"Blue Chips 7000" doesn't change much about the series' formula, but it's a successful culmination.
At some point a little over two years ago, Action Bronson decided to title his third project in the Blue Chips series Blue Chips 7. After considerable delays, it arrived as Blue Chips 7000. I like to imagine the thought process behind that change went something like, 'I'm already being ridiculous, why not exaggerate a little more?', because that would perfectly parallel Bronson's approach to rap.
Listening to Blue Chips 7000 is like watching a cartoon with an unlimited budget and no plot. "It's like my life directed by Tim Burton," Bronson raps at one point, referencing one of Hollywood's most over-the-top animators and storytellers. The only restriction is Bronson's imagination, and considering that he once dunked a flaming basketball over Godzilla in a music video, it should be pretty clear that the word "restriction" doesn't really apply when we're talking about dude's imagination. The goals are exoticism, outlandishness, and above all, uniqueness. As we've seen in the past, Bronson's rhyming ability is more than capable of achieving that, and the only changes on this episode of Blue Chips are minor:
1). Since we last caught him in pure rhyming mode (on Blue Chips 2 and the two-thirds of Mr. Wonderful that didn't feature iffy singing), Bronson's life has become decidedly more extravagant, adding two Viceland shows to his repertoire, one of which takes him around the world to experience different cuisines. He already carried himself like a bizarro Anthony Bourdain/Cam'ron hybrid who wears a superhero mask, but if real-world exploits do in fact inspire some of Bronson's lyrics (that remains unclear), the past two years have provided boundless source material.
2). 7000 is, unlike 1 and 2, a retail project, so the guiding principle of the series (rapping over relentlessly eclectic, low quality loops dug up from YouTube by Party Supplies) is thrown into peril. This means no more juxtapositions of Dean Martin with graphic descriptions of cunnilingus, no more highlight reels of Bronson suplexing '80s hits, no more "Fast Car." This familiarity was one of the tapes' most charming qualities, but luckily, the flip side of that coin-- dusty samples that no doubt required an ungodly amount of crate digging-- is preserved on 7000. Prog rock from The Netherlands, Thai psych, Nigerian funk, and Italian smooth jazz all make appearances.
3). Party Supplies isn't the sole producer this time around. Past Bronson collaborators The Alchemist, Harry Fraud, and Daringer, as well as boom bap maestro Knxwledge round out the lineup, but because of the beats' similarities to past Blue Chips joints, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash if Bronson lied and said Party Supplies did this whole tape.
4). There's a pop song, albeit a very sarcastic one, on here. The Fraud-produced "Let Me Breathe" sounds like a tongue-in-cheek take on a 2013 DJ Mustard joint, and it has a refrain of, "Basic bitches gon' dance to it." It's unclear if this track was added as a middle finger to Atlantic execs who wanted something to sound like a single, or is just a joke, but one thing it definitely is is out-of-step with the existing Blue Chips template.
I've highlighted these aspects that differentiate Blue Chips 7000 from its predecessors not to suggest that Bronson should stick to a successful formula. But aside from those four details, he does, almost relentlessly so. There's no surprises, save for the usual jolts of excitement from interesting beats or particularly bold lyrics. Every word on 7000 sounds exactly like an Action Bronson lyric, from the culinary description of "Cooking flesh over charred bark" in opener "Wolfpack" to the outlandish "I shot dope before I wrote this, sniffed coke and did aerobics by the ocean" that appears seconds later. If you wrote down every line on a separate flash card, none would stand out as out-of-place in Bronson's repertoire, and most couldn't be mistaken for the work of other rappers.
In keeping with the eclectic, globetrotting subject matter, the music on here explores different cultures and genres with aplomb. The Jah Tiger-assisted "Hot Pepper" is Jamaica-themed right down to the toasting on the hook and the reggae beat; you don't have to be a sociologist to guess that "The Chairman's Intent" and "Bonzai" have vaguely Eastern-sounding strings and Wu-Tang synths; the fact that 7000 is a commercial release may prevent Bronson from sampling Elton John's "Island Girl" again, but the coked-out '80s Carribean boat trip funk "TANK" beat is a spot-on replica. All of this is in line with Bronson's many references to far-flung locales, dishes from varying regions, and friends of many ethnicities.
Bronson hails from Queens, the most multicultural borough in the most multicultural city in America, so there's no doubt that this melting pot that his lyrics dip into isn't just the product of recent globetrotting. He's half Albanian and half Jewish, and he boasts of having Spanish homies who will "hit you with the Civic" and a Colombian princess who will "come and hit you with the scissors." Sonically and lyrically, 7000 may be the best album-length representation of Queens' unique ethnic makeup ever, but there are times when it feels a little uncomfortable to have Bronson as our tour guide. For one, boasting about having "20 Ahmeds [with] bazookas on shoulders" and then following it up with a Team America-worthy ad-lib is gross stereotyping, even if the name is common in Albania. Bronson mostly keeps things PC otherwise, but his whole shtick of internationalism can sometimes come off as stripping other cultures for their exotic parts. He probably means well, but it's always going to be a little awkward to hear a redhead singing in Jamaican patois.
Bronson has said that this is the last Blue Chips ever, and that's probably for the best. While 7000 is easily better conceived, contained, and produced than 2, it doesn't present a sustainable formula with which to continue. It's a last hurrah, an accurate and joyous summation of a series born five years ago with a distinct goal in mind. If we get more and more Bronson projects that consist of little more than punchlines and globe-trotting beats, he'll definitely wear out its welcome. For now though, it's been a while since we've heard him do what he does best, and 7000 is some of the best 40 minutes in his discography to date.