The Special Ingredient: Action Bronson

"...the way I rap, the way I talk and the way I think."

Action Bronson is a caveman, not the Neanderthal type, but in an imposing Alpha male manner of speaking, think Ernest Hemingway except without the academic vernacular. Trouncing through the crowded sea of fans in North London’s Garage venue with a buxom female fan slung over his shoulder like a hunter taking home his prey you can see he emits that rough-around-the-edges-and-I’m-proud-of-it New York flavour. The rapper turned chef from Flushing Queens makes no excuses or apologies for what he is: an unrefined G-Pen toking foodie with lyrics to go. Ever since he served up starters in the form of his first mixtape ‘Bon Appetit ….. Bitch!!!!!’ and LP ‘Dr. Lecter’ rap fans have been coming to his bistro for more and in the process he has built himself a cult fan base in the realms of Hip-Hop.

Catching up with him before the end of 2012, Bronsolini (who told us beforehand he was “sitting here at the desk, smoking wax coughing my lungs out”) proceeded to break down the antithesis of being a proper New York rapper and the his ‘secret recipe’ in his Christmas turkey stuffing (word of warning it’s not sage and onion).

You just done a gig in Amsterdam, how was that?
Amsterdam was great man I loved it. I love Holland in general, Rotterdam, Amsterdam… it's dope, it's an amazing place. I love sitting in the coffee shops and smoking, that's the one thing I could do for the rest of my life. Everywhere I been has been great though: Paris, Glasgow, Manchester, London – its all been dope.

With Seattle and Colorado legalising Cannabis you must been excited to go back there right?
I just did two shows in Colorado actually and it was great. We went to the weed shop, smoked weed wherever we want, good times.

Do you think you'll ever see it legalised in New York?
I don't man it's touchy. I don't think New York is gonna legalise it. Shit, we smoke like it's legal there anyway so who gives a fuck?

I guess so, the law will hardly put people-off. Everyone knows that you were a respected gourmet chef before you took to rapping on the mic but what made you want to switch from being in the kitchen to a full-time rapper?
Honestly four years ago I started rapping, not seriously, just for fun. I've only been taking it seriously for about three years now since I broke my ankle in January 2011, since then this has been my job and my pleasure so I haven't stepped foot in a kitchen professionally since then.

That’s quite similar to the Big Pun story…
Big Pun is one of the best ever man but I'm in much better shape than he was because I can backflip, I can cartwheel and I can do the splits [Note: obviously he’s joking]. I mean as far as I know his injury was much more serious than mine, he broke his thigh which is the femur and it's the hardest bone in your body to actually break so I can only imagine what he went through. I broke my ankle and I forced myself to do therapy and run-up and down steps and squat on one leg. My legs are actually better than they were before I broke it.

Since the success of your rap career how often do you get to cook just for your own pleasure?
I cook every so often, I don't get to cook a lot but when I get home I’m gonna make a nice Christmas dinner just for the Holidays and New Years for the fam. I'm looking to do much more especially with the show and just a whole bunch of shit.

Got anything in mind for a special Action Bronson stuffing?
Stuffing? Well the Action Bronson stuffing I can only show the girls, I only give women the special stuffing. I’ll tell you right now it involves a lot of sausage.

Your new mixtape ‘Rare Chandeliers’ which you did alongside Alchemist is getting a lot of love right now. What was it like getting in the studio with him?
Alchemist is a fucking great man and a great friend and a pleasure to work with, there's just no-one better. The vibe was electric, you could the electricity with a knife.

Is it true you recorded about 40 songs for ‘Rare Chandeliers’?
Yeah we have about 25 or 26 tracks left, we have a lot of songs and we continue to keep working. Every time I go out there [to LA] we do more and more, I'm on several of his songs like his project with Evidence called 'Step-Brothers' and his project coming out with Prodigy, he's got a new Gangrene project which I’m on as well and a project coming out called ‘Rap Camp’. It's all kinds of crazy shit man, we’re on like countless songs together.

When you first burst onto the scene a lot of people obviously compared you to Ghostface Killah but who would you say influenced your style flow and cadence?
As far as I know this is just my voice and the way I rap, the way I talk and the way I think. I mean my influences I definitely listened to a lot of Wu-Tang, Cam'Ron, Kool G Rap, UGK and Mobb Deep growing up. I feel I have a lot of influences from a lot of different people but I feel now that I've proved myself and I've shown that I'm my own man that everything comes from me and nobody else. It's really hard to compare me at this point because: first off no one's doing the work I'm doing and secondly no raps like me at this current moment. Everyone's off trying to be on some other swaggy-type shit and I'm just one of a kind.

Do you think being from New York that there's so much expectation to be 'immediately' dope on the mic and in the booth?
Yeah, if you're from New York and you're in the rap game you’re expected to be nice, you’re not expected to be on some bullshit. Being from Queens in general it's a heavy burden but I carry it like the world's strongest man.

There's always the debate about New York not being the force it once was in the rap and hip-hop, what's your opinion on that?
Well what does it look from the outside? What do you think?

Well you and Joey Bada$$ are blowing up and performing overseas, A$AP Rocky is killing it…
Well in the commercial world obviously New York isn’t as prominent as it used to be, that’s just because people in New York are turning up and listening to other things and most people from New York aren't native New Yorkers. There's a lot of different people from all over, from every single walk of life, living in New York so it's not just a New York thing anymore. In the 80's there wasn't foreigners in Williamsburg, there weren't people from Toledo, Ohio living in Manhattan, a lot of the natives left and now there's all kinds of people which kinda blurs the lines of what is New York music. Me being a native New Yorker from Queens – for twenty-motherfucking-nine years – I only know one thing, I have influences from everywhere but I do what I do for Queens. I have to represent no matter what. I mean let's talk about the people that come from Queens: Tragedy Khadafi, Capone-N-Noreaga, Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap, Nas, Cormega, LL Cool J. I have to be spectacular to have my name put into that group because that's hip-hop honours right there, you could start a fucking all-star team with that group right there.

What did you make of Ebro Darden’s [Hot 97 FM Program Director] comment about upcoming New York rappers only being in the ‘minor leagues’? Do you think he was being disrespectful?
Nah, I like Ebro he's my homie and at the end of the day I understand what he's saying and the fact that that's not what's selling because he has a business to run. Hot 97 is a business, don't get twisted it's not to break new artists because they're ill or because they're doing something for their city, it's to make money, gather marketing and all kinds of commercial slots and have people pay him to pay the station to keep it going and keep it running and in turn to play what the people want to hear. And it's not people in New York it's people in general, they don't sit down five random kids and be like "yo, what do you to hear?". They send it to a focus group – somewhere not in New York I'm sure – they play 30 seconds of the song you either like or you don't and that's how you get on the radio. So I understand what he's saying but at the end of the day it's obvious that you don't need radio to have a career. Look at myself, look a Curren$y, look at all of the people who've made it without having radio songs. Dawg I have a fucking career off the Internet and I’m compared to the people that are on the radio and I'm held in the same vein. If me and some big star on the radio station walk into a club in New York were both getting let in – expect I might be getting in first nahamsayin'? At the end of the day motherfuckers recognise no matter what.

So in that respect would you say radio is irrelevant?
No not at all I think it's definitely relevant because if I was on the radio and you heard my song 30-40 times a day I'd be fucking outta here, I'd be like fucking Michael Jackson. Of course it helps, it's definitely great and it's a thing of pride, like back in the day you were like "yo I gotta be on Hot 97" and they’ve played my shit on Hot 97 before and when I heard it I was hyped, I was like “Wow, I'm here”. At the end of the day you don't need it but it is relevant. It's really not easy the way me and Curren$Y are doing it, it doesn't happen everyday. Curre$y is definitely the master at it, he's been an independent artist for… I don't how long, and he just does what he does man.

Your career has really taken off and it seems like you can’t lose but what's your biggest fear right now?
I have no fear that's why I'm winning, I don't think too much I just do what I fucking do. I continue to keep on going in, going hard at it and I let the music talk for itself.

Words by Jerry Gadiano

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Action Bronson’s collaborative mixtape with Alchemist ‘Rare Chandeliers’ is available for download now. Look out for his first major debut album on Vice/Warner bros this year.

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