One writer's impassioned plea about why he likes Bronsolino more than Biggie, Jay-Z, and every other MC.
Written by Daniel Isenberg (@stanipcus)
[Ed. Note—The opinions expressed in this article reflect the opinions of the writer and the writer only. The writer does not speak for Complex Magazine as a whole, although we do maintain that Action Bronson is a great rapper. Furthermore, Complex ranked Bronson's joint album with Party Supplies, Blue Chips, as the 12th Best Album of 2012 (So Far) as recently as this past June.]
I know. Saying that Action Bronson is my favorite rapper of all time is a very bold statement. Especially considering the fact that I’m 34 years old, and have been listening to rap music nonstop for the past two decades. Most hip-hop heads my age who grew up in New York would say their favorite rapper is one of the holy trinity—you know, Biggie, Jay-Z, or Nas. Even if their favorite isn’t one of those three obvious choices, it’s still probably someone someone who was around during our formative years, like Big Pun or Redman.
Fuck that, though. I’m a huge fan of all those dudes. They’re incredible rap artists. But never has a rapper captivated my interest like Action Bronson. And that’s not to say he’s the nicest ever. He’s fairly new to the scene, so of course I could never compare his body of work to someone who’s been releasing albums since the early ’90s. Still I can state with absolute confidence and sincerity that Action Bronson is my favorite rapper of all time. Here’s why.
“In only one year, considered as a veteran.” —Action Bronson, “The Symbol”
Initially, when I saw the “Brunch” video, I didn’t know what to make of him. The visuals of this overweight, bearded white guy carving a woman up and throwing her in his trunk distracted me from how dope the actual song was, and didn’t really clue me in to what he was all about as an artist.
I first got put on to Action Bronson sometime toward the end of last summer. I had heard of him from seeing his stuff on UpNorthTrips, a site I contribute to, but had never clicked on any of the content because—let’s face it—I was sleeping on him.
Then, within the span of a week or so, I had three different friends reach out to me, either asking me if I had heard of Bronson, or sending me links to his latest video, which at the time was “Brunch,” off his first album Dr. Lecter. Being that I too am a white rapper, I was curious to hear him, especially since one of my closest buddies said Action’s style reminded him of mine.
Initially, when I saw the “Brunch” video, I didn’t know what to make of him. The visuals of this overweight, bearded white guy carving a woman up and throwing her in his trunk distracted me from how dope the actual song was, and didn’t really clue me in to what he was all about as an artist. Or maybe it revealed too much. Either way, I was just like, “Yo, this dude is crazy.”
But then, I was on Twitter and saw someone post this clip of him at Meatopia, an outdoor food festival in New York City. It was this video, which featured Action going around to the different tasting booths and interacting with the chefs and other festival goers, that really piqued my interest. He was a smart, likable, and cultured guy, with an easygoing way about him, and a witty sense of humor.
Plus, after all the festival footage, there was a clip of him rhyming live on stage, and he was killing it up there dolo, with excellent breath control and no hype man. Bronson was tearing through his lyrics effortlessly, while rocking yellow sunglasses on his head, a tank top, and shorts—the same outfit he had worn to Meatopia.
The combination of the festival footage and the performance clip really intrigued me. I was possessed with a sudden desire to check out Dr. Lecter and find out more about this Action Bronson. One thing was very clear after watching the video: He was not your average rapper.
Since that day last August when I first downloaded Dr. Lecter, it hasn’t left my whip’s disc changer. It’s easily my favorite rap album in years. I instantly loved the production style—it felt like a throwback to the days of slick samples and hard drums, but it wasn’t retro. And Bronson’s lyrics captivated me.
As a fellow rapper, I was impressed by his ability to mix street slang with food and pop culture references, and also by how ill his flow was. There was nothing corny or wack about his music—just a raw rap album from top to bottom. And there were a handful of songs that I loved just as much as any rap song I’d ever heard. “The Madness,” a track with four, yes four, rapid fire verses and a tight hook laced with lines about eating Crispix cereal with breast milk and putting a Roman Candle firework in a woman’s butt especially caught my attention.
Lots of people’s first reaction to hearing Action Bronson is, “He sounds just like Ghostface Killah.” And yeah, there’s definitely a similarity in their vocal tone, pronunciation, and accent at times. But once you really dive in and listen to Bronson, you forget that he ever reminded you of Ghostface, because he’s so clearly his own man.
However, since everyone likes a comparison, I often tell people that he’s like a mix of Ghostface and Big Pun. If you take Ghost’s tone of voice and slang-heavy delivery, and mix it with Big Pun’s flow, humor (and weight), you get something sort of like Action Bronson. That’s a pretty scary combination of MCs to embody, but I think it’s a fairly accurate assessment.
Lots of people’s first reaction to hearing Action Bronson is, “He sounds just like Ghostface.” And yeah, there’s definitely a similarity in their vocal tone, pronunciation, and accent at times. But once you really dive in and listen to Bronson, you forget that he ever reminded you of Ghostface, because he’s so clearly his own man.
The thing about Bronson is that he’s got such a unique style, any attempt to break it down into elements of other rappers will only capture a fraction of what makes him such a special artist. He’s an odd guy—from the way he talks, you can tell he’s a straight-up Flushing, Queens-bred dude, with plenty of hip-hop knowledge. At 28, he’s old enough to have listened to the same artists I grew up on, but young enough to relate to guys like A$AP Rocky and Earl Sweatshirt.
He also spent much of his life working as a chef before he started rapping, so he makes these unbelievable food references, and then somehow relates them back to the streets. He explained this during a recent podcast appearance on Food Is the New Rock, and used the example, “I make a hollandaise out of 80 grams of coke.” He also relates food to sex often, like on his Blue Chips mixtape cut “Double Breasted,” where he says, “Twist the pussy like a soft pretzel.” It’s very entertaining.
Plus, he’s a guy’s guy, who loves rapping about getting dome from hookers, and names songs after old athletes that most rappers have never heard of, like NFL fullback Larry Csonka. And he loves trees! You’d be hard-pressed to see Action Bronson in a music video, an interview clip, or on stage at a live performance without a huge joint hanging from his mouth. He even has his own limited edition customized portable vaporizer. The guy must puff constantly. I don’t think there’s ever been a song of his that doesn’t mention smoking in some way, like on his most recent “Yacht Rock” verse with Alchemist where he compares the smell of his weed to “a Jewish fart.” Being a Jew myself, I crack up at this line, thinking of the skunky stench of my own flatulence.
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