurable leisure and implausible overindulgence sold not as truth, but as pure entertainment. There is never a point that you are asked to buy into the accuracy of his wild proclamations or the veracity of his eccentric character—you are only asked to enjoy it. At one point he spouts, “I’m signing autographs in Spanish/I live with Michael Jackson’s anguish/Hop in the Vanquish and vanish off the manor in a strange manner/Aim the hammer at your dame’s bladder, like it ain’t matter.” That’s a microcosm of everything that makes Blue Chips 2 so superb: its improbability is so captivating it makes you abandon all logic.
Bronson’s product is never shrouded in mystery. You know what you’re getting: full-bodied exotic women in sports cars performing lewd sexual acts, Bronson doing jiu-jitsu or martial arts of some kind in designer apparel, pop culture references implemented with cinematic flair, and polished culinary metaphors that’d make Bobby Flay blush. Since late 2011, he has released a project every 6 months on average, and all have been chalked full of these outlandish motifs. Over that span, he has worked collaboratively on full projects with the likes of The Alchemist, Statik Selektah, and Harry Fraud—some of rap’s best sample-based producers. However, despite the grit of Saab Stories and Rare Chandeliers’ majestic Mafioso stylings, it’s clear Action Bronson has the best chemistry with producer/DJ Justin Nealis, known professionally as Party Supplies.
The brilliance of Party Supplies lies in the simplicity—for instance, one of the tape’s standout cuts, “Amadu Diablo,” is simply an extended loop of the intro to Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.” The brilliance of Action Bronson lies in his unrestrained displays of extravagance. The two are a match made in heaven; Bronson brings the character that Party Supplies’ production lacks. All of Blue Chips 2’s greatest moments explore this dichotomy. “Silverado” features distorted slide-guitar and heavy piano courtesy of Elton John’s “Island Girl,” and Bronsolino references lamb broth, Morehead, and the Matrix in a 16-bar span. “Jackson And Travola” is a tag team effort with frequent collaborator Meyhem Lauren, and both MCs shine over rich organ keys. Without question, though, the track’s standout cut is the chameleon-like “Contemporary Man,” which showcases Bronson’s lyrical dexterity over five or six different samples. This is the project’s crown jewel, but there are few moments where both collaborators don’t shine.
Blue Chips 2 surpasses its predecessor by bringing listeners even more of the same. The two artists bring the best out of each other, and one can only hope they’ll close out the trilogy properly with a third installment. Action Bronson is as much a comic as he is a lyrical savant, and his latest work proves his inaccessibility is less about being marred by reality and more about being entertaining. At the end of the day, that’s what his music is about: enjoyment. Blue Chips 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously; all it asks in return is that you do the same. –Sheldon Pearce