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Action Bronson has spent the last two years moving from rapper to full-fledged celebrity. Since his last album, 2015's Mr. Wonderful, the Queens rapper has starred in not one but two TV series. There's the food travel show Fuck, That's Delicious, which finds Young A.B. and his pals the Alchemist, Big Body Bes, and Meyhem Lauren eating their way around the world. Then there's Traveling the Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch Ancient Aliens, which is a wacky sitcom where Action adopts the most adorable... no, actually, it's exactly what the title says: the rapper and his friends watch the cult TV show Ancient Aliens, get high, and talk smack.
But now Action is back to where it all starting: rapping. His latest album Blue Chips 7000 (out Friday) features 13 songs of outrageous boasts, crazy imagery, and bizarre comparisons. Complex sat down with Bronson to talk about the album, his new life as a TV star, the ’86 Mets, and a whole lot more.
Your previous Blue Chips projects were billed to both you and producer Party Supplies. This one is just you, right?
Well, Party Supplies had a lot to do with it. He’s on a lot of tracks, but he didn’t do it totally. I did it. I A&R’d it, for lack of a better word. I put everything together and then I enlisted my very good friend Harry Fraud to make everything just sound bigger. So it’s Blue Chips 7000 because It was a lot of just taking things off the internet and just rapping on it in the old Blue Chips, you know? It’s still that, but it sounds bigger. It just sounds better.
I heard an interview you did with Zane Lowe a few weeks back, and you said you were having sample issues with this record. Did you end up leaving one song off? Because you mentioned in that interview that there were 14 tracks, but there were 13 on the album I got.
It’s not that I left it off. It got denied. Out of 100 percent, 93 percent [of the samples on the album] got cleared, so I can’t really be too upset. But the one I that I did lose was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. And there was no other way to salvage it because it’s a five-bar, or six-bar loop—it’s a weird tempo. There’s just no way to recreate it.
Who was sampled?
Roberto Carlos. I don’t know the name of the song, but he’s a Brazilian artist. I just hope one day we can just figure it out to be able to use that, man. They can have all the publishing, I don’t really give a flying fuck about that—it’s not like I’m going platinum with that. It’s a beautiful piece of art that I really want the world to hear.
Where did the name Blue Chips 7000 come from? There’s that old movie from the ’60s, Red Line 7000.
I’ve never heard of that. But Blue Chips is an old movie from the ’90s with Shaq, Penny, [and] Nick Nolte. They were all high school players and Nick Nolte was a college [coach]. I think he was playing Bobby Knight, or a Bobby Knight-type of character. So he was recruiting these dudes, and he would pretty much do anything to get the top player.
I feel I’m one of those players. So I feel like Nick Nolte had to buy my mother or my father a tractor or a farm, or come through with a big fucking bag of money, just to get me to come play on the team. That’s really what the thought process was. I’m a big sports fan. And the play of shaving points and fixing games and paying people off to come and play, it was just comical to me at the time. I just ran with it, and it became a thing. The “7000” is just because it’s beyond. It’s not part three, it’s part 7000.
In May of last year, you said the album was done. If I had heard Blue Chips 7000 back then, how different was it from what we’re hearing now?
Very different, but it would have been stupid heat. There are some songs that I left off because you can’t have them all on there, so I had to make tough decisions. But I could put a secondary album together right now that would be really good too.
You seemed really frustrated this May because the album wasn’t out, and you said something on stage about it.
Everyone blames the label. This one ain’t about them. Labels suck, period. They are what they are. Unless they can help you, they suck. Unless you’re a humongous artist and you’re doing pop songs and hit songs, it really sucks. But for me, all I care about is putting out the project the way I made it. And it’s always about sample clearance. That’s the only thing with this shit, man. That’s what slows everything down, is trying to track people down, or actually listening to these people bullshit about samples. I don’t have any contact with the sample person. I’m relying on these people to tell me the truth and not be fucking assholes. So you really just never know.
When you said, “Maybe I’ll just leak my own album,” what kind of pushback did you get?
Everyone called me right away and everything started moving. Motherfuckers started moving their ass. It’s really crazy. Sometimes you gotta do things like that. That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for. I want people just to do things to do them. I have to say something stupid on Twitter, and then I get phone calls like, “That really hurt me.” Yeah, go fuck yourself, it hurt you. Go make something happen. Why would that hurt you? Come on, dog. Get it together. What are you signing me up for? Let me go if you’re not going to fucking do the right thing by me. What's the point?
The most startling guest appearance on the record is Rick Ross. How did that happen?
I’ve been a fan of Ross for a while. I met him in London two years ago. We said we were going to get in the studio and do something. He put out his new album. I heard him mention my name or something like that, and I was like you know what, I want Ross on the album. I hit him up. He straight up demolished that shit. That’s the next song that is going to come out. I think it drops on Monday.
I was surprised to hear the Fu-Schnickens reference in his verse.
Me too! A lot of artists that are incredible solo have come together and not done good collaboration songs. I feel like this is a good one.
On “Bonzai,” you mention being compared to Kevin Bacon. Who’s the weirdest person you've been compared to?
[Laughs.] A flattering one is Tom Hardy. I’m like a chubby Tom Hardy—I’ll take that all day. But like I say on the song with Ross, “If I didn’t say it was me, you’d probably think it’s Sting.” People always want to compare people. Go fuck yourself. Open your ears. That’s all I have to say. I only want to be compared to Kevin Spacey or Rubén Blades, aka Rubén Blades [Bronson pronounces the first “Blades” like “blah-des,” and the second like “blades.”]
On “The Chairman’s Intent,” and on other songs, you talk about rocking the same outfit every day.
It’s true. I’ve had this on for four days straight. I’m a cartoon character at this point. My outfit rarely changes.
Is that conscious? Are you saying, “I want people to recognize me as Action Bronson in this outfit”?
No. This is what I like to wear. I only wear things I like to wear. You’ll never see me in a weird street brand, or somebody gives me a shirt and I just wear it to wear it. I don’t give a fuck about that shit. Unless you’re throwing me a significant amount of money to wear a shirt, I’m not wearing it. I like Carhartt. They don’t give me any money. They probably will never give me money. But I’ll always wear it because this is what I’ve been wearing my whole life, so fuck it.
Your rapping has always been very descriptive. People can really see what you’re talking about. Where did that come from? Is that a Kool G Rap thing?
Obviously G Rap is a big person in my life, but I don’t think that it’s a G Rap thing. I think that it’s just a me thing, in my mind. I see things with so much more description than just what it is, you know? That’s just how I rap.
Other than G Rap, because I've heard you talk about 4, 5, 6 and I know that was an important album for you...
So was Roots of Evil, so was every other album he put out. His whole catalog’s incredible. Even the newer stuff, he’s still rapping his ass off.
Who else was inspirational to you? Was there anyone on that level?
Nas was a big inspiration, coming up in Queens. Mobb Deep was huge. Obviously the Wu-Tang Clan was a major thing, and it probably hit everybody at that time. I remember seeing on MTV when Wu-Tang Forever came out, lines around the block at midnight at Virgin Megastore. That shit was a big deal for a lot of people, especially for me. Cam’ron and Dipset, that era. Big L is a big inspiration for me—countless hours listening to that man. M.O.P., big inspiration. I love them.
What was it about Big L, if you could kind of put it into words?
Because Big L was exactly the type of rapper I feel I am. He’s funny as fuck, witty as fuck, but still could rap circles around you and still be hilarious. Cam is that way too. When you actually laugh at a line, that’s the best shit. When your fucking mind is blown and you just start laughing, that’s what I love. I love a little comedic edge to everything. Light-heartedness is always good in rap for me, not taking yourself too seriously.
You see that in both you and Meyhem, who you have obviously worked with from the beginning.
That’s my brother. Absolutely.
Why is it important to you to have people like Meyhem and Big Body Bes, who have been with you since before 2011, still involved in everything you do?
Meyhem Lauren is an incredible rapper. Not only my friend, but I really, really respect him as an artist, and that’s literally my brother. I love his mother, I love his father, rest in peace to James Rencher. I love his family. I’ve spent Christmas, Thanksgiving with them. So for me, even if he wasn’t a great rapper, he’d be in my shit. But he’s an incredible rapper, so it just makes everything that much better. He’s been my friend since junior high school. Big Body the same. I’ve been blessed to have really talented friends. Big Body is a fucking talent, you know?
He’s a movie star now.
He’s a movie star. He’s in Patti Cake$. Patti Cake$ is a big fucking movie. That’s going to be a number one movie, 100 percent, and he’s in it. Unique, it’s all about unique characters. And there’s nothing fucking not unique about us.
Did you grow up around graffiti at all in Queens?
Of course. That’s how we started. Graffiti was the starting point of everything. Original Smart Crew member from Queens. That’s how I met a lot of friends, to this day.
And what did you write?
I’m not going to disclose what I write.
"Write," present tense?
Anything. I don’t do graffiti anymore, I just draw alligators. I just observe. I love to read the streets.
You were two when the Mets won. Do you remember anything about that?
No. But I remember my mom had me in the Mets outfit. I’m a Yankees fan, which is crazy, but my mother had me in the Mets outfit. Queens was amazing at that time. The Amazin’s, the Mets were at the top of the world. Darryl Strawberry, I mention in the song. “People say that I’ve been sculpted with a Pharaoh’s nose/But I like to think I got Darryl's nose.” You know what that means, you know what that means. It was intoxicating at that time in Queens. You couldn’t tell anybody anything. We were at the top of the world.
You're going to be playing at Citi Field next month [for the Meadows Music & Arts Festival]. What’s that like for someone from Flushing?
Crazy shit. I worked at Citi Field for almost a year and a half in the commissary kitchen. I was the lead chef in the commissary kitchen, and I got fired by Omar Minaya [former GM of the Mets]. I fucking threw some kid over a desk in the kitchen as Omar and the rest of the GMs walked in. And I was on my way up, too. Everyone loved me in the kitchen. I was really doing well. But some fucking kid just got under my skin that day, and it was a wrap. You can’t have that type of tension in the kitchen, man. There’s too many knives around. So I had to just fuck him up real quick.
And so now you’re coming back—but this time, not in the kitchen.
You know what? I think I’m going to actually make an appearance at where I used to work. I’m going to go say what’s up to everybody. I might even go make a platter or something, figure something out, something cool content-wise.
"Labels suck, period. They are what they are. Unless they can help you, they suck."
You were just at Everyday Struggle, which is hosted by a rapper, Joe Budden, who has appeared on television—which is something you’ve spent the past two years doing. What’s it like for you to all of a sudden have 70-year-old women and middle aged white dudes who don’t know anything about your music career as fans?
I love it. I love everything about it, because this is always what I wanted. I always wanted to be a double artist. I’m a culinary artist to begin with. I stumbled onto rap and it’s worked. I’ve been successful in the rap game, and to be able to bring that full circle to what I used to do with my passion, and what I wanted to do with my life, being able to do it on such a grand scale and have so many eyes on it, and do it at a high fucking level, it really feels great. It feels tremendous, I wouldn’t give it up for anything, man.
I don’t care if someone doesn’t know if I rap or whatever. As long as they fucking watch what I do, I don’t care. So there’s one person here who loves me for the show. But then there’ll be 10 kids there that are fucking screaming, “Oh my God, Bronson you’re the fucking best, you’re a legend, you’re an icon.” So I love to live in all arenas.
One of the notable things about Fuck, That’s Delicious is you’re interacting with people on camera all the time. Has that changed the way you interact with people when you’re not on camera?
No. I feel like the way I interact with people off camera, I brought it on camera, you know? It’s just me. I love people. I hate people also, but I genuinely like people. Especially when I’m travelling and I’m learning things. The people that you meet, everyone’s all smiles and anxious to teach you things and happy that you want to learn about their cuisine and their culture. It’s nothing but love, man. I really love the feeling of being really appreciated, and me appreciating them. It’s a good reciprocation of emotion.
What is going on with the alien show? Will there be a second season?
The Ancient Aliens show, it’s going to be integrated into everything that we do. But a full show of that, I don’t think is possible because there was some legal issues with the show. If we can ever get those worked out, I would be open to doing 50 seasons. I love that.
You have a book coming out next month. It’s a cookbook, sort of, from what I’ve read?
Well, it’s a cookbook in the fact that it has 40 recipes. But it also has stories and anecdotes, and me rambling about things and talking and just giving my heart to you in a book, in pages. Every recipe has a thought behind it. Every recipe has a story. So that’s really what it is. The book is 100 things that I love. I think my entire life culinarily has been reflected, but there’s still so much more, so this is a to-be-continued book also.
You just did the final show ever at Webster Hall. How'd it go?
It was a fucking phenomenal night. Unbelievable people in the building—celebrities, moms, families, friends, just everyone was in the building. It was fucking high octane, man. I was drunk. I had a fucking humongous jerobaum of Susucaru [natural wine]. A jerobaum is three bottles in one bottle. So I fucking headed the whole bottle, and it was fucking beautiful. It was an amazing night. Everyone had a great time. I broke a guitar. I went to go grab a fire extinguisher and let it off, but my boy tackled me and tackled it out of my hand. I was going to tear the building down. I wanted to just break everything. I broke five mics. They don’t need them anymore.