If you’re in search of Action Bronson, you know where to find him. He’s speaking Arabic in Greece. He’s summering in Bali. He’s water skiing in Belize. He’s in Vegas like Steve Wynn. He’s eating tacos in the Galapagos, higher than a opera note. He’s shooting guns with his daughter on the weekend. He’s going from zero to sixty in a Porsche like a cheetah, transporting Asian lesbians in an El Camino, and speeding in a BMW 860. He’s everywhere. And even if none of this is true – even if there’s no such thing as a BMW 860 – he is still a remarkably hard man to track down.
“Just got to figure out where the big guys is,” a representative from Vice Records – Bronson’s home, and a division of Warner Music – wrote me last December. He was attempting to set up a conversation to promote the Queens rapper’s appearance at the Howard Theater – the one where he would pull an audience member in arm crutches from the crowd, get him stoned, convince him to freestyle, and then throw the guy over his titanic shoulders while he rapped an entire song. But before that would happen, the task of getting him on the phone was revealing itself to be a futile endeavor: “Sorry, been trying to get of a hold of Bam Bam but… he is off the radar.”
Bam Bam Baklava moves in mysterious and perpetually stoned ways. Thirteen months later, it’s pretty much the same story. Last week, his people propose a time for us to speak, but on Monday, less than three hours out, it remains unconfirmed. Is it actually going to happen? “Crossing my fingers!” a press contact tells me, sounding like someone who has learned not to make promises.
But the call does happen. And if there is a swirl of elusiveness and unknowability around Bronson, it is not reflected in his demeanor. “What’s good? How are you?” he inquires with seemingly sincere interest. As for him? “I’m good. I’m just hanging in there.”
This is a lie. These days, Bronson is doing more than just hanging in there. Though initially discounted with a “white Ghostface” tag, the former professional cook has been on an absolute tear over the past few years. He’s developed creative partnerships with big ticket and emerging producers like The Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Statik Selektah, and Tommy Mas – all of whom he’s released full-on collaborations with. He inked a deal with Paul Rosenberg’s Goliath Management. He guested on high-profile releases from Mac Miller, Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky, and Prodigy. He signed to Vice.
Most importantly, Bronson has emerged into his own as a rapper – a crass and irreverent slinger of madcap drug, sex, and sports references, a character cuddly and repulsive in equal measure. Nowhere has this been more on display than a pair of mixtapes with Fool’s Gold producer Party Supplies: 2012’s Blue Chips and this November’s sequel, Blue Chips 2. If there’s a distillation of peak Bronson, it can be found here, amongst the pulpy stew of horns, blaxploitation theme music, and golden oldies, all ripped from YouTube and held together by duct tape and chewing gum.
In 2014, Bronson will attempt to capitalize on this momentum with his first full-length for Vice. Major label debuts can be difficult to navigate for rappers, especially ones that attracted a cult following with eccentricity and slapdash panache – the very things that the big boys seek to iron out. But if it that’s stressing out the man they call Bronsolino, he’s not showing it.
Oh man, you know, it’s slow motion. I take the kids to school in the morning, chill, maybe work a little bit, eat some food. I just hang and fuck around.
You must be up pretty early.
Yeah, I’m up at 7:00 every day.
What are you working on right now?
I always got something in the works, man. I’m always working. I got my debut album coming out soon. I’m just putting my finishing touches on that.
You’re done with most of it?
Yeah, I got a bunch of joints.
Who are you working with?
I’m working with a bunch of different producers, but everyone’s still the same. Every producer that I’ve worked with will be on the album. [Stones Throw] producer Oh No will be on the album, as well. He produced one of my favorite joints.
Do you have an idea of when it’ll be coming out?
Yeah, summertime, hopefully, man.
Is your favored style of collaboration – sometimes holing up in the studio for days – something a producer has to be onboard with?
At the end of the day, not everybody can do that. Not every producer can work that way. I just happen to get in the groove with these producers and they all are fucking amazing producers, so they were able to make all this different music for me that kept me interested It’s a given with them. Once things feel good, you don’t fuck it up – you just go with it.
Talk about what those sessions are like it. It sounds like liberal smoking is a necessity.
I would be smoking something anywhere. No matter what. So, it’s not just because of that. Working with Alchemist, I go over there and there’s really no sleeping. You wake up whenever and you goto bed whenever. You start working the second you get up.
With Party [Supplies], he has a life here, and I have a life here as well. We’re both New Yorkers. We get up early in the morning. We might get some breakfast, then start working in the morning and not finish until late at night. And then do the same thing again, and the same thing again, and the same thing again. We just get in a groove. You just have to get into a little method with people. Once you start getting in that groove, you just move with it.
You show a lot of love for wax on Blue Chips 2. When did you start dabbling in it?
I’m gonna say that I started dabbling in wax almost three years ago – maybe two-and-a-half years ago. I was in Utah and my man put me on it. I’ve been a freak ever since.
Are you much of a drinker?
Nah, I don’t really drink. I don’t like the taste of alcohol. It’s hard – if alcohol tasted good, I’d be a fucking drunk. I’d be an alcoholic, but the shit don’t taste good to me. I can’t get it down.
Yeah, with that first tape, it was like people knew that I was here now. It catapulted me to a certain spot, and then I just kept it moving. I dropped the Alchemist joint, then I worked with [Harry] Fraud, then Blue Chips 2 dropped. I just kept it moving, man. I don’t change though. I keep myself the same. But how much money we make and the different types of opportunities we get, when that stuff changes, you know you’re doing something right.
Has your life gotten more comfortable?
Of course. From making four or five hundred dollars a week?Absolutely. When you’re a cook, that’s the type of life you live. I’m absolutely in a better spot now.
Do you think you’ve improved as a rapper?
I think that’s an interesting question. I don’t know – I can’t judge myself. I like everything that I’ve done. I really can’t call it, man. I leave everyone to their own opinions. I just do what I do. I say what I feel. I make my shit, and if people fucking like it, they like it. I can’t really judge myself.
But I know that I’ve felt growth. I feel like I’m growing. So maybe I am getting better.
Has your approach to songs evolved?
I approach a song differently every time. It’s not like I get in one zone to approach a song. Everything is dictated by the music that I hear.
You’ve said that your songs should be viewed as art – specifically how some of the things you’ve said about women shouldn’t be taken seriously. How much of what you rap about is a reflection of your real life and how much is fantastical?
I’ve experienced everything that I’ve talked about. Everything has been something that I’ve been around or done or experienced in my life. A lot of what I say is for humor, as well. It’s a mixture of a lot of shit. It’s art. That’s exactly what I mean. It’s not a biography. I’m not writing my memoirs over here. I’m trying to make that fly ill shit. Shit that makes you think. Shit that makes you laugh. Shit that makes you cry. Shit that makes you disgusted. Everything.
I’m not making songs for the club. I’m not making pro-women songs. I’m not making pro-men songs. I’m not making pro-anything songs. I’m just doing craziness. I’m letting creativity flow out of my body over music. That’s what’s occurring. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m just doing me. You know what I’m saying? It’s all art, bro. That’s what I’m saying to you: It’s all art. I don’t give a fuck how real your life is, you’re not that real if you’re rapping for money.
Some pictures of you and your mom dancing at Irving Plaza hit the Internet. What does she think of your music?
I don’t really send her my music. She just checks shit out on Internet. She watches videos and different clips of me and shit like that. She always gives me the update of what I’m about to be doing: “Oh, you’re about to go here?” and “Oh, I saw that you’re going here” and “Oh, did you see this review?” and “Did you see that?” and “Oh, this is beautiful.” She always keeps me updated.
Hmm, what did I have recently that was ridiculous? It was probable something I made the other day that was pretty fucking banging. I made some nice aged steaks with some pineapple salsa that was fucking incredible. I made it with pickled jalapeno and grilled pineapple and garlic. It was fucking tremendous.
What was the occasion?
I was in L.A., at Alchemist’s studio, and he has a big-ass backyard, so I was just barbequing. I just decided to fucking whip up a sauce.
You tweeted the other day that no one can beat you in the kitchen.
Nah, they can’t.
Have you always viewed cooking as a competitive thing?
I don’t view it as a competitive thing, but when I see schmucks in the rap game right now trying to fucking run with that, it’s like, “C’mon, son. You’re not real. If you’re trying to keep it real, you’re not fucking with me in the kitchen. It’s just a fact. And at this point, you’re not fucking with me in the booth either.” In two games, motherfuckers ain’t fucking with me.
When you’re on the road, do you make an effort to hit up local establishments?
What are your favorite cities to eat in?
Oh man, Austin, Texas is a great place to eat. Out of the country, there’s all kinds of unique shit. I love eating in Australia. Australia has ridiculous food. Milan. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had incredible meals. Paris.