MATIAS PRIBOR ’16
The thirty-two year old entertainer, rapper, and former fire-flame gourmet chef Action Bronson is a man whose career has been built upon defying expectations. If you have listened to some of Bronson’s more controversial work you might ask how someone so inappropriate and crass could ever produce an album for wide release. This is the artist’s style – the unapologetically ugly character that “Bronsolino” represents is an alternative approach that rejects mainstream stereotypes found in today’s hip-hop.
Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, New York as the son of a “tyrant” Albanian immigrant and “hippy” Jewish mother the Action Bronson character speaks to the nuance and contradiction of Arian Asllani, the artist’s real name. Asllani was raised in a strict household that observed the customs and traditions of Islam. Later in life, he achieved marked success as a gourmet chef . It was only after breaking his leg in the kitchen that he sought out a career in hip-hop. Bronson celebrates crassness and vulgarity—- perhaps most notably in the 2011 video for the song,“Consensual Rape” – but he refuses the utter the “n-word,” citing an experience as a child when his father threw out his hip-hop tapes after he heard that his son was playing N.W.A.’s Niggaz4Life album around their neighborhood.
Lyrically, Action’s music reflects his bombastic outward nature. Most recently the 2013 SAAAB Stories EP, Blue Chips 2 mixtape, and 2015 album Mr. Wonderful all received generally positive reviews. If taken out of context and dissected under a microscope, the artist’s lyrics and the character that he depicts are absurd and offensive, yet the artist argues that they are meant to be “happy, funny, rugged [and] rough.” Bronson resides on the fringes, bringing his unique obscurity to a hip-hop industry filled with sellouts. This is not say that Bronson has not conformed to the industry, either.
Bronson defends the controversial “Consensual Rape” song and video as a work of art and fiction, but has gone great lengths to apologize to the victims of sexual abuse and assure future venues that he will never perform the song live. Prior to the cancellation of his engagement at Trinity, his contract stipulated that he would refrain from Performing the song during his Spring Weekend performance.
While Action Bronson has “built a career upon being as unbearable as possible,” his nature is not insidious, nor will it ever be. The offensive lyrics are always tempered by notably strong production and the artist’s inherent, goofball style. Bronson effortlessly mocks his own shortcomings but does so in a way that reflects the generally vulgar and ugly style he works with. On Saaab Stories and Blue Chips 2, the production group, Party Supplies, brings an all-star effort, sampling songs that no one else in the industry would think to use. This is when Bronson is at his best, when bringing his perspective to the darker aspects of life, as he does in “Light in the Addict.” Bronson is not crass and offensive because this style of “shock-rap” sells, but because he himself wrestles with a kind of mental illness that he is afraid of and denies. Struggles with the negative thoughts that enter his mind is the source of his character – it is through his music that the artist comes to grips with nasty realities.
Kehlani Parish, known as just Kehlani, is, at twenty-one, of the R&B industry’s most promising artists. As a teenager in Oakland, California, Kehlani dreamt of a career in dance, but like Bronson, she was diverted to music by an unfortunate injury. Kehlani enjoyed brief success on “America’s Got Talent” in 2011 as a member of group named PopLyfe that finished 4th in the competition. In the following years, Kehlani avoided the music industry due to the threat of legal action from Poplyfe, to whom she was contractually obligated. It was during this period that Kehlani endured significant hardships that left her homeless and without a career. However, the host of America’s Got Talent, Nick Cannon, remembered her skill as an artist and potential R&B singer. Cannon oversaw the release of her acclaimed mixtape “Cloud 19” in 2014, as well as 2015’s “You Should Be Here” mixtape that reached #5 on the national R&B/Hip Hop chart.
Since the release of her positively reviewed “You Should Be Here,” Kehlani has received major praise, as well as intense media scrutiny. Her widely publicized relationship difficulties with NBA Point Guard Kyrie Irving and Canadian artist PartyNextDoor caused the young starlet to attempt to end her own life in April 2016. The story of her breakup with Irving and relationship with PartyNextDoor trended nationally, as did her Instagram post explaining her unsuccessful suicide attempt. She has since deleted the post, as well as her social media accounts.
While she has had a troubled past, Kehlani remains one of the most promising female R&B artists in a genre that is sorely lacking some variety. Kehlani, like her male R&B counterparts, The Weeknd, Trey Songz, and Miguel, employs a more electronically influenced production sound that compliments her strong vocal talent. Those who are disappointed with Bronson’s cancellation should take solace in the fact that Kehlani is an up and coming R&B singer who seems destined for fame