Individually it has already been a busy year for both of these East Coast cats. Well Done marks the third release of 2011 for the culinary chemist-turned-rapper Action Bronson—following the the Bon Appetite…Bitch! mixtape and the impressive Dr. Lecter album—and the fifth for producer/DJ extraordinaire Statik Selektah, who dropped collabo joints with Freeway, Freddie Gibbs, and Freddie Foxxx, as well as an ambitious solo record, Population Control.
Measuring Well Done against his previous work—primarily Dr. Lecter—it’s clear that of all the underground MCs capable of breaking through this year (Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, MaLLy, Freddie Gibbs, Midwest Konnec, Danny Brown, Torae, etc.), Action Bronson is the most poised of the bunch—showing the ability to grow in terms of both subject matter and delivery. The verses on Lecter are limited in scope—mostly food, the streets, weed-smoking, and more food. But on Well Done he widens his topical range to include stories of love-gone-wrong (“Love Letter”) and the difficulties of playing rap game (“Rain Maker.”) While his cadence is oddly familiar to that of legendary MCs like Ghostface or Big Pun, skillfully he might actually be superior. On Lecter he effortlessly interweaves punchlines and word-association rhymes over a Tommy Mas-produced backdrop composed of mostly break-beats. But Lecter—while ever-dazzling—is to a fault, too cyclical, whereas Well Done is a better-rounded outing.
In this regard, Selektah deserves as much credit as does Bronson. Production-wise he provides a variety of beats that no doubt encouraged Bronson to broaden his approach for Well Done. Much like his mentor DJ Premier, Selektah has a knack for picking just the right samples to drop in the cut. On “Central Bookings” clips of Mobb Deep, Boogie Down Productions and other notables are scratched together to create the hook. Similarly, on “Keep Off the Grass” Selektah uses a Big Pun sample in the hook—an obvious nod to the comparisons Bronson draws from the late great.
Well Done starts off a little suspect, thanks to a very ill-advised and misplaced homophobic slur (by an unidentified hype man) between the first and second verse of “Respect the Mustache.” (Seriously, who cleared that?) And at times Selektah goes a little too heavily on horn samples, as he does on “Cocoa Butter,” where combined with Nina Sky’s uninspired vocals they unfortunately smolder some of Bronson’s fire. But overall there is not much to complain about. The time-tested, streets-approved MC/DJ formula proves yet again that hip-hop is best executed by sticking with the original modus operandi. Action Bronson and Statik Selektah recall memories of classic duos like Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Eric B & Rakim, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and Gang Starr, in that they complement each other in an incredibly favorable manner. Well done? Absolutely.
8.8 / 10
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