Thanksgivukkah Was Made for a Jewish Rapping Sous Chef From Queens
Action Bronson and his celebratory one-man carnival make the new ‘Blue Chips 2’ tasty ear-stuffing
If rappers are the new rock stars, and chefs are the new rap stars, then Action Bronson is the icon that America deserves—a 300-pound, Vice-signed, matzo-ball-built, THC-vaporizer-toting, biblically bearded former sous chef turned scatological and surreal rapper. Born in Queens, of a Jewish mother and Albanian father, he is a quick-witted salt of the earth performer who is more apt to use fleur de sel than Morton’s.
Blue Chips 2, released this month, is the excellent sequel to last year’s similarly excellent original. It’s titular inspiration comes from a ’90s college basketball corruption saga best remembered for Nick Nolte gifting a tractor to a hayseed recruit, and for a Cajun named Neon, played by Shaquille O’ Neal. It did not spawn a second film, but it indirectly led to the Orlando Magic trading for Penny Hardaway (long story).
But don’t mistake this for a concept album. Bam Bam (one of the performer’s many nicknames) is far too flushed off wax to get bogged down in longform narrative. These are the whimsical visions of your stoned but articulate friend, who frequently interrupts his own stories for smoke breaks, which are followed by coughing fits and sudden shifts of inspiration.
Bronson immaculately hammers home a few themes: He is gorgeous with continental cheekbones, he knows the difference between Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain, he can back flip into a Jaguar with the nimble agility of a young Kim Zmeskal. On “9.24.13,” he’s a sheisty fixer plopping satchels of cash at Patrick Ewing’s feet in exchange for blowing a game-winning Eastern Conference Finals finger roll.
Bronsolino (another one of his nicknames; his real name is Ariyan Arslani) has mastered the art of rapping about ridiculous settings with obscene color. There are others with more bounce, technical agility, conceptual imagination, or pop-savvy hooks. But no one in contemporary rap better embodies Raymond Chandler’s adage that “style is a projection of personality.” He’s a one-man carnival, barking at passersby to risk their money, wielding a sledgehammer like a strong man, stealing your girl and having his way with her atop the Ferris wheel. There’s something obviously formulaic to his references, yet they never fail to amuse. He rhymes “steer the whip with one arm like Jim Abbot” with “chocolate sauce over thin rabbit.” He intones that “in my past life I was a rabbi,” with an accent as thick as a bialy.
His fellow ringleader, Brooklyn producer Party Supplies, helps ensure things never lack roller-coaster entertainment value. There’s no need to overanalyze when it’s an inherently great idea for Action Bronson to rap over the instrumentals from “Tequila,” “Sledgehammer,” “Sussudio,” and Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”
There are rappers with whom you’d want to have a beer or smoke a blunt, but Bronson may be the first rapper with whom you’d want to have a celebratory feast—and Thanksgiving is the holiday that best fits the bacchanal appeal of the Albanian-American MC. And considering the next time the holiday overlaps with the first night of Hanukkah will be 77,000 years from now, it might as well be an unofficial Action Bronson day. On the next page is a Blue Chips 2 guide—all culled from references in the new album—to the ideal menu, guest list, and gift suggestions for Nov. 28.
In Slavko Goldstein’s newly translated ‘1941,’ Nazi-backed fascists tear through the Balkans. Yugoslavia never recovered.