Action Bronson is a busy man. A gourmet-chef turned rapper, he has enjoyed success in the kitchen, in the studio, and on TV; using his culinary skills to travel the planet whilst presenting his own shows.
A seasoned artist, Bronson has collaborated with some big names in hip-hop, and this month saw him make the transition into the world of cinema, with an unexpected cameo in the new Martin Scorsese film The Irishman.
Despite this busy November month, the Queens rapper had only one thing on his mind, his latest EP Lamb Over Rice. Before it had even dropped, Bronson had placed the project on a pedestal, proclaiming to fans over Twitter that it will “CHANGE YOUR LIFE”.
Lamb Over Rice sees Bronson team up with long-time collaborator and friend, The Alchemist. Despite hailing from California, The Alchemist is no stranger to East-Coast hip hop. His hard-hitting boom bap beats have attracted multiple New York veterans over the years, including Kool G Rap, Ghostface Killah and Nas. It’s his ability to revive and subtly twist such a distinctive East-Coast sound, that caused originators Mobb Deep to frequently leave their album production in his hands.
When the two united in on Rare Chandeliers in 2012, it was an understandable coupling. Bronson’s flair for long, free-flowing verses sits well with The Alchemist’s versatile and revered creations. Since then, the pair have worked together numerous times, and The Alchemist is currently Bronson’s DJ, when they are not in front of the camera for his various Viceland TV shows.
Lamb Over Rice opens with “DMTri“, a not so subtle reminder of Bronson’s fondness for psychedelics. A harmonica solo, backed by the gentle strings of a guitar, give an immediate sense of nostalgia, and take us to a place of narrow, cobblestone streets, somewhere in Italy perhaps.
The harmonica excerpt is taken from the film Roberto Carlos e o Diamante Cor-de-Rosa, an old Brazilian flick full of bandits, singers and samurai, something which wouldn’t feel out of place on Bronson’s Ancient Aliens TV show.
After about half a minute, this delicate intro ends, and the track begins. The second sample is also Brazilian, and similarly The Alchemist has left it untouched. He lets the groovy, soulful sound of pianist José Roberto Bertrami play out, which allows for a timeless ‘head-nodder’ of a beat.
This instrumental belongs at the start of the EP; effortlessly feel-good and funky, it paves the way for a verse The Alchemist described as a “spiritual experience”. “Knock, knock it out the box, Bronson”, Action chants, as if a whole team is counting on him.
Bronson doesn’t disappoint here, reminding listeners that he can flow like running water, jam-packed with playful metaphors – “My jewellery boxes like the habitat for white bears”. Bronson also alludes to his position in hip-hop remaining unchanged “Me, disappear, where, I’m right here / Creepin’ in the cold nights air”.
Despite his recent cinematic debut, he is still on top of the game, and wants you to know it. He jokingly suggests that he is now also a major player in the world of cinema – “Somehow I turned into De Niro, just give me one shot at the lead role / You’ll be amazed, like the first time you seen snow”. Bronson has a lot to say here, and the tempo is fast-paced and undeviating. This feels like it could be the standout song on the EP.
“Accoutrements” sees Bronson return to his more recent form, with a shorter, single verse, around a minute in length. He mumbles at the start for someone to “shuck the oysters” and then “get the mignonette”. This sets the tone for the rap, which feels quite lazy, like he recorded it whilst in the kitchen.
This effortless vibe is helped by the beat; a sustaining, rich violin stroke played alongside some low and full bass chords, creating a straightforward and repetitive loop. Despite its simplicity, the violin holds enough vigour to make the beat sound classy, and suits Bronson’s muddled brags about nothing in particular – “Sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and umami / We eatin’ oysters off of diamonds in Hawaii”.
A song made around six years ago, then possibly called “Diagnosis”, has been renamed and put on the EP as “Just The Way It Is“. This track, like many others on the project, feels light-hearted and upbeat. Similarly, “Descendant Of The Stars” features on the EP. This is a song which was released around three years ago and is the theme song for Bronson’s show Travelling The Stars.
The piano keys on this one make it refreshingly cheerful and bouncy, letting Bronson hark back to his ‘Dr Lecter’ days with an equally springy flow. Bronson is playfully boasting again here; “I did an interview for GQ while takin’ a sh*t / I’m into gettin’ cake and wearin’ snakeskin when I spit”.
This track feels silly in its manner, yet impressive in its totality, perhaps because of two longer, lyrical Bronson verses. It seems an obvious theme song choice, especially when you consider that the show is as carefree as the pair getting high with other rap friends, while watching history documentaries.
Lamb Over Rice is best served as an appetiser. “DMTri” teases at what is possible when Action Bronson and The Alchemist combine, and is truly a great track which sees Bronson demonstrate just how well he can flow.
Despite some great instrumentals, the EP doesn’t continue at the pace set by the opening track, and some tracks arguably lack the nastiness and punch that Bronson can bring to the table. That said, the EP is a sound project, that fans of Bronson will welcome with open arms.
Purchase Action Bronson’s Lamb Over Rice EP on iTunes here and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Kyle Roscoe