Courtesy Vice Records
It's lunch time, and Action Bronson is walking around Brooklyn, stopping at a taco truck and ordering, in Spanish, a torta de bistec, mushroom quesadilla and tamales. He's come in from his home in Flushing, Queens, to meet with his label, Vice Records, where footage of the big man's first-ever try at crowd-surfing on a recent tour stop in Canada was being edited.
"I was in Toronto performing; they just show so much fucking love [there]," Bronson says, in a quick-paced, Queens accent. "I just figured I'd show a little love back and fuckin' throw my 310 pounds into the crowd, right up on peoples' heads. I'll tell you this—I was surfin'. I wish I would be able to do that again, but I don't know who's gonna show that much love."
It takes a lot of love to hoist a man of Bronson's stature; his weight, which Vice label-mate Snoop Lion deadpans in one YouTube interview, "is a lot to deal with."
Bronson was born big, the son of an Albanian restaurateur and a Jewish mother, growing up in the same Flushing neighborhood where the 28-year-old still resides, where, naturally, good food was imperative from a young age: "I was always in the kitchen, so I grew up around it," he says. "And I love eating."
Bronson's boyhood consisted of pro-wrestling fandom, cooking in his father's Mediterranean restaurant and getting his hands on as much classic '90s hip-hop as he could.
"As soon as I was able to think on my own, I was into it," he says about his early infatuation with rap. "I used to buy everything to get acquainted with it. N.W.A, Mobb Deep—all the classic stuff, all the classic R&B from when I was growing up."
He was also a serious athlete in his pre-rap days. "I played Little League for like 10 years in a row, played in high school, played football. Then it became bitches and weed. And money. And cars. And rugs. And drapes. And Fabergé eggs."
Just two years into the rap game, Bronson has branded himself as the gourmet chef who happens to rap. Sure, it's schtick, but it's as legitimate and truthful as schtick can get. A graduate of the Art Institute of New York's Culinary Arts Program, Bronson has held down serious chef gigs in NYC steakhouses, including a stint at Citi Field, where he cooked post-game meals for the Mets.
Bronson started taking rapping seriously after a freak kitchen accident—he slipped on an oily floor and buckled his leg. "I can still hear the sound of the bone snapping," he says. On his 2011 debut LP Mr. Lector, Bronson concocted rhymes that reference cheese plates and lake-caught pike in the same stanza as lesbian cunnilingus and smoking blunts, while using a nasal, crass delivery reminiscent of Ghostface Killah, a boyhood hero he's recently collaborated with on the song "Meteor Hammer." He hasn't cooked professionally since his debut, supporting himself and his family (he became a father at 21, and now has two young children) as a rapper.
The food/weed/pussy formula is working well for Bronson, who's amassed a cult following of hip-hop heads with a penchant for gourmet eats, and vivid, sometimes absurdist rhymes about bud and sexual exploits. His follow-up EPs—2011's Well-Done and 2012's Rare Chandeliers—feature production work by Statik Selektah and The Alchemist, respectively. The music caught the attention of Vice Records, a Warner Bros. affiliate, who signed Bronson last summer.
He's keeping details about his major label debut close to his chest: "It is called Saab Stories, [produced by] Harry Fraud; I only have one feature [artist] on there, and it's not someone I've worked with before," he says. "I can't say when, but it'll be out soon."
Bronson is also looking to set down roots here on the West Coast on a more permanent basis. He's recorded his last several releases in LA, but insists that Queens will still be his permanent home. "I'm gonna get a spot in the Santa Monica or Venice area hopefully pretty soon. It's a nice contrast from living on the East Coast, just a spot where I can have my family in where they can be comfortable."
When asked if he's looking forward to getting his medical marijuana card, Bronson is a little blasé; obviously scoring herb has never been a problem, not to mention he doesn't even smoke it anymore—he's gone exclusively to medicating with a G Pen personal vaporizer.
"I've just been smokin' straight wax. The difference is getting 20 percent THC, versus 100 percent. You just get trashed."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.