ACTION BRONSON at the Rivoli, Friday, November 4. See listing.
Action Bronson is billed as one of New York City's next-big-thing rappers.
Though he's only been rapping for about two years, Bronson's already put out a well-received studio album, Dr. Lecter, and managed to catch the eye and attention of hip-hop heavyweight Dante Ross (3rd Bass, Brand Nubian, De La Soul), currently his manager.
Bronson is jovial and assertive on- and off-wax. When we speak he alternates between hyperbolic cracks, hamming it up for the interview and his crew heard milling about in back, and insistent dismissals of the expectations and claims excitedly heaping up on his name.
The only things he will confirm is that he loves rap music and he, most definitely, loves food.
Hey Action, how's it going?
My day is pretty good. I'm having some French toast for breakfast right now, a.k.a. brunch! We're in L.A. and having a fabulous meal.
How's L.A. treating you?
I'm basically on vacation right now. I've been out here a couple times, it's pretty nice. It's not better than New York, it's just different - it's really laid back.
And you're coming to Toronto on Friday...
I am! I'm looking forward to it big time. I love Canada. I remember going to Toronto as a child... I was at a big mall.
Does it bother you when people link you with this resurrection of New York rap?
Well, I've lived in Queens my whole life, 27 years. That New York shit is what I grew up on and it's what I know. My thing is that I'm not really bringing it back: it never left. It's just hip-hop and I don't like any type of classification for my art.
I grew up listening to Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap, Nas, Naughty By Nature, but also all the other old school groups like NWA, UGK, Scarface. I used to buy every single tape that came out. And right now, I'm also listening to my people: Mayhem Lauren, AG Da Coroner, Wille Da Kid, Roc Marciano, my man Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Das Racist and, generally, it's just a good time right now for music.
You kind of came out of nowhere, when did you start rapping?
I'd say two years ago. Last year I took it semi-seriously but I wasn't really deep into it until this year around February. I didn't write raps when I was a kid or anything; it was a recent discovery, honestly. My man Mayhem Lauren, who I grew up with, he was rapping and I started doing songs with him and it just grew from there. I started doing songs on my own and I found a love for it.
Do you write?
I do write and, I also don't write. It's whatever I'm feeling. I definitely need to hear a beat though. I can't just write regular: that's poetry. When you write to a beat, that's rap. I like writing because I started as a graffiti writer - Action! Smart Crew! - so I actually enjoy the act of writing. I don't write in the BlackBerry though! (Laughs)
So what was your plan with music, because you had this whole other life as a chef...
I didn't really have one and I still don't have one. I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants and seeing how things work out. That's important though, because if I keep that mindset I'll stay fresh and interesting. I don't want to go in thinking I'm going to make millions of dollars because when you try and conform to certain expectations, you're just not going to make it. I'm not interested in being a gimmick, I don't want to make a million and then disappear so I've got to be myself.
Do you Google yourself?
I don't do things like that. That's, like, narcissism; I'm not really into that. I recently just got the internet to tell you the truth. I haven't had a computer for years, since AOL 3.0 in 2000 or whatever. I know, I know, that's crazy! But I didn't even know how to put anything on the internet-I didn't know music goes on internets. A buddy of mine just threw a song up, a little freestyle video that we did, and it just grew from there. I would say it's an integral part of me and my success.
Would you say you have a vivid imagination?
I would imagine I do. I was always a special child.
Do you work better stoned or not stoned?
I'm always stoned so I don't really know!
I knew you were going to say that.
I'm always fucking smashed! (Laughs)
So tell me about this upcoming project with Statik Selektah...
It's called Well Done and it's going to be out on Nov. 22. I broke my leg when I was working in the kitchen in February. Around that time I was just finishing up the Dr. Lecter album and I starting work on the Statik Selektah thing so I wrote most of that while I was laid up with a broken leg. So, it's different in that it's produced entirely by one person, a different person than I normally work with, and the rhymes are maybe a little deeper because I was in different moods because I was laid up. It makes you feel a different type of way.
Did you feel pressure to deliver because your momentum was building?
Not really. I don't feel pressure and I don't care about what anyone else says, to tell you the truth, and that means nothing's gonna faze me.
Is it annoying to get lumped in with other white rappers?
I guess? I don't even know what that shit is anymore. I don't think of myself as a white rapper. My skin is not white, it's tan! I don't know if an Albanian is considered a Caucasian. It's a pretty strong cultural identity, even in New York where I'm from. It's heavy duty. A lot of flags fly, we're very patriotic.
What about when people always talk about the food thing? I think it's really interesting!
At the end of the day, it's all fun and good being a rapper but I want to be on TV talking about food. Right now, I'm the "rapping guy that cooks" and "the chef," or "the rap chef." I still do cook, and I still want to cook-that'll never change. It's just whether I want cook professionally, because that's not easy work.... and I'm not into labour at this point. (Laughs)
What's your dream cuisine to learn?
Recipes from my grandparents' homeland. I grew up on that food and I would like to learn the traditional shit. It's a lot of veal, beef... it's very peasant-y. They had to make do with what they had. But I would like to learn everything from the people that originated it, not just one cuisine.
If you were to pitch a show to the Food Network or something, what would your concept be?
I can't give you that away! It's under production.
Okay, last question: is the beard hip-hop's new fashion statement?
I've had a beard since I was 13 years old. This is that Albanian beard... it shows the struggle in your life.
Like the longer it is the more stuff you've been through?
Exactly! The longer the beard the more struggles I've had. So just know that I'm doing some really heavy shit.