Feb. 1, 2014
Party rap behemoth, Action Bronson, aka Arian Asllani, barreled into The Neptune Theatre on Saturday, Feb.1st. The Seattle stop was part of the 325lb emcee’s tour in support of Blue Chips 2, his new mixtape collaboration with producer, Party Supplies. A Queens, NY native, Asllani‘s meteoric rise involves a fairy tale story that consists of the longtime chef writing a hip hop song as a semi-joke, only to find himself touring the world as a bonafide underground rap star, a few years later.
When Bronson hit the stage, it was pandemonium right off the bat. The usually bumpin’ Neptune sound was a tad flat, which I chalked up as being due to the lo-fi quality of many of the beats. Action‘s rhymes were fluid and punctual, but it was obvious from the start that hearing the actual words was gonna be a challenge and damn near impossible. I was trying to “feel it,” but the shrugs of my companion coupled with my own lack of enthusiasm sent me back to the bar to reassess after a couple of songs.
Bronson‘s crowd? Bros. Lots of ’em. There was a sea of white sports hats in a fit of mania and anticipation for the next day’s Superbowl. The rapper perfectly played to the crowd, coming out in a Marshawn Lynch jersey and shouting “Beast Mode!” He later took it off and threw it into the crowd. One can only imagine the fight that ensued over a XXXL sized Lynch jersey being thrown into a beer thirsty crowd of raving fratboy lunatics and assorted hip hop heads.
Much is made of the fact that Action Bronson sounds like Ghostface Killah and, to me, as a lifelong WU fan, this is not such a bad distinction to make. That being said, the Wu Tang lyricist is a master storyteller whose verses about street hustles and martial art flicks seem light years more interesting than Bronson‘s love of pussy, food, and cars. While Ghostface has always had the ability to get you to care about what he is saying, at no point, could I ever really get a feel for what any of his Albanian/Jewish counterpart’s songs were about, or even who the character of Action Bronson really was. Shit was flying over my head like the Blue Angels.
Many of the beats that were used consisted of 90s hip hop classics cut into 4-bar loops with Bronson spitting over the top of them. When I heard the same Quincy Jones “Summertime In The City” loop that was famously used on Pharcyde‘s “Passin’ Me By“, my eyebrows went up. I know that the contentious issue of sampling is long dead, as hip hop mix tapes and internet releases always feature emcees on whatever random beats they choose, without the worry of any litigation or accusations of “biting,” but there was still something sacrilegious about rapping over what my companion called “one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time.” The saddest part was that the bro-heavy crowd probably knew nothing of this classic cut. Bronson‘s reinvention is called, “Through The Eyes Of A G.” But a beat is a beat, so we’ll let a man do his thing, as I rave about my old school philosophies.
But am I too old school in my desire to have a DJ be a DJ? Bronson‘s “DJ,” Party Supplies supplied us with no scratching, blending, or mixing — simply hitting that annoying bomb, or broken glass sound that hip hop artists sometimes employ to inform you that the song has ended. During his opening set of bad club tunes and noticeably absent hip hop, the producer’s laptop actually went dead in the middle of a song. The crowd booed. I welcomed the silence.
And it was that precipitous bomb sound that seemed to stop the groove all the time. Once I’d get my head nodding… BOOOM! Bombing your own song and killing the vibe with the push of a button — not the best strategy.
But it was a caveat of 80s pop classics such as “Sledgehammer“, Phil Collins‘ “In the Air Tonight” (and was that The Bangles?) that sent me towards the exit. This medley of rhymes ended on Tom Petty‘s “Free Fallin,” which featured a chorus of 500 bros singing along. Bronson even had a dude playing guitar with him (Party Supplies has expanded into a duo), who seemed to play perpetually out of tune and just felt like a pebble in a bowl of oatmeal. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t hip hop; it just wasn’t good.
At the end of the show, Bronson even body slammed a dude off the stage who dared to enter the domain of a guy three times his size. When he slammed the guy down and the crowd parted like the Red Sea, I realized that was going to be the most entertaining moment of the night. In the end, he didn’t even need the mic to pique my interest.