Action Bronson, the heavyweight ex-chef and MC from Flushing, Queens, gets compared to Ghostface Killah a lot. It’s a justified comparison–they both sound like silk while simultaneously spitting concisely and ferociously. Aside from their vocal similarities, like Ghostface, Bronson’s verses are excitingly cinematic. He constructs vivid frames packed equally with absurdity and profundity, from dropping food names and ingredients to autobiographical and neighborhood references.
Bronson’s debut, Dr. Lecter, was released back in March, and his sophomore effort, the Statik Selektah-produced Well Done, drops Nov. 22. Despite terrible, staticky phone reception, and frequent booming cough-breaks on the other end of the line, we managed to chat with Bronson last week about storytelling, movies, Well Done and future plans.
Man, the reception’s fucking terrible. What’s up with all the static?
I have bad reception in this area. It’s like I’m in a fucking Russian tank.
Are you in New York?
Yeah. I’m in Brooklyn. I’m at my man’s house where we do bangers. We got some ’80s coke night shit. It sounds like I’m doing coke off a glass table in the ’80s right now.
Sounds nice. So your songs are real cinematic, with multiple story lines, plots, characters, and so on. In the past, you’ve mentioned that your lyrics are sort of scrambled and off-the-cuff, but your abilities as a storyteller still stand out. What do you think makes you so good at telling a story?
I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life—many different situations, and I make them come to life. I’ve had a good imagination since I was a child.
What are a few of your favorite movies?
I love Bad Lieutenant and King Of New York, you know. Shit like that. Anything with Michael Keaton in it. He’s my fucking dude. Gung Ho. My favorite movie is The Paper. Maybe that’s weird, but it’s one of the illest movies. He’s fighting for what’s right. Those two fucking black kids get fucking charged with a murder they didn’t do, and he fights for them. He’s only a newspaper fucking writer.
Do you feel a connection with Keaton’s character when you’re making music—like you’re fighting for something?
Nah, I don’t really have any message in my music. Music is so second nature that I don’t even put thought into what I’m doing. It just happens. When all else fails and I have nothing else to rap about, I always make a Tom Selleck reference. That always wins. Or I could just make up something about a beautiful pasta. I just feel the beat and put my feelings into it.
Do you think the many years you worked cooking in restaurants have had any impact on your skills as an MC?
Of course. You have to be able to think quick on your feet. You gotta know how to flavor shit properly. And you gotta present it all right. People aren’t gonna fucking eat what doesn’t smell good. You gotta give ’em that flavor. You don’t get it in the studio, but when performing music and serving a dish you get that instant gratification seeing how people enjoy the shit.
So Well Done‘s dropping soon. Were you working on these tracks and Dr. Lecter at the same time?
I started working on it right when I was about to put out Dr. Lecter. It’s a different flavor. I broke my ankle while I was in the kitchen working, and was laid up for two months. Ever since then, I’ve been pushing ahead with the rap.
Why did you decide to work with Statik Selektah on this one?
He was one of the first dudes who ever really showed interest, and I saw he had a lot of followers on Twitter. [Laughs] Nah, I didn’t really know who he was at the time, but then I heard a bunch of shit. He played me some bangers in the studio and I was like “Fuck it, let’s do this shit.” He was serving something new, something fresher.
What’s your favorite track on the album?
The first song. It’s called “Respect The Mustache” and it features my cousin. He’s just talking and I’m rapping. It has a good feeling.
Well-Done hasn’t even dropped yet, but what’s gonna happen next?
Shit. We already got the record ready that’s coming out next. There’s a joint with Alchemist. I’m halfway done with the follow-up to Dr. Lecter. We got a lot of shit. I’m ready for a while. I don’t have to scramble. I’m going to war right now.