By Ethan Clark // Staff Writer
Ever since I discovered the insane music video to Action Bronson’s song “Easy Rider,” I’ve been waiting for his second studio album Mr. Wonderful. Produced with the help of Vice-affiliate Noisey, the video is a modern-day western that has Bronson riding through the California desert while rapping about his adventures with women and drugs. The song is a journey full of epic guitar riffs, memorable verses and vivid imagery referencing everything from coffee machines to Guns N’ Roses music videos.
Excited by “Easy Rider,” I couldn’t wait to listen to all that Bronson cooked up in the past six months.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wonderful left me disappointed.
The rest of Mr. Wonderful is more reflective of the real Bronson. Raised by Albanian immigrants in Queens, Bronson, whose real name is Ariyan Arslani, graduated from the Art Institute’s culinary school and worked as a chef for almost ten years before going into the rap game. He listened to fellow New Yorkers Wu-Tang Clan growing up, which is why many people have compared his rapping style and voice to Wu Tang member Ghostface Killah.
“Easy Rider” was just a vacation; Bronson’s real home is in the Big Apple and his sound shows it. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, it’s just not I was expecting coming in.
One problem I do have with Mr. Wonderful is that Action Bronson spends far too much time bragging. Rappers are entitled to spend a third of their album bragging about their money and record sales at this point, but anything more than that makes the artist look one-dimensional. While he does gets introspective on the track “A Light in the Addict,” on every other song he talks about how much better he is than everyone around him.
Boasting aside, Mr. Wonderful does have some good moments. The second half of the album is worth listening to with its collaborations and moody atmosphere. Chance the Rapper appears on “Baby Blue” to deliver a fantastic verse, and Bronson does several songs with repeat collaborators Party Supplies and Big Body Bes.
The Action Bronson I imagined after hearing “Easy Rider” was a legendary globetrotter with the personality to match, but the Bronson on Mr. Wonderful feels like a big fish in a small pond. If you’re looking for some haughty East Coast rap, give Mr. Wonderful a listen. If you’re looking for something with a bit more substance, I’d recommend Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly or Earl Sweatshirt‘s I Don’t Like S—, I Don’t Go Outside.