Action Bronson Saaab Stories (Review)

 

 

 

 

Before you even press play on Saaab Stories, you’re confronted by the unsettling dichotomy within Action Bronson: The Flushing rapper has a tremendous ear for beats, but he’s also tone deaf. Following full-length collaborations with Statik Selektah, Party Supplies, and Alchemist, Saaab Stories matches Bronson with Harry Fraud, a guy who can play both sides of the underground/Hot 97 divide with beats as rugged and plush as a sheepskin shearling. But at a time when Rick Ross’ verse on “U.O.E.N.O.”, Tyler, the Creator’s anti-feminist rant in Australia and certain lyrics on Yeezus have resulted in real backlash throughout a wide swath of hip-hop and an opportunity to ask tough questions about the genre’s pervasive attitudes towards women, Bronson chooses that artwork. Repellant as it is, it’s also not the least bit surprising: If you’ve heard more than five minutes of Action Bronson’s music, you’ll be aware of his attitude towards women, and Asian prostitutes in particular. So while his prodigious talents as a rapper ensure you might enjoy Saaab Stories on a purely musical level, it’s unlikely you’ll feel better when it’s over.

While Saaab stories is Bronson’s shortest official release, it’s his most diverse and sonically interesting. Fraud finds middle ground between the weeded-out YouTube scour of Blue Chips and the more traditional crate-digging on Rare Chandeliers— classic boom-bap on “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” and “No Time”, regal cloud-rap on “The Rockers”, simmered soul on “Triple Backflip”. Attending to the realities of Bronson’s ascendant career brings Saaab to a dead halt; “feat. Wiz Khalifa” is a passport stamp for an up-and-comer and an invitation for the listener to hit fast forward (“The Rockers”). Meanwhile, Prodigy is every bit as incapable of delivering a coherent rap these days, though it’s not for lack of trying.

The title of Saaab Stories is actually misleading for both parts of its double entendre. On prior highlights such as “Hookers at the Point” or “Bag of Money”, Bronson was a storyteller, whereas Saaab has a loose, performative aspect more along the lines of raunchy comedy; you can picture him leaned against a stool at a stand-up gig, or bragging over a brown bag lunch. If his appetites are base, his words make those dirtbag pursuits sound opulent as hell (“Amethyst on the knuckle/ On the arm, something Spanish with a bubble”). There’s an anti-clever cleverness to similes like “gold watch like I just retired” that hearken back to prime-era DOOM in terms of finding the most obvious likenesses that somehow never got used.

But the sheer percentage of lyrics purposefully written to degrade women is about the only thing that might leave a lasting impression. The narrowing of Bronson’s subject matter has resulted in an increasingly less satisfying artistic experience. Dr. Lecter and Blue Chips weren’t particularly relatable recordsbut even the smallest amount of emotional and personal scope worked towards distinguishing Bronson from his vocal doppelgänger Ghostface, creating a tangible persona that couldn’t be culled from the jaw-dropping lines about gourmet food and old school sneakers.

Gone is any counterbalance of self-deprecation (like Dr. Lecter’s fat-kid reminiscence “Ronnie Coleman”) or narrative to put the constant putdowns in context (“Thug Love Story 2012”); a line like “If I’m sick she’ll even clean me if I shit in my pants/ So I’m taking her to France with me” from “No Time” qualifies as chivalrous by comparison. And while getting two punchlines out of “Mutombo finger” in the same verse is pretty funny, the repurposing of old lyrics for the hooks on “Triple Bakckflip” and “The Rockers” gives the sense that Bronson might be running out of ideas.

Which makes his means of filling the void even sadder; more than ever, Bronson takes particular pleasure in biting down on a harshly pronounced bitch ad-lib or using a hook to reduce a woman to the sum of her orifices. You can generously read some of the actions of Tyler, the Creator or Kanye’s lyrics on Yeezus as purposeful trolling, or at least an incredibly awkward means of trying to start a conversation. Yet, Action Bronson only seeks to provoke indignation at Action Bronson, as if he harnesses the strength of conviction from vindicating those who find his off-record persona every bit as abhorrent. It was barely a year ago when Bronson was predicating his career on something other than being as unlikeable as possible, so there’s hope he isn’t too far gone. But on the grim, vulgar Saaab Stories, what you see is what you get.

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Asap Ferg “Trap Lord” Review

Ready for his turn in the limelight, A$AP Ferg drops his debut album “Trap Lord” and proves he is different from the rest of the mob.

Earlier this year, hip-hop bible XXL Magazine featured rappers A$AP Rocky and French Montana on its cover declaring New York rap is back. While the focus of the game has shifted to other parts of the country in the past several years or so, there are some native New York emcees that are doing their part to rep their city. Harlem’s own A$AP Mob, led by the somewhat eccentric A$AP Rocky, have found their niche and a following. The crew dropped their first mixtape Lords Never Worry last summer, which added to the buzz surrounding Rocky’s debut release Long. Live. A$AP at the top of this year. Following the release from his fellow A$AP Mobster, Ferg drops his debut album.

Ready to stand a part from the pack, A$AP Ferg, real name Darold Ferguson Jr., delivers a 13-track offering. Trap Lord opens up with the bouncy and airy “Let It Go,” a beat that has the exact opposite feel of the content of the song, a juxtaposition that is evident throughout the album just as much as it is a part of the man himself. He may be into fashion but don’t let the flashy appearance fool you; A$AP Ferg’s flow is deadly. For those that are unaware of who Ferg is, he makes a formal introduction with “Fergivicious.” Proving that he is indeed vicious when it comes to his craft, the Harlem rapper lets off:

“Are you gangbanging, man? I couldn’t see it/ Like twisting up your fingers in a pair of mittens/ Put ‘em in the water with a bunch of fishes/ Watch a frog leap where his fucking chin is/ Are you Popeye? Eat your fucking spinach/ Bunch of young trap lords and we down for sinning”

Ferg does a great job of enlisting the help of fellow rappers that, like him, have a unique sound or approach to attacking a song. Grabbing A$AP Rocky for “Shabba Ranks,” the official first single off Ferg’s debut, the bass-heavy track lays the perfect foundation for the former high school classmates to trade verbal jabs over. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony snag a guest appearance on “Lord.” Their signature laid-back flow in classic overdrive complements Ferg’s bars over a beat that would live at home on the soundtrack of the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. For the remix of “Work,” Fergestein is joined by Trinidad James, ScHoolboy Q and French Montana along with A$AP Rocky  (the original version lives on Lords Never Worry mixtape).

Dizzy Wright – The Golden Age

Dizzy Wright drops his latest mixtape The Golden Age today.

A lengthy 22 tracks, The Golden Age boasts features from Joey Bada$$, Kid Ink and Logic, as well as guest spots from his Funk Volume gang. Veteran artist Wyclef Jean also makes an appearance on “We Turned Out Alright,” which Dizzy discussed with Complex earlier this year:”We didn’t go in no booth, he just had his microphone out. He was like, ‘I haven’t recorded with this microphone since The Fugees.’ I literally just rapped my verse into it, and he sang his shit and then I did another verse. It felt like some old school, some ’96 shit.”

Mac Miller – Watching Movies with the Sound Off (Album Review)

I’ll be forthright; I’m not a huge fan of Malcolm James McCormick (Mac Miller). In fact, I’m not a fan at all. I haven’t heard much of his work prior to this album therefor, when I started Watching Movies with the Sound Off, needless to say I wasn’t sure of what I was about to experience. I respect his effort in the industry thus far, with Blue Slide Park (his debut studio album) reaching the #1 spot upon it’s release but I’ve never found myself enjoying his music. That said, the independent individual has only been growing in presence, bringing myself to listen to his interestingly titled project and quite frankly? I have no regrets.

Kanye West – Yeezus (Album Review)

The great thing about Hip Hop that makes it arguably the best genre of music is its accessibility. There’s so much out there for everyone to relish in with each lane, but for those who look for the top tier, for this generation it’s been only a few worth listing. Arguably at the top of this list, you’ll more often than not find none other than Kanye West.

West has given us more than we could ever ask for in Hip Hop. He’s changed the rules and introduced the genre to more risks than we’d care to take, often succeeding in his daring endeavors. We’ve often found ourselves loving West as an artist for one thing or another, whether it being running his mouth too much or giving us something of quality that we know we’d never get from anyone else.

He’s an anomaly of an artist, in essence. Delivering a string of classic albums and having arguably the best discography in history, while remaining candid about his experiences (both hidden and those we’ve caught in the news) and finding new samples and sounds to express those feelings and thoughts through. That said, it was inevitable that the bar set for West would be possibly unreachable. Inaccessible, stood the expectations that West had to meet, after constantly meeting and possibly defeating every standard. So from here, what would West possibly do on his highly anticipated Yeezus? What would he present for us to be digested and could he possibly make another classic album? It’s one we won’t soon forget.

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Album Review)

Earl Sweatshirt has always seemed like the smartest smartass in Odd Future, but for a long time, it was hard to say for sure. By the time most people heard his gory cult-classic 2010 mixtape, Earl, the teen MC had already been shipped off to Samoa; since returning from boarding-school exile in 2012, he has remained relatively elusive. That makes this, his first full-length release since becoming famous, feel like a moment of truth: Was he really that great, or was it all some kind of mass hallucination?

Actually, he’s even better. His rhyme schemes are as complex as ever, and these resolutely unpop beats – sticky-icky sample collages from producers including Pharrell, RZA and himself – are an ideal canvas. But his subject matter has undergone a drastic overhaul. Unlike some peers, Earl has figured out that shock value only goes so far. Doris’ themes are way less cartoonish – getting stoned, shrugging off career pressures, staring down his least-favorite feelings. On “Chum,” Earl admits to missing his estranged dad: “It’s probably been 12 years since my father left/Left me fatherless/And I just used to say ‘I hate him’ in dishonest jest.” It’s one of many moments that hit harder than the imaginary violence that got the world’s attention three years ago.
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