Action Bronson

Action Bronson
Action Bronson is, in many ways, not your typical rapper. The Queens-born Albanian-American MC grew up in a restaurant family, and was working in the kitchen before finishing high school. After becoming a fully certified chef and spending some time on New York's culinary circuit, Bronson took a stab at rapping at the behest of some MC friends. Exclaim! caught up with the surprisingly soft-spoken rapper to talk about the similarities between rhyming and cooking, why he likes to work with one producer at a time and hear about the best meal he's had on tour.

How does a man go from being a chef to being a rapper?
Who even knows, honestly? It just fuckin' happened. That was my profession, but all my buddies were rapping, so I was like "Why not? Why not give it a shot?"

That was it? "Why not give it a shot?"
Pretty much. My man Mayhem Lauren, he's been a rapper pretty much since I could remember, and he was like "Yo, you should try it," and now here we are.

When you say chef, we're talking fully papered chef?
Yes, of course. I have all my papers. I've been working in the industry for about 12 years.

Twelve years? So how old are you?
I'm about to be 28 this year.

So you started young then?
I started young. My whole family is in it. My mother's a professional baker, my father's owned a restaurant since I was born. My grandparents are involved. It's a foodie family.

That explains a lot. So, with the new album, Well Done, with both of your studio albums, you've worked with one producer for the entire album. That's intentional?
Yeah, that's what I'm going to be doing with all my albums, as far as one producer. You get a cohesive sound. It's not all over the place. You can tell that one person did it, and it flows smooth all the way down. It's like the old NWA albums, you know Dre put all that together. The old Wu-Tang albums, RZA did it. It's how you get a cohesive sound.

I noticed that Dr. Lecter was a lot more sparse, where Well Done is a lot fuller and more orchestral...
Yeah, Dr. Lecter is a lot more breakbeat-ish...

Right, does that change how you write or how you rhyme, depending on the production style?
Not really, I just stick to what I know how to do... and I just let everything else take care of itself.

How did you and [Well Done producer] Statik Selektah get together?
Actually, he hit me up on the internet... He invited me over to do a song, and the rest was history. We planned on doing one or two joints, and then it just turned into an album.

So, you've released two albums this year. Are you planning on keeping this work rate up throughout your career?
I mean, I have six albums recorded. I could put out six albums right now, before the end of the year, but I'm just trying to hold it down, make sure that everything is in line, you know?

Who else have you worked with, then, since you're doing it one album-one producer?
I've done albums with Alchemist, Harry Fraud, my boy Party Supplies and another one with Tommy Mas, who I did Dr. Lecter with. It's called Mr. Wonderful.

How did you manage to record so much material in so little time?
Because I work, man. I have no other job. This is my only job right now. I do things to the fullest when I enjoy them and I'm being compensated. Honestly, even if I wasn't being compensated, I would still have this done, because I was doing this before there was any type of money whatsoever. I didn't really get into rap to get paid, because I didn't think that was going to happen. It's a surprise to me, bro. Everyone's surprised, believe me... It's all a mystery right now.

Wow, it's rare to hear that kind of honesty.
That's all I can do is be honest about things, because at the end of the day, I don't really need rap. I could make money other ways, but this shit is just so much fun. I'm having a great time going to all these different cities that I'm going to, seeing everybody enjoy all the music, knowing all the words. It feels good.

Everybody talks the food references in your lyrics, but I noticed a lot of sports references, too. And where other rappers will reference Michael Jordan and LeBron James, you're referencing [former World's Strongest Man] Bill Kazmaier and [former Miami Dolphins fullback] Larry Csonka.
Wow, I'm glad somebody picked up on the Kazmaier one.

Yeah, absolutely. Where do you get the inspiration for lines like that, referencing Bill Kazmaier and ['80s and '90s professional wrestler] Barry Horowitz?
I've been an avid fan, since I was a child, of wrestling... I remember all of the old wrestling from before about 2000. Anything after that, I don't really know about. It's like nostalgia. I try to put nostalgia in things, because it works people's nerves. It evokes some sort of feeling of old, of yore, of yesteryear, you know? And Bill Kazmaier? I used to be a powerlifter, and the World's Strongest Man has been in my life for years. I know every single one. Don't be surprised to hear Gerrit Badenhorst, or Phil Pfister, or Magnús Ver Magnússon, or Magnus Samuelsson in the next rhyme, either.

Wow, OK...
Zydrünas Savickas, Mariusz Pudzianowski... I actually mention Mariusz Pudzianowski three times on this record.

Wait, you used to powerlift as well as being a chef?
Yes sir.

How long were you powerlifting for?
Seriously? For about two or three years straight. My boy, he's an IFBB pro, he's a body-builder. I was training with him for about two years, and I was really into it, but then I got a hernia.

Oh shit...
Yeah, so I'm getting that looked into ASAP.

What, if anything, do powerlifting, being a professional chef and rapping have in common?
Oh man, I don't even know. Cooking is similar to rapping, in that they're both arts. You have to mix different ingredients and mix flavours to come up with some deliciousness. I don't know if powerlifting works into that, actually. It's more of just a brute man thing. It's just showing off my manhood.

That's probably one of the more productive ways to show your manhood.

What's the best meal you've had on tour?
In Toronto, for sure. The foie gras that I had at 416 Snack Bar.

Oh yeah?
Yeah, the 416 Snack Bar, man, that was one of my favourite places ever... Seriously, that place is out of control. It's one of my favourite places that I've been period, even in New York.