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On White Bronco, Action Bronson’s 2018 release, he rapped “my next album’s only for dolphins,” and the principled MC is nothing if not true to his word. A Queens legend, respected for his idiosyncratic pen and vivid raps, Action is a decade into his career and still deepening his skillset. “The dolphin is one of the most intelligent creatures ever created on whatever planet we're on,” Action explains. “They have their own way of communicating. They have nuance and intangibles like we do.” In a perfectly unusual analogy, he likens the aquatic mammal to the storied “five-tool” baseball player—that is, the extraordinary class of player who combines all elements of the game. “The only people who understand me are those five-tool players, those higher beings who are on the same telepathic wave as me.” Thus, Only for Dolphins, out on August TK.
Action keeps Only for Dolphins among family, working with producers and rappers he’s known for years. The Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Budgie, DJ Muggs, Samiyam, Daringer, and Tommy Mas provide crackling psychedelic soundscapes for Bronson’s unique tales.
His close friend Meyhem Lauren and Lauren’s brother Hologram are the only featured MCs. Bronson himself produced two of the songs, including the exuberant “Capoeira,” which kicks off the album with a saxophone solo. As much time as he spends on the wordplay and imagery, he’s dialed into the sonics too.
The first single “Latin Grammys” is a tribute to family. Produced by Tommy Mas, who produced all of Action’s 2011 debut project, Dr. Lecter, the beat for “Latin Grammys” is many years old. The file was originally labeled “Ozersky,” a nod to the beloved food writer Josh Ozersky, who tragically passed away in 2015. Ozersky and Action were close; in fact Ozersky was the first person to put Action on television via his show Ozersky TV. One day Action was going through old beats, saw the file, and knew he had to do something special in honor of his friend. Over a slinky brass and guitar loop, he raps with casual gusto about swim trunks stuffed with cash and black trench coats, Dolph Lundgren and Derek Jeter. “It’s Young Baklava, you know me,” he concludes.
Bronson is a collector—of experiences, of sounds, of culture. He’s especially happy with the Budgie-produced “Golden Eye,” a nod to the classic N64 shooter and to the resort in Jamaica; it samples a beautiful lovers rock track, which is a real point of pride for Action. “It’s a very specific UK subgenre,” he says, referring to the romantic reggae style that rose to prominence in London in the ‘70s. The flip gives “Golden Eye” a lush and sweet bed for Action to lovingly describe acrobatic sex and expensive rugs, wet with spilled wine.
To be a fan of Action is to be a fan of detail. Only for Dolphins is studded with remarkable specificity. On “Vega” he raps, “My alibi for the police is I was naked in Seattle”—a line only Action could come up. Befitting that attention to minutiae, Action hand-painted the album artwork, crafting, a figurative depiction of death and dolphins and gold coins.
“Congratulations” is the first word rapped on the album and it’s fitting to see this as the culmination of every skill Action has carefully honed over the last decade. He’s an insatiable and generous artist who wants to take the listener on a tour of his creativity. Welcome to his world.
1. Capoeira Ft. Yung Mehico
3. Latin Grammys
4. Golden Eye
5. Mongolia Ft. Hologram & Meyhem Lauren
10. Cliff Hanger
11. Marcus Aurelius
12. Hard Target