It’s a refreshing bit of ingenuity the way that Action Bronson can make a hip hop record so effortlessly infused with that New York atmosphere sound completely universal. A Queens-based rapper of Albanian descent, Bronson brandishes a pretty obvious Ghostface delivery, but also brings with it this ebullient demeanor that falls very much into the “I couldn‘t give a shit” vein. He knows the score, and what should be expected of him – but he kind of doesn’t care, and would just rather bullshit about smoking, eating, pro-wrestling, occasionally making that “paper,” and, ya know, the culinary arts.
That’s the thing. If there’s a “through-line” running through Bronson’s fantastic debut album Dr. Lecter, it’s that there really isn’t one. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that there is no interest in one. Dr. Lecter quite actively balks at bold statements or proof positive baddassery. It’s a relatively short album, with short tracks that have precious little interest in bells and whistles. On “The Madness,” Bronson slyly bemoans, “Yo/ Three verses aint enough anymore these days, man?/ Fuck!”
The album’s straight-forward presentation is shown not only through Action Bronson’s acid-tongued quips, but the throwback production that blends a distinctive, funk sampled, retro vibe with a crisply layered sonic canvas that almost shines. This is complimented well by the fact that, despite the fire in his tone, Bronson has a charming knack for coming off fairly nonchalant. It seems contradictory at first, but quickly becomes an inviting bit of relativity.
This album isn’t a cultural statement, or a magnum opus about life on the streets; but, then again, Dr. Lecter isn’t simply some “stoner” album either. It most certainly celebrates the absurd as well the inane, but that point actually becomes the fulcrum of a ludicrously vibrant LP. Bronson is painting with water colors all throughout Dr. Lecter, displaying washed out portraits while allowing light to reflect from their surfaces.
“Barry Horowitz” (named for the renowned WWF “jobber“) is the perfect example of the kind bluster that Bronson is interested in on Dr. Lecter. On it, he is as cocksure as any other artist, but also sarcastic with an attentive serving of self deprecation strung all through out. “Barry Horowitz always likes to pat himself on the back,“ J.R. notes. The soulful backdrop would seem kind of incongruous save for the honest intensity that has a tendency to be infectious.
Not above being kind of stupid every now and again (because, why not?), Bronson can also start off “Larry Csonka” with throw away lines like “fuck that sittin’ down rap type shit/ I stand up cuz I’m a fuckin’ man,” and it remains a solid track. Same goes for the Sin City sound bites on the otherwise wonderfully twisted “Chuck Person,” and the far too on-the-nose-synthesized dub-step on “Jerk Chicken.” As part of a whole, they fit surprisingly perfectly, and Dr. Lecter has the remarkable feel of a classically formatted LP.
Dr. Lecter is best when these seamless flourishes sort of unintentionally shade the edges of its personality. After all, whether you’re shifting between rapping about gluttonous soul food dinners, carefully preparing chicken yakitori, or casually mentioning washing your dick in the sink after banging a hooker; some modicum of perspective is needed every now and again. But Bronson makes a point to never shy away from who he is: a smart ass from Queens with a damn impressive flow, who loves what he does, and does what he loves. This is bold, forceful honesty, and while Action Bronson may not have too many insights on New York hip hop culture, or the boring complexities of our world; he would sure as hell like to tell you all about his.