The sound of rain drops serenade you a little more than halfway through Action Bronson’s Mr. Wonderful. You notice this because it goes on for about a minute and a half on “A Light In The Addict.” And even when the beat starts and as the song, a beautifully crafted soulful selection, continues, the rain drops remain in the background. They’re a constant reminder of the somber nature of the cut.
Mr. Wonderful sounds like a sunny album title and it’s no secret that Action Bronson possesses a sun-ray demeanor, often lighting up a room with laughs, but this project shines most because it also gives you the rain, that which is unexpected.
It may be hard to believe that Mr. Wonderful is his first major label debut. After all, Bronsolino has made a name for himself in the mixtape circuit, through ferocious freestyles, by way of hilarious and appetizing “Fuck, That’s Delicious” episodes. Oh, and of course, he’s solidified that rep by touring consistently. Still, this appears to be, at “First Listen,” the rapper at his most focused.
You first hear the rain on “The Rising,” the album’s second cut, a song that features Big Body Bess. Rain, lightning and a dog’s barks jumpstart the menacing piece. “I’m from a dirty borough where that sun don’t come out,” Action, a Queens, N.Y. native, says with a mixture of pride and conviction. But the unexpected twists don’t end with rain droplets.
In fact, the turns begin on the intro, “Brand New Car,” which samples Billy Joel‘s 1978 “Zanzibar” selection. Sure, the sample is enough of a loop, but Action takes things a step further when he stops the joint to complain about his vocals. “Let me get my voice right,” he says while clearing his throat after the first verse (which sounded fine, by the way). At the end of the song, he interrupts the track again. “I can’t even get this fucking right,” he exclaims. “Are you kidding me? I’m ashamed of myself. I’m sorry.” That’s when “The Rising” rain hits.
Those unexpected spins continue on “Thug Love Story 2017 The Musice – Interlude.” You hear an a cappella rendition of a track that seems to come out of nowhere. It stops the album completely. You’re forced to listen to the song about an elusive “she,” which almost sounds like it was recorded on the street. At the end, the man singing to Action explains the lyrics, confirming what we already likely surmised. “It could go two ways,” he explains. “It could be about drugs and it can be about a woman.” Why was this included in the album? Perhaps the answer lies in the next song, “City Boy Blues.”
On “City Boy Blues,” Action hits us with another unexpected punch, this time in the form of a Blues song that features zero percent rapping. “I’ve given my life to a stranger, that sleeps by my side at night,” Bronsolino sings with pain in his voice. “Look in her eyes, I see danger, and man, is it shining bright.” This is when the interlude makes perfect sense. The rain on “A Light In The Addict” hits right as “City Boy Blues” closes its curtains.
“A Light In The Addict” is a blend of the soulful singing and the raps Action is best known for. “I nearly lost my brain dealin’ with this motherfuckin’ pain, so bad,” we hear on the sobering hook. “So bad.”
The mood shifts back to a more upbeat tempo with “Baby Blue,” one of the catchiest and cleverly designed love songs released this year. The song, an ode to every ex, features a phenomenal guest spot from Chance The Rapper. “I hope you never get off Fridays and that you work at a Friday’s that’s always busy on Fridays,” Chance raps.
It would be unfair to the listener to unpack anymore of the surprising turns and interesting shifts that take place on the album. The project should be enjoyed in full, allowing those shifts in mood to breathe easily from cut-to-cut.
“Thank you a lot for coming,” Action says when “Brand New Car” begins to kick the album off. “It means a lot to me.” Indeed, with Mr. Wonderful, Action does have a brand new car and if you jump into it, you’ll enjoy the unexpected travels through Bronson’s mind, eventually to find out that the project lived up to its name.
Stream Mr. Wonderful on Spotify here.
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