“You know why this is so dope?” Action Bronson asks through a cloud of smoke at Chicago’s SoundScape Studios. “Because it’s so simple!” he says, answering his own question while emphatically nodding his head along to a beat by Thelonious Martin. It is early November and unseasonably warm for this time of year in the windy city, which works out well for Bronson who traveled to Chicago with just a hoodie, shorts, and a pair of New Balances. It was that attire which he wore the night before to the James Beard award-winning restaurant Blackbird, where he guided us through a multi-course dinner and was greeted by every chef in the kitchen.
Simplicity plays a very important role in Action Bronson’s career and his growing success. From the clothes he wears to the production he tends to choose, Bronson likes to keep things simple. Even while fans get caught up in his pop-culture references and culinary crash-course heavy records, pressing rewind and taking hours to decode the meaning in his songs, Bronson only spends a fraction of that time creating them. “I got to be honest,” he told me over Chicago deep dish following the recording session. “With rap, man, I don’t really put much thought into shit like that. There’s no back story behind things. It’s just straight up where it is. I let everyone else discuss what they think it means.”
Bronson’s own back story unfolds something like this. He grew up in Queens doing what dudes that grow up in Queens do. The ethnic diversity of his surroundings and his parents’ own immigrant background made a big impression on Bronson, an impression that shows up throughout his music, work ethic, and regular-guy mentality. He was taught the ropes of the kitchen growing up, and decided to become a chef. Somewhere along the way he began rhyming, got introduced to producer Tommy Mas, created the breakthrough album Dr. Lecter, hit the blogosphere, and committed himself full time to making music while confined to a hospital bed with a broken leg in February of 2011.
Since then, Bronson followed up Dr. Lecter by releasing projects with Statik Selektah (Well Done), Party Supplies (Blue Chips), and has forthcoming works with Alchemist and Harry Fraud. He has also shot photos with Terry Richardson, was briefly on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover”, and rapped while eating bagels with Princeton kids wearing pink chinos, and polos. Bronson has given himself a lot of freedom because he has done a great job of positioning and branding himself on his own terms. It’s why he can simultaneously be seen as a catalyst bringing New York Hip Hop back to the forefront and championed by underground face-scrunchers on one-hand, while not being disowned or out of place when he pops up on records with Riff Raff and Justin Bieber.