Cocodrillo Turbo is one of Bronson’s finest releases in some time, managing to finesse the more challenged elements of other recent releases.
Action Bronson arrived on the scene circa 2011 with an irresistible mythos already formed around him (Albanian-American chef-turned-rapper with Ghostface-type delivery), backed up by the fact that he could really, actually rap. This music writing industry, always appreciative of a pre-packaged media narrative, bought in hard, and for a few years Bronson (aka Bronsolino, aka Dr. Baklava) was a much-hyped artist and festival mainstay. That hype died off somewhere around his 2015 album Mr. Wonderful (a half-excellent album), probably mostly because of his own shifting interests (i.e. various Viceland programs), but also because of those of the publications that initially propped him up, this more classically minded brand of NYC rap music very far from the center of the culture by the mid-2010s. That said, Bronson hasn’t actually left the public eye or slowed down particularly, keeping busy with those Vice shows and making a couple silly forays into Hollywood acting (most substantially, a tedious cameo in Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island). He’s kept releasing music at a steady clip as well, though with less urgency and apparent passion, with projects like 2017’s Blue Chips 7000 and 2020’s Only for Dolphins suggesting some intent on pursuing a more avant-garde, eclectic aesthetic that’s ultimately engaged with halfheartedly by the M.C.
Now, seemingly back to prioritizing his rap career more wholeheartedly, Bronson has managed to finesse the more challenged elements of his recent output to assemble Cocodrillo Turbo, one of his finest releases in some time. Positioned as a successor to Only for Dolphins and 2018’s White Bronco (all featuring hand-painted Bronson originals for artwork, plus general animal theming), Cocodrillo Turbo offers a concise 30 minutes of the Queens rapper going to work over an inspired selection of jazz-centric production with a focus and excitement that’s been missing from his recent work. This was particularly an issue for the forgettable White Bronco, While Only for Dolphins felt re-engaged but unwieldy and inconsistent. Cocodrillo Turbo pulls it all together, keeping to a similar general production aesthetic as those albums, but changing up the team, swapping out long-time collaborator Harry Fraud for other long-time collaborator The Alchemist. Bronson produces a couple of tracks himself, as does Griselda associate Daringer, the trio (plus a one-off from Mono En Stereo) managing to balance out a busy collection of sounds intersecting somewhere around jazz and psych/classic rock. Cocodrillo Turbo works because its dramatic stylistic pivots don’t really scan as such in practice, sample choices moving between twangy Thai pop rock on the Conway-featuring “Tongpo” (the recent ascendancy of Griselda Gang has worked out well for Bronson, a very early cosigner) and moody The Doors-type psych jams (actually borrowed from esteemed Texas rockers Bloodrock) on lead single “Subzero.” Bronson’s lyricism, somewhat recently threatening to collapse under the weight of self-parody, is more imaginative and outlandish than ever, crass, gonzo celebrations of unabashed hedonism equally repugnant and endearing. Bronson really only admits to self-doubt momentarily near Cocodrillo Turbo’s close, very quickly addressing his doubters — “They say Bronson disappeared like the AIDS from Magic Johnson’s dick” — before averting his attention to a Cadillac so big it could fit eighty Shaqs. As unbothered (and scuzzy) as ever, Action Bronson is at least making the music to back it up once more.
Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2022 | Part 3.