Action Bronson Attributes His Rap Career To Graffiti Writing
Exclusive: Action Bronson explains why he reminds everyone of Hip Hop's Golden Age and details sacrificing commercial appeal to keep his reputation intact.
Action Bronson isn’t your average rapper. Only discovering his rapping abilities within the past five years, Bronson was a chef who suffered an injury that led him to a career in the Rap game via the Internet. Inspired by Hip Hop and a long time tenure as a graffiti artist, his career has been unplanned and as organic as they come. Action says he “doesn’t give a fuck” about mainstream success or “flashy shit,” but he cares about his fans.
He’s down to square off with over-eager security guards, randomly honest enough to admit injuring his back while sneezing after a wax dab and connected enough with his fan base to agree to do an interview based on a blog article and a brief exchange via Twitter.
“I don’t do interviews, but I did this because of the article you wrote about me,” Action explained. “You showed me love. That’s why I did this.”
During an exclusive conversation, Action made a point to stress the distinction between what he deemed “good music” and mainstream music surrounding New York Hip Hop. And, in response to the numerous Ghostface Killah comparisons, Action asserted, “I remind everybody of the Golden Age, that’s just what it is.”
Action Bronson Explains His Unorthodox Approach To Making Music
HipHopDX: On “Tan Leather,” you say, “From having money on my mind to money in my pocket.” You even say, “No emotion over here.” That seems like a different emotional content than what we’re used to from you. Can you talk about the vibe of that song and where you’re coming from?
Action Bronson: It was just pretty much the music. Sean from Party Supplies wrote that on the piano and on the road. I was just in the fuckin’ zone. I don’t try to stay on topic or nothing like that. You know, different types of things, they make you feel different things, and you rap about it and sing about it in your music.
DX: The topic of food comes up pretty often though. How did you go from Action in the kitchen to Action Bronson?
Action Bronson: Who knows [laughs]? It kinda just transformed. I just took a liking to rapping, and that was that. I broke the leg in the kitchen, and from then on I just became a fuckin’ professional rapper.
DX: It looks incredibly fun...
Action Bronson: Listen, you don’t wanna rap. You have to do things; you have to come here and rap in front of people. You have to go to Salt Lake City and rap in front of people.
DX: It’s not fun?
Action Bronson: I love it, but I’m saying I have to be away from family and shit like that. But I’m not complaining, and it’s a good time. I always wanted to do nothing. I dreamt about doing nothing.
DX: You talked about breaking your leg in the kitchen, what are some of your favorite foods?
Action Bronson: I try new things everyday. But I would say bagel and eggs from my mother, man. Just get the bagel from the neighborhood, Utopia Bagels—they make the best joints. She cuts it up with the butter knife so you get some edges, some scrambled eggs soft, softly scrambled.
DX: With cheese?
Action Bronson: Nah, I’m not the cheese and eggs type of guy.
Action Bronson Talks Golden Era Impact & Ghostface Comparisons
DX: Well, since we’re getting nostalgic, you’ve mentioned Kool G Rap being a major influence. Who else inspired you to pick up the pen?
Action Bronson: Everybody from Wu-Tang, Nas and Mobb Deep...everybody that I listened to when I was young. I knew everybody’s raps by heart, so off top I’m gonna come in the game, and I’m gonna fuckin’ rap the way I know until you get your own voice and this and that. I think going back to people always comparing me to Ghostface [Killah]; that’s an honorable comparison and that’s my man. He’s a fuckin’ stand up human being, and I fuck with him heavy. I think people got over that quickly. I mean, I wouldn’t be where I’m at if they didn’t.
Ghost is definitely one of my favorite rappers. I can definitely recite entire albums of him, I can recite entire albums of Nas, and I can recite entire albums of M.O.P. All these people influenced me in my music and not even Hip Hop shit—things that I listened to growing up, like Spanish music.
DX: Why do you think the Ghostface comparisons stopped so much?
Action Bronson: I don’t know. It’s not something that everybody said, like, “Oh my God, this is Ghostface reincarnated.” I remind everybody of the Golden Age. That’s just what it is. It’s just what Rap used to sound like...the shit that they remember from Rap. I got 35-year-old men coming up to me, 40-year-old men, coming up to me like, “Oh man, you’re the fuckin’ greatest. You remind me of Pun, Nas and Eazy-E.” I just remind people of the Golden Age.
DX: That’s interesting, given all the back and forth about the state of New York’s Hip Hop scene. What are your thoughts on that?
Action Bronson: I’m fuckin’ from New York. I don’t give a fuck, that’s Rap straight up, bottom line; that’s where Rap is from. I don’t care about anything else. Good music is good music, and if you make good music, people are gonna like it. It doesn’t have to be mainstream, and it doesn’t have to be on the radio 24-fuckin’-seven. You don’t need that to have a career. There’s plenty of people that tread the line. I made a career off the Internet, are you kidding me? It’s a big fuckin’ joke. At the end of the day, just do what you feel, make your art and people are gonna like it or they won’t. And that’s really what it is. I been doing this now—first time I put a joint out was three years ago—and I always rep New York. I don’t know anything else. So that’s always what I’m gonna do.
DX: Are you interested in achieving more mainstream success or radio play?
Action Bronson: I don’t give a fuck about anything, honestly. I just do my music and if people like it, they like it. I sometimes shoot myself in the foot. I’m being brutally honest with you right now. Sometimes muthafuckas be like, “This song is gold,” and I be wishy-washy. I’m a victim of it. I’m not even gonna front. That’s being brutal. Sometimes you’re your own worst enemy. But you gotta keep your reputation intact. Because when all this other bullshit is over, you’re only gonna have what you built yourself and your character. That’s the only thing that’s gonna take you through life, is the character that you built. Fuck all that flashy shit, quick money...it’s gonna be gone in two seconds. It’s about longevity. You build fans, and you tour a lot. I touch people. I see people everyday. I don’t do interviews, but I did this because of the article you wrote about me. You showed me love. That’s why I did this.
How Graffiti Led Action Bronson To A Hip Hop Career
DX: Wow, I didn’t know you read it. Thank you. One thing that I found out is that you do graffiti.
Action Bronson: I’ve always done graffiti.
DX: Have you ever incorporated your own artwork on your cover art or into your music?
Action Bronson: I incorporate it into the music, yeah. Everybody that I know is through graffiti, and that’s how I met all my friends. If it wasn’t for graffiti, there wouldn’t be any me, any Rap. That’s pretty the much the basis of it all. And sometimes it’s corny to be like fuckin’ with the elements. But I met all my homies through graffiti; we all did graffiti together, and now we just live life. I do it all over the place. Give me a can. I’ll do something right now.
DX: Let’s get this man a can. How does creating on that blank canvas or wall translate to you making music?
Action Bronson: I’m an only child. You have to have an imagination. You gotta make stories up and play lands. You just smoke weed and fuckin’ sit there. I look at things differently. I know everybody’s gonna say that, but I really do look at things differently.
DX: You incorporated Allen Iverson’s infamous practice rant into Blue Chips 2. In working with Party Supplies, how much in input did you have over those kind of samples?
Action Bronson: Absolutely, we worked together on that shit. We would be sitting there going through records—going through samples, going through music—we just do it together. The whole project was done collaboratively.
He’s amazing, and he’s on tour with me. Hopefully, I can bring him through Australia, Europe and hopefully Japan. I wanna bring him everywhere. He deserves it, and he fuckin’ rips it up on the fuckin’ guitar. That’s a big part of the show right there. I’m gonna do “[Amadu] Diablo” with the defender.
DX: In line with that and bars like, “My silhouette resembles Jesus in all seasons,” how much of a conscious decision is it to be a comedic rapper?
Action Bronson: That’s just my personality. You have to let yourself show in your music or else what are you doing it for? I don’t make candy shit. I write what I feel at the time. It might not always have a structure all the time, but there’s some sort of melodic element. It’s always gonna make you laugh, or something’s gonna make you go, “Whoo...what?” You go through a lot of emotions listening to me. It’s like a soap opera. It’s like daytime TV but good daytime TV—like Days of our Lives, All My Children, or Dynasty. It makes you feel like that.
DX: So is there a TV show in the future?
Action Bronson: Who knows, man? I’m trying to get fuckin’ actor money. So why not? I can do it. If Ja Rule... If Coolio can be in a fuckin’ movie, I can be in a movie.
DX: What movie would you create?
Action Bronson: I don’t know, some sort of obscure sports maybe. Something like World’s Strongest Man, that’s like very depressed. I have to go through my mind for the script. I can’t give it all out.
DX: Next interview we’ll talk about that. You mentioned before that you’ve been on tour almost nonstop. How do you keep your set authentic performing every night?
Action Bronson: These songs I’m doing now off Blue Chips 2 are pretty new. I haven’t performed them at any other place. I haven’t performed for the whole last three months of the year. So this is all fresh to me. I don’t practice. I just literally go out and do the show.
DX: So it’s natural for you?
Action Bronson: Exactly, I’ve got to this level. We know that I can rap. It’s not like I’m over here fuckin’ around. You know I’m gonna come through and rap. I’m not gonna rap over my adlibs. I’m gonna rap over a beat, just my voice, and nothing else is playing...just me the whole time for an hour. And I go out there and I adlib, whatever the moment is, that’s all I do. I don’t got out and fuckin’ plan my shit; it don’t work for me. It’s natural.
DX: Has it always been natural?
Action Bronson: I don’t know. I just started. I just found out.
DX: You just started?
Action Bronson: I pretty much just recently found out in the past five years that I could rap.
DX: So what’s next?
Action Bronson: Work. I’m touring a hell of a lot, I’m not gonna be home for like two months now. I gotta turn in an album and get ready for that. Japan, Australia, New Zealand twice, two different times. That 15-hour flight is not looking good right now.
DX: Do you get first class?
Action Bronson: Fuck you think? You think I fly coach? No chance. I been flying first class for two years now. I haven’t always had it, but now I have to fly first class. I need fuckin’ famous chefs curating the menu on the flight.
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