There was some slight apprehension in letting me review this record. Before it was cleared for me, Mikhail asked if I “hated” Action Bronson. I mean, it’s understandable for a few reasons: 1) being that our Hip Hop tastes don’t always align. 2) Мишка just did a t-shirt for Action Bronson and 3) He’s been getting love on the Bloglin for a minute… so it’s obvious why the question was asked of me when reviews for this record were being assigned. But, my response was something along the lines of, “Of course I don’t hate that dude!” Real recognize real, and I’m pretty sure Bronson doesn’t get mistaken very often.
I think the first time I heard Thirstin Howl III I was 17 or 18. I had heard a decent amount of “New York” rap before that, but there was something different about Howl. I think it’s largely the candidness of his music, and the way that the artifice of identity never seems to play such a large role in how the music sounds. The raps aren’t subjected to the constraints that come with upholding an image. I mean, if a rapper is willing to make a song “I Still Live With My Moms,” you can safely bet that they’re not playing into the conventions of a rap identity. And while Action Bronson may not be a direct descendant of Thirstin Howl, his affiliation with Meyhem Lauren offers a clear premise for the context.
Action Bronson is following an unconventional path, and that is undeniable, but it’s one that is becoming increasingly familiar as the new Wave of hip hop floods out our expectations of rap. The dude really blew up in the last year, and it’s been in part on the strength of his raps, and in part on the strength of his life outside of rap: buying, cooking, and eating incredible food. See, Bronson isn’t one of these Pusha-T type dudes who creates some exaggerated false identity, then edits all of his art to make it fit that gross exaggeration. Whether by choice or circumstance, he’s amongst a growing community of rappers who are just keeping it realer than the status quo calls for. Action Bronson is the type of dude who lives a robust life, and incorporates that life into his raps. And the brilliant artistry comes in making that exchange between real life and art fruitful—his raps win for his cheffing, and his cheffing wins from his raps. Being a great chef, and having a refined pallet don’t necessarily take away from being a great rapper, in fact as Bronson has shown, they can make you a better rapper if you know how to convey your enlightenment. That’s what it’s all about, rappers convey enlightenment, it’s just that we’ve gotten accustomed to hearing the enlightenment that gets you ahead in the coke game, not the chef game.
It’s about what goes in, but it’s also about what stays out. Drugs, sex, and violence are in there. These are really tenets of rap, and that doesn’t mean that all rap indulges these tenets, but all rap abides these tenets. That’s like the mirepoix, and rap just isn’t the same without them. But after that Bronson gets very precise with what’s goin’ in and what’s stayin’ out. It’s a chef at work no doubt, I mean this dude takes in the whole big picture, and is meticulously adjusting every moment in order to affect the big picture. He makes records to be immersed in. You’re not gonna be blown away by his lyricism, but no doubt you’re gonna be catchin’ lines throughout the record that will make you say “Whoa.” Likewise, the beats never reach dizzying epic heights, but Statik Selektah maintains an even keel that definitely leaves you in a different state by the end of the record. The beats are late 90′s exotica, familiar but fresh.
There is a lot of good music in here, and it’s definitely worth listening to. In fact it’s even worth owning. You know it seems like this shit is gonna last forever the way the Wave has been flooding out the internet with dope releases, but it won’t. We’re in the midst of an epoch rising, and when this epoch sets, this record will definitely be a touch point for a lot of names we’ve yet to hear, and a lot of brilliance we’ve yet to see. Dope work dudes.