It’s May 31st at Brixton Academy and the line-up that everyone has been eagerly waiting to see is that of a hip-hop fan's wet dream. Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, Lord Apex and The Alchemist all performing under the same roof. The group are together, touring Europe under the name NBA Leather.
Action himself has new material to play out, his newest album ‘Cocodrillo Turbo’ is his most experimental yet. A record which shows the artist taking the role of a crocodile for some tracks with wildlife audio snippets playing throughout. It’s him at his most playful, but lyrically strong. The whole conception of the record allows him to create new narratives and express his creativity in rapping in different ways. The rapper has also been keeping busy with his book release, a new range of limited edition olive oil, and the latest season of his show Fuck That’s Delicious.
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It’s my first face-to-face interview since the pandemic, I’m meeting one of my idols and admittedly, it’s a slightly nervous/exciting occasion. We meet backstage in his dressing room before Action is due on stage and instantly the dynamic is easy-going. He’s chilling in the room with Alchemist, the legendary beat-maker who’s worked with all your rappers’ favourite rappers. Action gives a warm welcome, sporting a baggy grey t-shirt, even baggier shorts, some fresh New Balance and lime green socks.
Action recites his day to start with, he’s been chilling in London before the gig. One characteristic noticed immediately is, Action brings an overall positivity to his surroundings and those he encounters. He was pictured with Hayden Cassidy, a hairdresser earlier in the day; “It’s the best haircut I ever got, she killed it.” He continues: “Yeah I’ve just been chilling out, one of my homies is opening up a store in London – he’s from New York -” (See previous note about the fresh shoes). “Me and Al (Alchemist) have been running around the city all day just grabbing records wherever we can. Some nice food, some good life, some good work”.
The trio are nearly halfway through the tour, but Action has been looking forward to coming back to London. “‘It’s a beautiful time, it’s always good to come back, it feels like a home show for me”. We speak about the NBA Leather group and how it came around, Action points towards Alchemist at the other end of the room. “This man right here is the reason this tour happened. He’s like Bill Parcells if you know who that is?” At which point, Action explains to me: “He’s an American Football coach, and he had a lot of coaches under him that ended up being successful. So you know we all fall from the same tree, and we all fell from the Alchemist tree. Everything falls together”.
The tour came in good timing with the album release ‘Cocodrillo Turbo’. The thematic album has wildlife creatures being sampled, including the growling of a crocodile, heard in some of the tracks. A similar theme ran through his previous album ‘Only For Dolphins’ which was themed around sea creatures. Action admits: “Yeah I am drawn to those animals; it’s just how I feel in the moment. You know everyone has their own spirit animal… I have many. I find new inspiration all the time, it depends on the day and how the stars are aligning”.
Listening to the album you’re taken to another world which Action creates through the soundbites, lyrics and humour to create the overall cinematic experience. In the track ‘Jaws’, Bronson starts by exclaiming ‘It’s the mother-fucking Crocodile’, with lyrics including “Goat blood drippin’ from my chin, an easy kill / my jaws made of steel, my attitude like Richy Aprile, let’s keep it real…” He’s playful as always, but reinstates: “It’s only an overriding theme, it doesn’t have to follow it exactly”.
It seems that Action finds his inspiration from every corner, commenting: “There’s so much inspiration even from the likes of Rom-com films and all kinds of genres. Even in musicals, you have The King & I and Fiddler On The Roof. I find my inspiration from everything when it comes to the music and what I’m creating”.
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Action in recent years has broadened his creative abilities to paint the artwork for his endeavours, whether for his latest album or his previous endeavours. “For me, it allows me to give you a 100% experience. I’m giving you visual, auditory and like a full spectrum of sensory overload when I give you a project”. He expresses: “I’m giving you music, I’m giving you the idea, a thought and actual art painted by this hand. So, I think I started doing my own covers and painting, it’s given me a new fresh outlook. It’s revitalised and revived me in such a beautiful way. My cup is always filled. Painting is a beautiful thing, it’s therapy”.
Action Bronson isn’t just known for his music and artwork. Before music took over, the artist was a gourmet chef in New York City. Since those days, he’s been documenting his love of food, through his show Fuck That’s Delicious. He’s shown us delicacies from around the world. Although when visiting London there are some places which can’t be missed. “I have go-to’s – when I come to London, I head to Lahore Kebab House immediately. There are no other places… I mean, I’m sure there are others but there’s where I head straight away”.
His love of kebab meat doesn’t end there, we speak about the Dalston restaurant Mangal 2 which was featured on a previous episode of his show. “I don’t think I’ve ever had better rotating meat from a fucking spit before, besides there. Any meat that’s been rotated around and round owes its life to them. It’s been perfected. They’ve made the most of it”. Action then posted a picture at the restaurant a day later stating “ONE OF THE GREATEST MEALS I’VE EVER HAD AT THE UNBELIEVABLE @mangal2restaurant WITH MY BROTHERS”.
Action has acted in a scene from a Scorsese film and smoked weed with Mike Tyson, but is there anything left to tick off the New Yorker bullet list? “I just take things as they come,” he states. There’s a lot that motivates him, clearly.
“There’s some fucking crazy fire burning in me, that’s it. These are the outcomes of all the hard work. The dedication to shit and just getting to meet your heroes. Hopefully, they vibe with you as Tyson did with me. That was a peak moment you know? He touched my hands, that’s like the ultimate respect. We had a beautiful conversation, there were like a few trees bloomed that day. Babies were born at that moment – something happened when me and him connected in other parts of the world. Volcanoes erupted and natural disasters happened, but beautiful ones that created more life. You know when a volcano erupts new islands are formed, but hopefully, no one dies!”
Our conversation ends and the man leaves you feeling more inspired by his overall creative abilities and motivation to keep expanding what he wants to learn. The rapper shortly soon after heads onto the packed stage in Brixton.
“Over 10 years in the fucking game and I’m still here!” Action Bronson states to the crowd. He’s changed his outfit and now wears a low-hanging vest, elbow pads and baggy shorts. After each track finishes. he goes to his knees and holds one hand up – he stares up at it whilst taking in the roar from the crowd. The artist is looking and acting like a pro-wrestler and commands the audience in the same manner that professional fighters do in the ring. Action Bronson continues to evolve – we can’t wait to see what’s next.
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Words: Joe Hale // @Joesquestions
Photo Credit: Brock Fetch
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