Action Bronson on how he and Alchemist wrote Rare Chandeliers underwater while scuba diving
Before he gained notoriety as an MC with his 2011 studio debut Dr. Lecter, he was well respected as a New York chef (his lyrics are still garnished with references to foods of all sorts). But while he shares a profession with Raekown, another well known New York Chef, the Wu-Tang member he most frequently draws comparison to is Ghostface Killah, thanks to his luxurious subject matter, exaggerated persona and piercing voice.
Bronson, meanwhile, points to Kool G Rap as one of his biggest influences, and, with few exceptions, he has perfected the boastful art of Mafioso rap that G Rap pioneered better than anybody since Jay-Z and Wu-Tang in the '90s. Since his debut, Bronson has released another studio album, Well-Done, along with several mixtapes, most recently Rare Chandeliers, produced by the legendary Alchemist. We recently spoke with the rapper about his Queen roots, how cooking translates to rhyming and how he and Alchemist wrote their new project underwater, literally.
Westword: You made your transition from cooking to rap. At what point did you realize that you were going to be able to make it professionally as a musician?
Action Bronson: When I first really sold my first show out in New York and elsewhere and I got responses from all around where I go on tour, and I realized that more than just a couple people love it.
Do you think there are any skills you've gained from being a chef that have helped you in the music business?
I mean, just being able to do things impromptu and freestyle shit, pretty much. Cooking is not a formula. Cooking is by feel, so I treat my music by feel as well.
Were you mostly a freestyler before you got into writing albums?
Nah, I'm not really a freestyler at all, honestly. I'm more of a thinker and a writer. I like actually writing on paper.
Is rap now the long term goal for you, or is it more of a means to an end?
I dunno. We'll see how far I can take this, and then I'm sure there will be other opportunities that arise. I won't say no to other things, you know? I definitely want to broaden my life and that contains just a box of rap music.
Why did you choose the name Rare Chandeliers. What meaning does that have?
You know, it's just we're special people, you know? Me and [Alchemist] are very special humans, and we should be treated like a chandelier that's so rare.
Can you explain some of the artwork that's going on on the cover? It's a pretty diverse range of things.
You got the wizard in the back, aka Alchemist, overseeing everything. You got me with the wolf. You got the girl with the knife hand holdin' sausage. You got the alligator with the gun. You got the...[laughs] the midgets jumpin' some dude with a Fu Manchu mustache. And you've got the Asian-looking fellas in the BMW with the guns. It's just a cover that's pretty much how the album sounds. I wanted everything to tie in together and send that message.
How would you describe that sound? What were you trying to achieve?
Vigilante. I'm a rap vigilante. I'm everyone's hero. I'm the good guy. I kill all the bad guys.
Yeah that sort of came through in your video for "The Symbol."
So that's sort of how you picture yourself as this sort of Blaxploitation...
Nah, not even Blaxploitation. More like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, you know? I'm like Seagal in Out for Justice. I'm a one man wrecking crew -- I'm out for justice.
So what did Alchemist bring to the table on this project?
Well Alchemist is a fuckin' legend, first off, so just working with him was an honor. He's coming from Queens. He has a lot of knowledge of Queens rap and a lot of history in the Queens rap game. It just was a perfect match. His beats are sinister and amazing and musical, and he's just a great guy.
Yeah, I mean you definitely get a sense for his knowledge of music with the depth of samples. Were there any in particular that you especially liked?
I mean, "The Symbol," just when he started playing that record and found that sample, I was just going nuts. I mean, I love every single song on there, so that's why it's on there is because every single beat that he played on there went nuts.
Yeah, I read that you guys recorded like forty songs before you felt like you had enough to start wildling them down.
Yeah, honestly, we wrote that entire album underwater, on some crazy shit. We were Scuba diving, and we got all the ideas underwater.
What do you mean underwater?
Like, yo, the entire album was written underwater.
You mean literally underwater?
Literally Scuba diving, we wrote the whole album.
Was it tough to get into that mindset, or was it something that just sort of happened right away?
Well, being in the Alchemist studio, you're just inspired automatically. You're just facing the machine type of dude keeps on working, and I'm a workhorse.
I know you say that Kool G Rap is your main influence, and it definitely shows with...
Kool G Rap and Cam'ron. Pimp C.
And you have that sort of Mafioso, luxurious style. What attracts you to that sort of life?
It's just you know, think of all the rappers that come from where I'm from: Nas, Prodigy -- think of the lineage -- Mr. Cheeks, Big Twins. Like think of all the Queens rappers that came before me and how they rapped. It's just a long line -- Tragedy Khadafi, you know?
So have you always been heavily into the local rap scene, like always going to local shows and stuff like that?
Nah, never. I always listen to rap, and my favorite rappers just happen to be from [Queens.]
You've collaborated with a lot of the new guys who are sort of up and coming in the scene, like some of the dudes from Odd Future, I know you worked with, and Riff Raff and Das Racist. Is there anyone that you're most excited to hear more material from?
I mean, I've collabed with a lot of people. I'm just interested in hearing what everybody has, from A$AP Rocky to Schoolboy Q to Joey Bada$$ to everybody, to just listening to Earl's new shit that he did with RZA, and just like, "Damn, this kid got it."
Have you done anything with Joey Bada$$ yet?
Yeah, I have... It didn't come out yet. It didn't come out yet. It's gonna be on his new joint.
Is there anyone still out there that you haven't worked with that you really want to?
Pretty much everybody that hollered at me, like Mac Miller, Wiz -- I've worked with a lot of big names, and I don't, you know, I just work with whoever hollers and whoever's a fan and whoever wants to work. I'm not really interested in anything like that. I'm really self-centered when it comes to music. I just want to get my shit ready.
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