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Action Bronson has been in the news lately for his ridiculous cooking show, “F*** That’s Delicious”, or his show “Ancient Aliens with Action Bronson”, or most likely heard him bringing back the glorious days of hip-hop while power-slamming fans off the stage. In whatever matter you saw Action, he returns prolifically with his newest continuation of the saga, Blue Chips 7000. Including skits, features from Rick Ross, Big Body Bes, Jah Tiger, and Meyhem Lauren, Action Bronson brings the power with his step into the time-machine of rap; taking the production back thirty-years, back to the dusty wood grain trailers and home cooked barbecue, and it has never been better.
Bronson is a clever lyricist that realizes this, and capitalizes on how he can maneuver the production to accompany his wit. With even the first track, “Wolfpack”, Bronson uses a sample from someone who sounds like his mother, asking, “How high are you?”. Bronson then jumps right into the game show-esque production with punchlines about, “Puerto Rican Air Force One’s at the wedding, I’m only speaking truth. Uh, I might open up for Bruce, my own horn I don’t really mean to toot…”, Bronson then goes on to say in his second verse, “This dick’ll make an R&B chick write a song about the rain when it falls and the pain that it causes”. This style of lyricism has always been present behind Bronson; he is a juggernaut of wordplay and demonstrates again and again that he is at the top of his game with each release. It is the adaptability of Bronson that makes his style continually interesting, on the following track, “La Luna”, Action Bronson raps over hold music on a phone call and it makes for a comedic segue that leads into one of the better produced tracks of Blue Chips 7000. Bronson explains, “Came out the pussy wearing Timbs, oh my lord, it’s him. Time to put the toys back in the bin, ‘cause I’m sick of this shit, motherfucker sweeter than a licorice stick…Asian shooter with the blonde hair, Street Fighter character. Fuck around, suplex ‘em through the salad bar”. Bronson is not just brash however, he can show a more approachable, more relaxed side as well, like the ying-yang of rap.
While not slowing down completely, the production does provide more of a jazz-influenced style with tapping cymbal hits and synth keys that play sporadically on “My Right Lung”, where Bronson barely raps, but instead professes that he would, “[I’d] Give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time”. The comedic nature of Bronson makes him seem like one of the funniest guys in rap music as he makes each release have some sort of comedic nature behind his words, either through lyrics or skits. Then as the dance club track, “Let Me Breathe” fades into focus, Bronson treats the track as a speedboat where he moves quickly, practically screaming, “Man, I’m flying past Saturn, fuck outta here like I ain’t that savage. Two Uzis and a rifle, it’s like I’m at the studio with Michael (Jackson). You can hear me dancing on the beat, Bam Bam ‘bout to put a mansion on the beach”. When he is not rhyming about the exclusive life, or becoming the next big thing at N.A.S.A, Bronson is instead rhyming about his lavish lifestyle of cars and city streets, as he does on one of the final cuts, “Chop Chop Chop”.
One of the best tracks off of Blue Chips 7000, Bronson has killer production and even more killer lyrics when he explains through a smoky haze, “The wheels on the Range go Chop, Chop, Chop. All up and down the block, block, block”. The production is a mix of authentic percussion of classic rock fills and a guitar that effortlessly strums along, complementing Bronson’s style fantastically. This is also true on the final track, “Durag vs. Headband” which has a feature from Big Body Bes, who angrily expresses, “And when I die, make sure you spread my blood on a BMW”. This is then the catalyst for Bronson to have apache screams while he explains, “Microphone attached to my head so I can dance my little heart out. Don’t make me bring the white guitar out, like the one in Wayne’s World. That was shinin’ in the window, since 13, I been a nympho”. Bronson then continues on to say, “Fuck, That’s Delicious on box set, Me and my mans smokin’ on big drugs and feasting on the ox leg. Stand in the store with twenty Ahmed’s, Bazookas on shoulders, hundred pounds of C4 in a stroller”.
The appeal of Bronson are the tracks like these on Blue Chips 7000 where he can let loose, and just rhyme what is on his mind. His music is not going to raise any serious questions, no one is going to look deeply into Blue Chips 7000 for the answers to life, but it is one of the best releases of the year so far, without a question. Even if Bronson is not one of the artists that you follow, Blue Chips 7000 is the perfect time to get started, without any excuses.
Wiki, coming from humble beginnings and a real sense of authenticity; Wiki, a super-hero of New York; Wiki, an embodiment of becoming a global powerhouse of lyrics and production skills. Wiki is someone that hit radars with Ratking, the triple-headed threat that crushed microphones and gave New York a new embodiment of grimy, but still lyrical rap that truly captured the spirit of The Big Apple. Now, Wiki moves to a solo career of No Mountains In Manhattan, a journey that feels like Wiki’s eyes have become wide open, taking in all that is around him and repackaging it for the public. A more true representative has never been present, and Wiki leads New York with a Wiki-flag in hand, and chopped-cheese in the other.
The underground rapper/poet now understands his full potential and while Lil Me was one of the best projects of that year, Wiki realizes that he can get true hype and bring his message to an even bigger audience after his five-borough tour of New York, the countless international and national tours, and the real sense of pride he has for being who he is. Wiki seems comfortable in his skin now, he is a stand-out centerfold for his city, and No Mountains In Manhattan is a continuation of the auto-biographical adventure from Wiki himself. He begins with “Islander”, a heavy, tropical beat that takes the setting to the sun-filled skylines of pan flutes, jungle drums, and then a sudden cut through beat-switch, that turns the track into a more civilized, funk beat where Wiki does not miss a step. His adaptability as a lyricist is impeccable, he stays continually on top of his competition and never takes a moment to lose. This is the catalyst for his following tracks, “Mayor” and “Pretty Bull” where Wiki takes the quick transition into the near spiritual ways of rhyming.
The instrumental for “Mayor” feels glorious, as if stepping into a time machine where the producer, Tony Seltzer is the overlord of the radio. Wiki fits perfectly into this glory age of music where the sampled vocals and instruments become shining. This is Wiki’s anthem and makes for one of his most uplifting tracks to date. Alternatively, his following track, “Made For This” which has a feature from GhostFace Killah has more of a classy sound and is a tale of an uprising. The feature from Ghost is always legendary and his voice alone has such power, Wiki and Ghost make for two New York Killers, but of two incredibly different styles of lyricism. Even on the following track, “Chinatown Swing”, Wiki switches his production style up quickly and makes for a larger focus on the bass-heavy, very sluggish style of track. Wiki can move in a such a manner that resembles a multi-purpose tool, Wiki, on No Mountains In Manhattan can best be described as The Swiss Army Knife of rap.
He illustrates this even further on the rather somber track “Face it”, Wiki describes on the hook, “Half of this rap shit battling addiction, they hand you a bottle for you to sip it. Kids give you a Xan, always used to split, then there’s the cameras and you are in it”. Wiki has shown his more personal, sensitive side in previous tracks, but here the piano that plays subtly in the background, the string sections and the gentle horns that rise slightly over the foreground make for a darker, more serious approach. Wiki works well in a downed-state, the track acts as a confession and Wiki is the preacher that can give guidance behind his words, changing the emotions before the beat plays out into the hyper track, “Nutcrackers”. Behind the rampant percussion and the wild synths that cascade like a waterfall, is a rhyme scheme from Wiki that is witty, swinging, and ultimately relatable as he describes, “Looking through my old journal, let’s see what I was concerned ‘bout. Let’s see if I remember anything that I learned now, that chapter been turned but not burnt out. The student card got us through the turnstile, walk through the block like a church aisle. We lurk, get turnt, don’t turn down, even when we ain’t got no crib to turn out”. This is then when Russian-American rapper, Lakutis can deliver a beautiful arrangement of sung vocals that conflict with Wiki’s style completely.
This is the nature of No Mountains In Manhattan though, Wiki uses artists that have varying styles and varying levels of originality to deliver one of the hottest projects of the year. Without a shadow of a doubt, Wiki stands tall among the crowd, a monument of rap’s strongest artists. A pile of gold at the end of the rainbow of musical ability; He does not imitate, and he certainly does not replicate. Wiki is his own man, not standing high above the clouds, but instead standing with his fellow New Yorkers in the street day to day, fighting with and for them.
Springing from the intense darkness that was …Like Clockwork, Queens of The Stone Age reaches new heights like the mighty phoenix. The ashes and dark, more quizzical style of …Like Clockwork is abandoned and instead traded for something much more fruitful on Villains. It still has the raw cowboy grooves that Queens of The Stone Age embodies, but the actual style of their approach has become slightly varied. From each album, there is a significant adaptability behind their sound, whether it be the lyrical themes, the instruments used, or the very tone used behind the production. Villains is something new, not just in a time, but in a musical sense where it feels like a plastic-wrapped delight.
Kicking the door in with the very slow to rise, but eventually in perpetual motion, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” receives a shock to the system after a gradual rise in the spacious instrumental backing behind Josh Homme on guitar and vocals, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, Dean Fertita on the keyboards and guitars, Michael Shuman on the bass guitar and vocals, and Jon Theodore on the percussion. The quintuplet brand of brawlers all join hands together to make Queens of The Stone Age one of the tightest bands on the planet. They can not just make dynamic music that shifts tempo, emotion, and range, but they can do so while making the listener feel like one of the Anti-Heroes. Queens of The Stone Age have always been a vivid band, their music can paint other worlds or a lonesome desert road; this has been the magic behind Queens music and the magic of Josh Homme’s talented songwriting. But it is also the musicians behind Queens of The Stone Age which are a catalyst for Josh Homme’s visions to see fruition. Especially on the following track, “Fortress” where the record takes a reflected journey and becomes a more intense, more liberating style of confession as Homme explains, “I don’t want to fail you, so I tell you the awful truth. Everyone faces darkness on their own, as I have done, so will you”. It is foreboding and recaptures the spirit of being personal in his lyrical progression, but this is also present for the other moments of Villains as well.
As the rather punk rock inspired, “Head Like A Haunted House” bursts into frame, Queens of The Stone Age become maniacal animals of rushed tom-slams and blitzing guitars. There are also moments where “Head Like A Haunted House” is a banshee’s dream as Homme and company let out screams of wonder before letting the hard drum fills take the band into a completely different spectrum with “Un-Reborn Again”. A quick synthesizer lead, which is then followed by rough percussion as the rest of the musicians from Queens of The Stone Age begin to flood in; making “Un-Reborn Again” a floating, almost transcendence style of track with this clash of authentic and synthetic instrumental pieces. In the same way that Homme delivers chilling lyrics throughout Villains, his delivery here is no different as he describes, “Frozen in pose, locked up in amber eternally. Buried so close to the fountain of youth, I can almost reach”. As the final rephrase from Homme leaves his lips, these odd and schizophrenic styled violin and string sections comes playing behind his voice, creating an orchestra of sound.
This is also the catalyst for the final track, “Villains Of Circumstance” a benign beginning that has a bass line similar to Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”. Before reaching the apex of a track that feels like a teenage runaway embodiment. Queens of The Stone Age continually switch between a somber, and an overarching level of excitement that seems almost bi-polar. The way that the lyrics switch from “Close your eyes and dream me home, forever mine, I’ll be forever yours”, to the sudden shift where Homme lowers his voice, protruding more as a soft-spoken giant, and explains, “There’s no magic bullet, no cure for pain. What’s done is done, ‘til you do it again. Life in pursuit of a nameless prey I’ve been so close, I’m so far away”. It is during this shift that Homme becomes the victim of his lyrics. He becomes the hopeless character that the listener begins to feel sorry for, the one who channels their inner emotions toward himself. But Homme is never truly hopeless, and neither is Queens of The Stone Age for that matter.
With the what seems with hundreds of hours of publicity behind the musical juggernauts Queens of The Stone Age, it is apparent that they still have the spark that made successful all those years ago. There has been tweaks to the formula, a change on the slider of color, but Queens of The Stone Age is still a consistently incredibly band with emotion packed into each of their releases. With all the love in the world, people could use a little bit of villainy in their lives.