Arian Asllani aka Action Bronson of Queens, New York is building on an already impressive track record of collaborations. While most rappers pick and choose producers to work with a song at a time, Action Bronson seems more interested in working relationships, typically resulting in full albums or EPs, with one beat-maker at the helm. This has worked to his advantage so far because ideally, the more you work at something, the better you get at it. Every rapper has their favorite producer(s), but not many of them really explore the possibilities of what can be created over an extended period of time like Bronson does. Previous works with Alchemist, Party Supplies, and Statik Selektah have been well-received on the whole due to the fact that they each have their own distinct sound and feel like actual albums (though ‘Blue Chips’ with Party Supplies is actually a mixtape). There’s a long, ever-increasing list of rap records that sound pieced together and have a “playlist” feel. With ‘Saaab Stories,’ Action Bronson continues to buck the trend by working exclusively with Brooklyn-native Harry Fraud on production.
Though this is a brief listen with only seven tracks, it’s cohesive and almost narrative-driven, making it feel more like an album than most works in hip-hop that are actually billed as such. From the first track, “72 Virgins,” Bronson is putting together a loose autobiography. ‘Saaab Stories’ is a rags-to-riches tale in a way and begins with a description of humble beginnings. As usual, the lyrics are often laugh-out-loud funny mixed in with some New York tough talk. Action Bronson is often compared to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah due to their shared tendency to be comical while threatening to beat you up (or worse). The fact that it’s not too much of one or the other pulls listeners in beyond head-nodding. Like his Twitter account, you’re left looking forward to Bronson’s next joke and it makes for an entertaining listen. Having someone threaten to smack you, then turn right around and give your son a high-five is the kind of absurdity you’ll deal with throughout ‘Saaab Stories,’ but of course it’s not to be taken seriously.
What separates this one from Bronson’s other collaborative works is Harry Fraud’s production. This is a more bass-heavy record than the rest from start to finish, yet manages to be fairly easy-listening. You’re treated to bells, piano, and even a bit of horn play. Though it’s all done electronically, it gives a vibe independent of any of Bronson’s work with other producers. The tracks on their own are laid back, but Bronson’s sort of high-pitched vocals and aggressive delivery offsets this. Some of the stand-outs on this one for me are “Strictly For My Jeeps” (which is accompanied by a hilarious music video), “No Time,” and “Seven Series Triplets,” which features Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. The only other features on this one are a forgettable contribution by Wiz Khalifa on “The Rockers” and Big Body Bes on the lead-off track “72 Virgins.”
As mentioned previously, this is only a seven-track EP that plays out in under 30 minutes, but there are no wasted opportunities here to speak of. I will say I would’ve liked to hear more this time around, but ‘Saaab Stories’ is still another worthwhile addition to Action Bronson’s catalog. Here’s hoping he continues to work this formula. It still serves him well.