Action Bronson Talks Handjobs, LP & Gourmet Raps
Trading a career in the kitchen for the recording booth, Queens rapper Action Bronson has quickly become one of the media's favorite hip-hop success stories. Picking up rapping as a hobby just recently, while working as a chef for the N.Y. Mets, in the last year-and-a-half Bronson went from posting hilarious cooking shows on YouTube to feature stories in the New York Times and GQ magazine.
The media loves duality, making much of his epicurean tastes, but has perhaps been remiss in failing to praise Bronson's considerable talents as an MC. His gritty wordplay, masterful flow and signature tenor draw understandable comparisons to Kool G. Rap, Raekwon, AZ and, most frequently, Ghostface Killah. However, as his debut LP 'Dr. Lecter,' a collaboration with producer Tommy Mas, proved, and forthcoming album with Statik Selektah, 'Well Done,' confirms, Bronson's style is unique, his work ethic is staggering, and his sheer personality on the mic is incomparable.
The BoomBox sat down with the Queens rapper in a french eatery in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y., to discuss his new albums with Statik and Alchemist, his recent rise to fame, predilection for rapping about gourmet meals and massage parlors, and how weed and graffiti made him the man he is today.
Watch Action Bronson's 'Get Off My P.P.'
What were you doing five years ago, before you started rapping?
S---. Go back to two years ago, three years ago, one year ago. Just cooking, in the kitchen, you know? Normal guy. Just tryna make enough money to smoke more weed, feed the kids and just f---in', you know, bein' a s---head really.
You got kids?
Yeah, I got two. Just tryna feed the family at this point. So, it's workin' out.
Where are you working?
I was working at CITI Field [in Queens, N.Y.]. I was cooking for the Mets.
And what are they saying about your cooking?
They love it, you know. That's why they hired me, because of the skill that I had. I had to do all kinds of tests and s---. I met a lotta cool people through that. Met Robinson Cano, all the Yankees, when they came in. I made sure I got all a them in the kitchen right there.
'Cause you're a Yankee fan?
Oh, big time. Yeah man, so that's where I was. I was in the kitchen, f---in' bulls----in' my life away, like a slave.
Are you thinking, "Man, I want to get out of this?"
Nah, I didn't really think I didn't want to get out of it, just more to the fact that it just happened, you know? I broke my leg in the kitchen on Jan. 31. I broke my s---, my ankle, everything. I was recording the album while I was working, 'Dr. Lecter,' and I broke my leg -- that s--- was a blessing in disguise. After that, I haven't been in the kitchen since.
Watch Action Bronson's 'Brunch'
Do you miss it?
Yeah. Sometimes it's boring. When you have nothing to do, you're like, "F---, man, I wish I had something to do." I'd go to work, instead of sitting here, watching f---in' Maury all day long, you know? Straight up.
Why did you start rapping?
I don't know, man. I would say I started rapping because my friends were doin' it. My man Meyhem Lauren, he was the one who just started me off in the s---. He was like, "Why can't you, why don't you do a rap ... Come to the studio." I really just started outta nowhere. I started rapping on some funny s---, like in a down south accent, and then it just became this.
What was that like?
It's a hidden gem. I'ma let someone hear it. I'ma release it one day. 2007.
You gonna release it from the vaults? J-Love mixtape?
Nah, imagine that? It's gonna be a hidden dart [laughs]. Nah, I mean, yeah I was alright. I was, just like, "Yo, let's keep practicing." Kept practicing, and it just happened.
'Cause I heard the early, Paulie [a mutual friend] played me the early s---, like a year-and-a-half ago.
That was early, yeah. There was some stuff, even before then, when we did the Outdoorsmen mixtape album type deal. They were working on that, I just was chilling at the studio. I ended up getting on it. From there I was like f--- it man, I like this, you know.
When it started picking up, were you surprised?
Definitely. Definitely surprised that a lotta people were really enjoying it and wanting to hear more. I liked it. I'm my own worst critic, so you don't know what's good, really. You can hear yourself a million times, be like, "Yo, I like this," but someone else be like, "That's s---." You just don't know what works. I just do whatever I do, and put it out there without tryin' to cater to anybody. If you like it, you like it.
Watch Action Bronson's 'Barry Horowitz'
Now you have a bunch of records recorded. Besides 'Well Done' with Statik, what else have you got coming up?
I have an album with my homeboy Party Supplies that's coming out after the Statik album. That one's coming out through Reebok. I have an album recorded with Alchemist, who I just came back from. Harry Fraud, which is a prominent producer right now, he does all the French Montana joints. I got an album, a sequel with Tommy Mas as well. Who else do I got an album with? Yeah, that's it man. Finished.
How did you hook up with Alchemist?
Actually, Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager, got wind of my video and he sent it to Alchemist, and Alchemist just was like a fan from then. He hit me up, linked up in Queens, went to the Mobb Deep studios over there, did a couple joints there. I just came back from his crib [in L.A.], worked on a album, did like 12 joints.
What was that like, going to Mobb Deep studios, coming from Queens?
Coming from Queens, we hung out in that neighborhood, and like a lotta people we knew were in that neighborhood, so we always knew, "Oh, the black range, outside of the spot right there, oh that's Hav's [Havoc of Mobb Deep] s---." So, we all knew where the spot was. It's just weird to go there, like to be asked to come there, now. It's cool. It just so happened that Prodigy's main man is my main man from the hood, like, from my neighborhood. I f--- with his little brother heavy. So it's all like a small world type s---, just know somebody, and they know somebody, and it all coincides like that.
What are you planning next?
Tryna get this food TV s--- on deck. It's there, I just gotta get locked into it. Nah, it's gonna happen for sure. There's a couple different places it could go. We just gotta get it recorded and sizzled up.
What does your family think?
They're f---in' surprised, honestly, 'Cause I literally went from chef to this. Yeah, you know, they were proud, at the end of the day, but my father, he's like an old school Albanian dude. He doesn't wanna see his son like, do mad manual labor. He wanted me to go to college and be a doctor, lawyer or some s---. You know how everyone, they want you to strive more, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
You put a lot out there in your songs, talking about massage parlors. What do you think about that? It's not something people are normally that honest about...
Yeah. To talk about it? You think? I mean, the massage parlor's different ... its just a rub and tug. Like, if you're embarrassed about that then... I do all kinds of crazy s--- that I'm not embarrassed about. I don't give a f---. I don't have awkward moments anymore, it's just me. F--- with it if you f--- with it. If not? Go f--- yourself, straight up. So, I've visited many. That s--- used to be a sport when we were younger, you know? It was fun. It was funny s---, you just wild out, smoke weed, chill. Now that I look back, it's not normal. It's not in a normal childhood [laughs]. Or later teenage-hood. That's why I'm me, you know? All that s---, it adds. See? Like this [attempting to butter his bread], you can't have the butter f---in' hard man, you gotta come through with the soft butter, so it's spreadable, nah mean? That s---'s not spreadable. If the butter's not spreadable, man, it's just not gonna pop.
Um. You know how people always wanna ask you about the food... The media loves...
Oh, they love that. It's me, so I don't have a problem with it, it's just generic, you know?
Watch Action Bronson's 'Shiraz'
They latched onto that one thing.
Exactly, but you know, it is what it is. I love that s---, that's me. So, if you wanna talk about it, talk about it all day. I live it, that's not something I'm faking or anything like that, or I'm tryna put behind me or I'm like, embarrassed that I've done it. F--- that. That's my profession, I could stop rap right now and go back to the kitchen. Yeah, that's my schtick, I guess, right? I just happen to rap, man. I'm a f---in' chef, that is my first passion, I'll always love it. Rapping is secondary, but at this point it's first, it's whatever.
I get embarrassed if I'm with my friend [and] someone asks me what I do, "Oh, he's a rapper." Like, word? Am I really? I guess I am a rapper. It's weird to be called that, or tell someone that's your profession. "Yeah, I rap [laughs]."
You used to write graffiti, also.
Yeah. If it wasn't for graffiti and weed, I wouldn't know anyone that I know. Weed and graffiti, I wouldn't know anyone.
Given how fast things have happened, what do you see for the future?
I hope I have a long career, but I really don't think about the future like that. I live, like, for right now honestly. I take it however it comes. At this point, s---, I'm just so happy that it's workin' out. I'm f---in' hyper than ever. I'm ready. I'm not slowing down or anything like that, I'm beasting out.
Action Bronson and Statik Selektah's 'Well Done' is in stores Nov. 22.
Watch 'The Future of Hip Hop'