Action Bronson’s new full-length Cocodrillo Turbo, comes off the heels of one of the most challenging periods in recent memory. For artists of all stripes, the pandemic has had a kaleidoscope of effects. For Action, it seems to have provided personal mastery and musical experimentation.

Gone are the bodacious beats that Action debuted with on “Dr. Lecter,” perfected on “Mr. Wonderful,” and morphed into the blissed-out production on the rapper’s last album, Only For Dolphins. Instead, we have a record’s worth of production that is never exuberant, always subdued. But it’s not a bummer. It’s the auditory equivalent of veins brimming with euphoria, too enraptured to make a big scene. It sounds like the musical sensibility of Miles Davis and his contemporaries, fiery with musicianship and charisma, crackling with power and chemical confidence. It gives deeper meaning to some of Bronson’s lines: “Many different products was melted on the stove / you kiss it up to god and shoot it in your toe.”

The album itself is a soundscape alive with grindhouse, French lounge, retro organs, cool jazz, B-movie horror flicks, and animals in the jungle prowling at a predatory pace. “Hound Dog” is a rambunctious opener, though the production is nowhere near the level of extravagance on previous releases. Instead, it’s the kind of syncopated production that evokes the mob group sound dynamics of the likes of Onyx and M.O.P., only with old school samples of animal and human alike, rather than a group of guys. The vibe continues seamlessly into “Tongpo,” changing the pace up by the time the piano ballad-like melodies of “Estaciones” begin.

Single “Subzero,” as the name suggests, is positively chilled out. The drums, organ, and guitar are close-knit and under lock, as intimate as a circle of friends passing joints in a dim room. It’s followed by “Turkish,” as understated as it is eerie in all the ways that early Wu-Tang used to be, chilling and sinister.

It’s not all blues, though, baby. “Ninety-One” is as close to the old Action Bronson as you get to see, with the type of soul and funk sample lifting up the rapper’s clever-as-always lines to something resembling happy. But by the time the last bars of closer “Storm Of The Century” play, you would swear this might be the saddest sounding album of the year so far, let alone the sixth album from one of rap’s most eclectic, waggish personalities. It’s only on returning the needle to the outside you can see the unending humour, and outrageous lyrics (“Shorty’s pussy wetter than a gremlin’s nose” ranks in my top ten most insane lines of the year so far), and dedicated musicianship.

While the album appears to have a more downcast vibe than the rest of Bronson’s work to date, painting the entire album with the same brush would be criminal. It’s a sundry collection of soporifics, swelling with impressive samples, oblique with its references, and as inventive as ever with its execution, both musically and lyrically. It’s an accomplishment from an artist that has built an already impressive career from being over the top, but for once is showing what they’re capable of when the bombast of production is toned down.

Action Bronson in 2022 by Brock Fetch

Cocodrillo Turbo Track Listing:

1. Hound Dog
2. Tongpo
3. Estaciones
4. Jaws
5. Subzero
6. Turkish
7. Jaguar
8. Zambezi
9. Ninety One
10. Storm Of The Century

Run Time: 30:01
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Record Label: Loma Vista Recordings