While Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye West remain Rap superstars, the last two years of Hip Hop have welcomed some new blood to the conversation. Artists like Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj have released major label debut albums, and conquered the charts, the radio and become household names. Others are patiently waiting, and releasing project after project on independent labels, still to be labeled "new artists."
For the second consecutive year, HipHopDX wanted to acknowledge five of these hard working, super talented new artists, that in actuality, aren't so new at all. Some have major label backing now, others remain in the underground grind. While Hip Hop continuously (and rightfully so) celebrates freshmen talent, DX opted to knight five hand-selected emcees, chosen by members of our editorial staff, that we want to be looked at as great artists, nothing new about it.
From June 4 through June 8, 2012 HipHopDX will post these celebratory editorial pieces each day, unveiling our mystery picks. Do you agree with the choices? Do you agree that they're beyond the "new artist" stigma? Weigh in.
Action Bronson: School Of Culinary Arts
The Rap game is changing. Strike that. The Rap game has changed. We’re living in an era where the wealthy rappers are living lavishly (to the extreme), and directly on the opposite end of the spectrum lies the D.I.Y. Blue Collar rappers out to make a buck and put it right back into their careers. It’s a weird time, but it’s allowing for the guards to finally change. The big dogs up top are sipping champagne while the rat race below are organizing what the next generation will look like. Physically, Action Bronson looks like none of these dudes. Sonically, he sounds like some, by stylistically he’s in a class by himself.
When I recall the days of Wu-Tang Clan, I always think about Ghostface Killah’s cult. His following is/was pretty intense. They were compartmentalized by albums (the Supreme Clientele kids vs. The Pretty Toney kids, etc.) and they all looked like a bunch of Rap-crazed zealots to me. Me? My favorite member of Wu-Tang Clan is Masta Killa. Don’t ask me why, but I always felt like his lyrics hit the hardest because they weren’t overexposed. I understand the logic of the Ghostface cult followers, but yeah, Masta Killa remains my favorite. The reason why I even bring that up is because Action Bronson reminds me so much of Ghostface sometimes, yet I have turned into the Ghostface-level of fan with Bronson. Their vocal similarities are uncanny, complete with sarcastically arrogant punchlines. However, Action Bronson is also bringing a brand new energy to Hip Hop – one that is moving him up the ranks rather quickly – and for that I am thankful.
I remember the first song of Bronson’s that really caught me. It was the Party Supplies-produced cut “Tapas.” [off Blue Chips] There were a few others prior that hit me, but this was the song that made me think, “Wow, I think I’m seriously becoming a fan.” You see, working the music shift at DX, you’re exposed to a variety of dope music, but to call yourself a fan of all of it is seriously false. This Queens native captured my ears with his delivery. He’s so incredibly descriptive that you have to blink twice at some of the things he says. In a world where most rappers are saying nothing, Bronson is making up for the difference by saying tons.
After “Tapas” I circled back to listen to Bronson’s debut album Dr. Lecter. It was hard to imagine this was his first album by the level of lyricism Bronson delivered on this project. So then I traveled further back and listened to The Program EP and then his mixtape Bon Appetit…Bitch and heard the level of growth in his rhymes in just a little over a year. Here’s a guy who has a legitimate day job (scratch that – it’s a career), but aims to make Rap his full-time hustle. It’s evident by how much he tries to better himself with each new release. Sure he has some stock subject matter, but it’s processed and delivered in a brand new way each time he spits. Not a lot of rappers can say the same for themselves.
“We've been the best since I stepped in / Bring a hooker to the muthafuckin Jets Inn / In the sack, break her back like a Redskin / Need the dough like I'm trying to get the bread thin / Tree to make the head spin / Every season play the corner like I'm Revis / Light Caesar, heavy bearded like I'm Jesus.” – “Shiraz”
Then, of course, there are the food references. I’m allergic to almost everything, so I can’t call myself a foodie (plus I think that word is for douchebags and the morbidly obese). However, I can appreciate some high quality eats, and the lines Bronson drops about food are just amazing. The fact that he’s also a Chef (and slightly resembles Mario Batali) is the icing on Bronson’s buttercream cake. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s cool to me that in a world of name-droppers in Rap, Bronson drops food names. Most rappers walk around talking about expensive cars and clothes; Bronson on the other hand is waxing philosophical about foie gras (if you don’t know what that is, look it up). Some of the things he name checks like black truffles are way more expensive than the pair of True Religion jeans Y.C. and Future brag about on “Racks On Racks.” He travels back and forth from stuff like tacos and jerky to delicacies like lamb brains (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it) and robiola (that’s a type of cheese, guys). It’s a level of sophistication that many rappers tend to ignore. Even in “Paris,” Kanye is like, “What she order? Fish Filet?” (Ye, that’s not expensive food). Bronson could give your favorite rappers a lesson or three on what fine dining really means. The site FoodRepublic listed all a bunch of Bronson’s food references. It’s worth checking out.
Action Bronson’s aesthetic is also awesome to me. He walks around wearing Crocs (so does Batali by the way) and shorts, with like, a walking stick. Who does that? He does. He’s not the slimmest dude (he loves eating after all), and has a long ginger beard, but his swagger is dare I say…sexy? (ready for the flack with that one) It’s obvious though that Bronson doesn’t give a fuck what people think. He’s in on the joke when it comes to his style and I love that. Leopard print fur hats, gigantic t-shirts and pictures of himself eating…he really doesn’t care. My favorite picture of Bronson though is the one that looks like an old school class photo (with the laser beamed background) where he has a sweater tied around his neck and he’s wearing a tank top. It’s just hilarious. Bronson also frequently walks around topless letting his titties hang (shout out to Rick Ross), so that’s a middle finger to all of the haters doing extra sit-ups.
Allow me to also address the elephant in the room. Yes, Bronson’s rhymes are a bit, shall we say, misogynistic. He’s not the kindest to women in his rhymes (I’ll leave it at that). So why is a woman sitting here carrying on about how great he is? Well, unfortunately a lot of rap is misogynistic, so as long as Action Bronson is making me laugh, I can’t really complain.
Okay, so I have spent the past 1000-plus words resurrecting a shrine in Action Bronson’s honor. What does that really mean, and why should he graduate to the next level of Hip-Hophood? Well, he’s earned it. His Lil Wayne level of work ethic has led him to drop over five projects in two years (and he has three more in the cooker). He’s clearly on a mission whether you choose to accept it or not. Perhaps that’s why he is also a graduate. The more frequent the release, the more promo he gets, the better he sounds and the further forward he’s pushed. Some of our favorite Rap veterans used to drop one project every three years. If that’s the case then Bronson technically has a 15-year career packed into two. Chew on that.
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Kathy Iandoli is HipHopDX's Music Editor. She is a New Jersey native who has contributed to The Source, VIBE, XXL, MSN Music, Village Voice, AOL, MTV and others. She has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2009. Follow her on Twitter @Kath3000.