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Action Bronson Keeps the Trashy-Yet-Classy Foodie-Rap Ball Rolling on ‘Blue Chips 2’

SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: November 01, 2013
Label: Fool’s Gold

My job in high school involved driving from shithole supermarket to shithole supermarket with my supervisor, Mark, a husky, thirtysomething bruh with a big, red mustache and a chip-on-his-shoulder gait. He claimed that he had spent too much time in school “fawkin’ ’round with puss-eee” to get a better job; he cat-called “hot moms,” laughed at his own jokes (and laughed harder if you didn’t), took frequent sushi breaks, loved David Lynch and Charles Bukowski, and once burned down his own sun porch when he fell asleep holding a lit cigarette (he laughed hard at that, too). I have no idea whether he’s an Action Bronson fan or not. But he should be.

It’s hard to totally love or totally hate Bronson, the prolific chef-turned-NYC-rap-classicist whose ill behavior has included cruelly Instagramming a trans person he had just doused in water, fondling a female audience member at a Toronto show, and releasing this year’s EP Saab Stories with nebulously misogynistic cover art. But the idea of interrupting the Fiat-sized MC in the midst of “Midget Cough” — a laid-back, Robert Horry-referencing highlight from his new mixtape, Blue Chips 2 — to point out that “midgets” prefer to be called “little people” these days seems pretty fucking pointless. At this point, you’re either with Bronson, warts on warts on warts and all, or you’re steady ignoring the big goof. This sequel to his March 2012 breakout makes him a little harder to ignore, though, with a silly and attention-grabbing goal: What weird-ass stuff can he rap over now?

After all, his producer Party Supplies is a sonic troll (see this year’s Miami Vice-by-way-of-EDM curveball Tough Love), possessing the balls to enter Good-Bad Idea Land, return with a variety of LULZ-worthy samples, and hastily reshape them into falling-apart boom-bap. The Champs’ “Tequila” (chosen for its Pee Wee’s Big Adventure associations, no doubt) runs off the rails on “Pepe Lopez.” The stitched-together medley of ’80s hits on “Contemporary Man” slowly morphs into a he-can-rap-over-anything stunt that you actually wish went on a little longer (the Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer” portion in particular). And “Amadu Diablo” chops up Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” until it sounds like GZA’s “Liquid Swords.”

Meanwhile, Bronson’s lyrical style remains a kind of wandering minimalism, churning out tight loops of pop-culture references that leave you numb even as they hit your Buzzfeed-steez ’90s pleasure zones (back when Upper Deck baseball cards and Bobby Knight ruled), though he smartly embellishes them with, wow, some harsh novelistic detail worthy of James Ellroy, or at least Chuck Palahniuk. From the second verse of “Jackson Travolta”: “The kid caught herpes from the Rabbi / Yakub from 165 with the bad eye.” Do you even need more examples? You know what you’re getting here, right? The guy wildly vacillates between hella entertaining and mad enervating.

Attaining Bronson’s level of Rap Internet fame mostly entails keeping the ball rolling —this is his eighth project in three years — which makes actual artistic growth both besides the point and possibly too much of a gamble. Consistency is the name of the game right now: Every merely good-to-great release keeps the blogs intrigued and the tour dates coming. So yeah, here’s Blue Chips 2, once again juggling foodie poetry with hyper-specific sports references, and further pushing his Scorsese-bit-player-mook mentality that’s trashy, yet kind of classy. The bullying weirdo driving all this isn’t going to change, for better or worse; here he’s at his most eccentric and, therefore, most compelling, at least. Whether that pleases your ears or not is entirely on you. You think Bronson gives a fawk?