I first encountered hip-hop at summer camp in Iowa, where Paul's Boutique seemed like a hand-drawn map of a distant country. It presented Brooklyn as a series of baffling allusions that both evoked and obviously distorted another land. Nearly 25 years later, Action Bronson has done the same for Flushing with Saaab Stories—the extra "a" is for avoiding trademark infringement—magnifying the details until the big picture becomes blearily surreal.
The EP is only 25 minutes long, but his major-label debut distills the richly developed world Bronson has described in seven releases since 2011. Here are the grindhouse exaggerations, obscure wrestling references and disjointed similes"shorty doing lines like a sketch," for example, or "my trunk slapping like a tambourine"that have raised his work beyond rap cliché to the level of ecstatic vision.
Fortunately, here also is Harry Fraud. With the exception of the loose intro track, the producer's beats are uniformly tight and catchy throughout, providing a rhythmic gravity that keeps Bronson's wheeling images in orbit. Saaab Stories is certainly Action Bronson's most danceable album and probably his most disciplined. He has always been prolific. This gem suggests that now he is focused, too.