ABOVE: ACTION BRONSON. IMAGE COURTESY OF BROOK BOBBINS
Action Bronson is a man of excess. Take a tour through his quickly-expanding catalogue and you’ll get a glimpse into the mind of a man obsessed with the finer things in life—expertly-prepared cuisine, rare and luxurious furs and leathers, and, of course, willing women of all sizes and colors. To use his own words, from this year’s “A Simple Man”—”Visit the bank with the chrome, then have a banquet in Rome / Five hours later in the tank top at home, with my feet up, abusing drugs, using Susans. With two midgets naked for my amusement. You understand me?” Suffice it to say, he really paints a picture with his words.
In just a year-and-a-half since his debut release—the Tommy Mas-produced Dr. Lecter—Action has carved out a football player-sized spot for himself in the hip-hop scene. A bald, red-bearded, Albanian former chef, Action Bronson doesn’t look how you might expect him to. But he completely embodies what it means to be a modern artist—he doesn’t fit the image of a mainstream act; he’s got a gruff, usually out-of-breath candor that sounds more tired than it does aggressive (he even sounds relaxed in his tough talk); and his influences range from Wu-Tang to the folk music of his native Albania.
Leading up to the release of his collaborative album with legendary producer The Alchemist, we spoke to Action about Steven Seagal, girls, and the proper way to eat focaccia.
DAN BUYANOVSKY: There’s been a great response to the video for “The Symbol.” It’s hilarious. The style of that clip, and the mixtape cover, remind me of ’70s cop movies. What about that era and style inspired you?
ACTION BRONSON: Me growing up, personally, I loved fuckin’ Van Damme movies and Seagal movies, so I just tried to take all that and be kind of ’70s-ish, a little different. You know, we got the look, we got the crazy fuckin’ wig. [laughs] I made sure I told Rik [Cordero] what I wanted to do, and you know, I just acted the fuck out of it. [laughs]
BUYANOVSKY: You seem to enjoy that. Most rappers in music videos look really serious and thoughtful, but you seem to enjoy the fun, acting side of it.
BRONSON: I mean—it’s a spectacle, man. It’s not for me to fuckin’ be on the corner looking tough. That’s unnecessary at times. I’m trying to do some art shit, I’m not trying to do some hard shit. And it’s not even about that, motherfuckers just be having similar videos. You know, everybody is on that bounce and turn-up music now, and it’s all similar videos. It’s all the same shit. I’d rather just show my skills as an actor, and who fuckin’ knows where it’ll take me?
BUYANOVSKY: I feel like with your ability as a rapper, making a radio-friendly song wouldn’t be too difficult. What’s kept you from making those?
BRONSON: I feel like I have a couple of them, but motherfuckers don’t give me a break. But I feel like I’ve got a couple. It’s just a matter of time. And I don’t want to jump all the way out the window. I want it to be on my terms.
BUYANOVSKY: Which is good, because if you came out with a traditional radio song…
BRONSON: No one would fuck with it. They wouldn’t like it. It would be forced and everyone would know it.
BUYANOVSKY: Your last three projects have been entirely produced by different producers—why do you prefer that one-producer-per-project style?
BRONSON: It just kind of happened. It’s not like it was planned, it’s just—you get into a groove with somebody, you keep writing rhymes at this one spot you feel comfortable in, and you keep going, and you have an album.
BUYANOVSKY: For collaborations with guys like Statik [Selektah] and Alchemist, for them to commit to an entire project, they must be pretty inspired. Do you just connect with them on a personal level, or do your skills as a rapper get them fired up as producers?
BRONSON: At first, it was definitely my skills. You know, me and Al are very good friends, and me and Statik are very good friends now, but it definitely started with the rapping. I mean, nobody really knows you, you know? Obviously Al fucks with a lot of shit from Queens, so that made sense.
BUYANOVSKY: Are you working toward a dream project, or do you see your career as more of a collective body of work?
BRONSON: I mean—what I’m doing right now, I’m fuckin’ pretty happy with. I’m pretty excited for everything to be coming out. It’s a time for newer producers to be coming out, not just people using the same producers constantly. So what I’m doing right now, it’s definitely some next shit. It’s not like what everyone else is doing.
BUYANOVSKY: I think you’ve proved that you can rap over just about any sample. Do you think you could rap over classical music?
BRONSON: Oh yeah, of course. “Pouches of Tuna,” from Blue Chips, is just a straight violin loop, orchestra type of deal. But yeah, anything that catches my ear, I’m into. Things that are different, that change what you’re listening to. Not just constant bass in your fuckin’ eardrum. I try to get some smoothness.
BUYANOVSKY: You make a lot of references to obscure athletes in your songs. Were you big into sports growing up?
BRONSON: I still am. I’ll always be into sports. Sports is part of my life forever. My TV stays on ESPN all day long, I’m one of those. I don’t even listen to music in the car, all I listen to is sports talk.
BUYANOVSKY: What would your professional wrestler name be?
BRONSON: Shit, I don’t even know. [pauses] The Hunk. The Big Hunk. [laughs]
BUYANOVSKY: Were you a big kid growing up?
BRONSON: A fat kid?
BUYANOVSKY: Well, I said big, but yeah, were you a fat kid?
BRONSON: Yeah, of course. Yeah.
BUYANOVSKY: Were you self-conscious at all?
BRONSON: No, never. Not at all. My mother always made me feel good about myself. [laughs]
BUYANOVSKY: A friend of mine was always a big guy and got skinny recently, but he tells me that he got way more attention from girls when he was big because he didn’t care what they thought about him. Is that true for you?
BRONSON: Yeah, I mean, it is what it is. I’m a fuckin’ rapper. They have to like me. [laughs]
BUYANOVSKY: Do you like hipster girls?
BRONSON: I like every girl. Every kind of girl that there is, I like. I love an Asian dyke.
BUYANOVSKY: For a while, you seemed happy to be an independent artist. Why’d you decide to sign to Vice Records?
BRONSON: Well, it’s still kind of like being independent. I have the freedom to A&R my own project, to do what I want, I just have a machine behind me now. And they’re good people—really, really good people. They’ve shown me nothing but love. They took a fuckin’ shot on me. [to someone off the phone] Oh, that fuckin’ bread looks good, but I’m not going to have it. I’m on a diet. That fuckin’ bread looks good, son. Ah, I’m not having it. Yo, that’s focaccia, you don’t need to put butter on focaccia—there’s olive oil right there. [back on the phone] But yeah, honestly man, they’re good people, and they’ve shown a lot of love ever since I came into the picture.
BUYANOVSKY: This is the second free album that you’ve released this year—do you think your fan base has gotten big enough to where you can sell a record in stores?
BRONSON: Of course. I wanted to sell this one, but it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, you know? It’s a lot of money to pull out of the pocket, without the guarantee of getting it back, with, you know, certain samples coming up. That’s why I just decided to put it out, and say fuck it, we out here.
BUYANOVSKY: Alright. Finally—I don’t know if you know much about Interview, but at its core it’s a publication where famous people interview each other about their craft. If you could pick any famous person, alive or dead, to interview you, who would it be?
BRONSON: Steven Seagal. I want Steven Seagal to interview me.
BUYANOVSKY: Wow. Okay. We’ll set that up for the next one—for when the next album comes out.
BRONSON: I want to do an album with Steven Seagal.
BUYANOVSKY: He can be the narrator.
BRONSON: Exactly, he’s going to narrate the entire album.
BUYANOVSKY: Maybe he can rap, too.
BRONSON: I’ll write a rap for him. He’ll be the illest rapper out.
BUYANOVSKY: Any final words?
BRONSON: I want to shout out my fuckin’ man, my fuckin’ bro, Uncle Paulie. Oh my god. I love him so much. He’s the best road manager ever. Big Body. Young Big Body. The Shrimp Professional. And I want to give a shout out to fuckin’ Big Bobby Lobster. Larry Langerstien, aka Tommy Mas.
RARE CHANDELIERS IS OUT NOW ON VICE RECORDS. FOR MORE ON ACTION BRONSON, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.