For all the hype that Mr. Wonderful is receiving for being Action Bronson’s debut major-label studio release, long-time listeners of the rapper aren’t likely to be left too unexpected by the final product. Since his indie debut Dr. Lecter came out in 2011, Action Bronson has continued to put out a steady stream of mixtape and EP releases over the last four years.
By now, his fan base should be familiarized with the man’s style and subject matter, which has largely remained unchanged for his first record as an Atlantic Records artist. The only hugely noticeable departure is that there are a few tracks on here that are exclusively dedicated to singing, which frankly may not appeal to fans who enjoy his break-neck idea spitting delivery as a rapper. Still, those just hoping to hear a humorous record filled with references to food, women, and the 1980s will have a good listening experience here.
Mr. Wonderful sets its tone with the Mark Ronson-produced track, “Brand New Car.” The song sports a sample of Billy Joel’s “Zanzibar” (an admitted idol of Bronson’s) and finds the rapper opening up with a sung chorus: “I got a brand new car/ I got a jazz guitar.” Afterwards though, we find Bronson getting into his typical comfort zone, with a boastful rap filled with bizarre lyrics. “Yo f*** this jacket, I turn this shit to 85 napkins/Since Jeter’s done I’m now the captain.”
Tracks like this are clearly the strongest on Mr. Wonderful as Bronson’s pathos is certainly ingrained in the stigma of 90s East Coast hip-hop, and of all the recent rappers to emerge from New York (Joey Badass, Flatbush Zombies, A$AP Mob), there’s little contest towards Action Bronson being the most regional. Action Bronson is about as New York as Robert DeNiro in a Jewish deli listening to Frank Sinatra, as the rapper just has that swag and attitude that recall the Big Apple pre-gentrification. “Tell the pilot ‘land the plane,’ on Roosevelt and Main/ Put a Jacuzzi on the seven train,” the rapper cites on Easy Rider, clearly referring to his upbringing as a Queens native.
Also, the album is thankfully mostly vacant of guest verses, but those that do show up are well-warranted. The single “Baby Blue,” easily a highlight for Mr. Wonderful, features a great comically dark verse from Chance the Rapper that continues to show why the young rapper is only growing more unique and bright. “I hope you never get off Fridays/ and you work at a Friday’s that’s always busy on Fridays.” In fact, the track even has some good singing heard from Bronson, who is underwhelming in this department on other tracks on the record.
Mr. Wonderful’s largest flaw is that the tracks on the album that don’t feature rapping are fairly disappointing. “City Boy Blues” sports a great beat, and Bronson’s gruff vocals certainly work with the texture, but it’s hard to suggest it has a place on an album that has displayed such great rhyming skills from the artist. Even the penultimate track, which features some uncharacteristically surreal music for his oeuvre, ultimately comes off as gratuitous, with Bronson’s uninspired chanting of, “Oh Mr. Wonderful.”
Overall, though, Mr. Wonderful is a solid album that should appease the rapper’s devoted fan base. It’s neither his most consistent release, nor is he the breath of fresh air that he was four years ago, but it’s a fun album, and also a strong defense for people that say he’s anything but a Ghostface Killah clone. Once you’ve decided that you need a break from the profundity of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, this unadulterated rap record will make you remember that sometimes you just want to hear rappers talk “bullshit” for 50 minutes.