By Bones Lawley Photos: Daniel Luxford
After getting plenty hot and bothered at his headline Melbourne show the night before, Action Bronson is in our office, taking a refreshing dip in the cool swamp of sneaker samples. The Queens MC looks like he’s in his natural habitat – it probably reminds him of his kick-cluttered house before he sold up his massive collection seven years ago. He spots a Pigeon on the prairie, snatching up the Staple Design x New Balance 575 colab, ‘Are these for me? Yes, these are for me.’ Unfortunately for Bronsolino we can’t part with our pair, but he gladly takes us up on our offer to give the Sneaker Freaker Tassie Devil 998s a happy home.
Bronson was a chef before rap and he remains a full time epicurean, so he’s feeling pretty chipper after being treated to the best Peking duck bun of his life just across town. He’s not so keen on other Australian beverage and herbal offerings and he’s only got fighting words for our home-grown kush. It’s a good thing, he speaks his mind – it’s that real talking that got him here and won him obsessive fans. One of his disciples even caught word that Bronson would be stopping by the office and was waiting when he stepped outside for some photos. Jacob, the stunned super fan, looked like he’d seen the ghost of Jesus Christ when Bronson shook his hand. He pulled up his sleeve and let Bronson gaze into a skin mirror – Jacob’s left bicep was intricately inked with the red bearded rapper’s likeness. Bronson appreciated the effort and took some happy snaps, as much for his own scrapbook as his fan’s. This kind of adulation must be a strange feeling for someone who has only been recording music for a couple of years.
Bronson has experienced one of those come-out-of-nada meteoric rises that usually belies the years of hard work and hustle the public didn’t see. The only difference in this case is the public has seen pretty much everything – it hasn’t been a long and torturous road to the top. That’s why Action Bronson’s real struggle starts now – to take that extra step to top of his game and maintain it. And if he does manage to hit that peak he’s still not getting our Pigeons!
SF: I’m sure a lot of people want to know how you went from being a chef one day to touring the other side of the world within a couple of years? How’d you get your first mixtape to make noise?
AB: The first mixtape I ever put out was Bon Appetit Bitch. I was only rapping for a year before that. So I didn’t put in crazy paid dues. I’ve only been rhyming for like four years now. It started as a hobby, then I got into it more and more. I used to wait for my boys to go to the studio then I started to like it so much I did it on my own time. I didn’t have the Internet or anything, I didn’t even have a computer – a friend put the mixtape up for me. Then I did Dr Lecter with Tommy Mas, and it just started rolling from there.
You’ve done work with Party Supplies and The Alchemist and stayed loyal to them for entire mixtapes. Who will you cut tracks with next? Are you going to do a colab album again or will you mix it up with producers on this major label debut I keep hearing about?
Yeah I’m not sticking with one producer for my album. I have a bunch of producers I’m working with. I’m gonna do Blue Chips Part 2 with Party Supplies and another thing with The Alchemist. The ‘one producer’ thing wasn’t really planned. Those were the people that wanted to work at the time and I felt comfortable and I just kept going back and doing more and more songs.
You’re definitely prolific.
I have a lot of drive. There’s only so much time you have to do things, and I feel the window of opportunity closes very quickly, so I’m just trying not to be overlooked.
Is the major label debut going to be a bigger budget affair than the mixtapes?
Everything that I do is not just a mixtape – I put in heavy work. People just call it a mixtape cos it’s easy. I could have easily sold every project I’ve done. I sold Dr Lecter, I sold Well-Done. Me and Party Supplies didn’t sell Blue Chips, we gave it away, and it got critical acclaim. Me and Alchemist could have 100 percent sold Rare Chandeliers to anyone but we decided to give it away. Those are all albums. There is a lot of original composition on Blue Chips with no sampling at all – the band is just playing instruments. The word ‘mixtape’ bothers me. This (major label release) feels like it’s not a fucking over-produced album with orchestras, no fucking Elton John. It’s rap. I don’t over-think things, I’m very straightforward – I give you me. A lot of people get record deals off one song. I have four albums and countless amounts of songs that I’ve just dropped on their own.
It seems like you’re doing it the right way, building a career out of rap, rather than just being a flash in the pan.
That’s what I was going for. I’m not trying to be a one-hit wonder. I don’t make songs that’ll appeal to the entire world, which you can just get a record deal off. I’ve built a fan base and now I can tour anywhere. I’ve toured all over the world, and these dudes who have just one song can’t do that.
You rapped once that you ‘Begged Mom to cop the Ewings from Champs’. Do you remember which model it was?
Yep, it was the all-black with the big basketball on the back. The new retro ones are cool. They’re the same size standing, it’s just the quality that’s different. Plus the older ones are broken in and shit like that – they’re aged.
How do you feel about retro editions of popular sneakers generally?
It bothers me, it really does. It’s the way they’re made, it pisses me off, they don’t use the same materials. Back then they used better materials than they use now. It’s synthetic garbage now!
I see a New Balance tattoo there, what inspired that?
That’s my life, that’s what I fuck with. If I fuck with something, I’m putting it on me. I got my car – my Beamer – on my other arm too. The first thing I ever bought with rap money was my five-wagon, so I put it on my arm.
Have you ever thought of selling your skin, becoming a human being billboard?
Nah, but I’m gonna sell my beard. A million bucks!
You did an ad for Pro-Keds, did they come at you for that?
Yeah. Pro Keds suck. I did it for, who knows, ‘cos I needed a quick buck. You can print that.
Has anyone else hit you up for a colab?
I’m trying to get this colab done with New Balance. I’m trying to get my own shoe, 100 percent. It’ll probably be a 991.
What would make an Action Bronson shoe?
Muthafuckers will know that is my shoe. We’re gonna make it look like a Kobe steak, all marbled. The whole shoe is gonna be steak, with a black sole. The other one will be sunny-side-up eggs. It’s a steak and eggs package.
You’ve spoken about religion in your tracks a tiny bit. Your family is Albanian, are they Muslim?
My father is and my mother too. I’m not really religious at all, I just live my life the way I want. There was really no breakaway or anything like that, you just know what’s in your heart and that’s that. It’s not like I need to follow somebody, a specific God of whatever. I’m not in no gang.
For sure. You’ve got another song where the chorus goes, ‘Tossing money like a Muslim wedding’. Can you take me through this custom. Do you think Muslims invented ‘making it rain’?
The first time I ever saw someone make it rain was my father at a wedding. He just took a pile of money and put it on the belly dancer’s head. He didn’t throw it, he took the money and let it fall on her. It was like strippers but without taking their clothes off – for the refined Muslim man.
Cash precipitation from above, that’s properly making it rain! You drop some football references in your songs too, I’ve heard Lionel Messi and Ruud Van Nistelrooy mentioned before. Are you a fan of the world game?
Yeah, big time. That just came from watching my father and all the Albanian men in my family. They only watch soccer. So I was instantly a fan, and it’s just a beautiful game.
Messi or Ronaldo?
Messi’s my man, Ronaldo’s too pretty. They both do freaky crazy things, but there’s no better player in the world than Messi.
Why did you quit cooking professionally?
In January 2011, I broke my leg in the kitchen. I was laid up for two months and just started rapping. I have not stepped foot in a professional kitchen since. It was a freak accident – I was making food and just slipped.
What shoes were you wearing at the time?
Damn. Grey New Balance 574s – that’s why I will never wear those in my entire life again. Don’t ever put a pair of grey 574s in front of my face.
You should have been wearing those special rubbery Chef shoes, yeah?
100 percent. And there shoulda been mats on the floor. Someone should have washed the floor too – a whole lotta shit was bad.
Do you ever miss cooking everyday for others?
I do. But it’s all over the place, everyone knows me for it, everyone talks about it. When I come places on tour people take me to the best restaurants so I can’t really complain. It’s in my blood. Knowing what I know now and the way it feels to make music, I would rap for no money. I didn’t start rapping to make money, I had no idea this would happen, I had no aspirations. Nothing. It just kinda fell into my lap. Cooking is the same as music because it’s a labour of love, you go in there no matter what. I love art, I love painting, I love looking at art and thinking about it. This whole thing ain’t about money.