Kevin Bacon. Kevin Hart. Kevin Spacey.
These are just the celebrities named Kevin that Action Bronson name-checks in “Blue Chips 7000”, his latest mixtape and perhaps his most inseparable from the pop cultural zeitgeist. Formerly a respected New York chef who now peppers references to food into his songs, Bronson emerged as an independent rapper in the early 2010s. By this point Bronson is an entertaining inflation of his own personality, David Byrne in “Stop Making Sense” transposed onto character. His quirks have come to dominate his persona, right down to his “Ancient Aliens” viewing parties and Viceland show “Fuck, That’s Delicious”.
“Blue Chips 7000” is the third in Bronson’s “Blue Chips” mixtape series, and it effectively ossifies the style that emerged throughout these previous releases: bouncy, faintly cartoonish samples reminiscent of P-funk and hip-hop’s golden age topped by Bronson’s hoarse, raspy flow, which is vaguely reminiscent of MF Doom in voice if not lyrics. Despite liberally littering the mixtape with topical cultural references, its sound remains stolidly retro, which Bronson himself acknowledges with his “It’s 1986 again in Flushing, Queens” (a reference to his childhood home) on the languid “Chop Chop Chop”, or his “I was hatched in ‘83” on “Durag vs Headband”.
The mixtape’s supple, jazzy backdrops provide a fairly stock setting for Bronson’s raps about virtually anything that enters his head. He impatiently orders a car on “La Luna” and bellows “The full moon make me loco, like I sniffed a whole baseline of cocoa” on “The Choreographer”. While there is a likeable playfulness to his sloppy non-sequiturs, “Blue Chips 7000” sometimes buckles into tawdry laziness or generic braggadocio. The “I’m on a plane to Russia with a hard dick and a tank top from target, why this blunt taste like Starburst?” of “Tank” is a particular high/lowlight of the at-least-it-rhymes Bronson school of lyricism, but even that has an endearing ridiculousness.
It’s a pity Bronson sequesters himself in sophomoric frat-boy quips, because the quieter moments of “Blue Chips 7000” are surprisingly effective. “My Right Lung” is a gorgeous travail into rainswept jazziness that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”, and the unexpected reggae stylings of “Hot Pepper” are at least a change of pace. However, the mixtape remains exasperatingly unrealised and formless—closer “Durag vs Headband” is truncated into Bronson’s random exclamation that “I want to die by machine gun!” before “Blue Chips 7000” abruptly cuts off. It’s a muddled conclusion to what is ultimately a muddled mixtape. Bronson’s absurdist excess is ultimately his Achilles’ heel as well as his defining feature. CO
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I77bqvCIQN8