Action Bronson Finds Inspiration in Every Situation
Action Bronson has been holding it down for Queens since he first entered the rap game after a broken leg in January 2011 ended his culinary career. Today, after a four-year grind that has included mixtapes with The Alchemist (Rare Chandeliers), Statik Selektah (Well-Done), Party Supplies (Blue Chips and Blue Chips 2) and an EP with Harry Fraud (Saaab Stories), Bronson drops his debut album, Mr. Wonderful, on Vice/Atlantic Records.
It's been a slow and steady rise for the 2013 XXL Freshman. He's risen above beefs with other rappers, weathered comparisons to Ghostface Killah and won over fans with his tongue-in-cheek rhymes about fine foods and the golden age of wrestling. He's honed his craft and carved out a reputation as an MC who will rhyme over anything, be it traditional Turkish music or the glam of 1980s hair metal. Mr. Wonderful is an eclectic LP featuring the likes of Mark Ronson, 40, Chance The Rapper and go-to collaborators like The Alchemist and Party Supplies. For Bronson, there's nowhere he won't go in a hip-hop song and with his debut now on the shelves he has finally risen to a position of power within his circle of influence, one that can only get bigger from here.
With Mr. Wonderful finally here, XXL spent the day with Action Bronson last month to talk about his album, progression and the changes he sees in the hometown that molded him, much of which will be included in his upcoming feature in the next issue of XXL Magazine. Included here are the outtakes from that conversation. —XXL Staff; Interview By Ernest Baker
XXL: Where does your inspiration come from?
Action Bronson: Everything makes me think of a rhyme. Situations, things I’m watching on TV. If I had my phone, I would be writing little notes. Then when you go back to the rhymes, you remember those things and fit those in and that spawns other ideas.
Since you’re such a hip-hop head, are you thinking about technical structure?
There’s no pattern, it’s just whatever. I don’t think about that. It’s no technical ways, it’s just if you get in the groove you stay in it for a second, then suddenly leave it. It’s spontaneous shit.
You’re ill at switching up flows.
You gotta constantly change, man. Sometimes you get too comfortable; I hear rappers using the same flow all the time. You’re gonna have the same flow usually on a lot of songs but you gotta change it up a little bit.
You can take a beat and make it unique with your own flow.
Look at what [Bobby] Shmurda did, that was a Lloyd Banks song, right?
Then look how everyone copied Shmurda’s flow after.
I don’t understand that with rap. It’s becoming like reggae. With reggae everyone uses the same rhythm, but they always change it up. Two different artists are never gonna sound like they’re using the same flow on that rhythm.
Why don’t you collaborate with many artists?
Don’t get it wrong. I’m not opposed to working with people, but do I wanna go out of my way to chase somebody to work? I’m open to working with people like that. If I want to work, I’ll work with them. We’re not just gonna fucking work because we’re rappers now. What the fuck is that? When you meet me, you don’t have to say, “Let’s work.” Could we just talk about something else? Naturally when rappers meet, “Yo, we gotta get in the studio.” No. Why? Sometimes you just don’t have to get in the studio, smoke a blunt, chill. See how things go here. I don’t wanna go out of my way 'cause there’s times you go out of your way and you’re let down.
It sounds like your art reflects your real life.
Of course. There’s a lot of muthafuckas that can’t speak about real shit because they’ve never been through it. You can’t tell me you’ve been through it 'cause you haven’t. You’re too young, it’s not you.
Or let’s go out and have an experience that will make us wanna write something dope as opposed to sitting around talking about it.
Or sitting in the studio with a bunch of their homies. No one’s talking. It’s weird, come on. Enough of those, I’m not into that.
How do you feel about the media and the music business?
Everyone serves a purpose, man. I feel like I have been cool with a lot of people. I’m always very cordial and nice. If you’re gonna be a fucking asshole to me, off top, then we’re gonna have an issue. But it’s always—I’ve never had an issue with someone interviewing me. It’s always been cool. You like certain things better than other things. Some people depict you in the wrong manner or try to write something for glamour reasons, shock value. You just gotta weed those out and be selective. The food world loves me, hip-hop seems to love me. Hipster blogs don’t get me sometimes because I’m not a typical white guy. Sometimes they just don’t understand it. Maybe they do, I don’t know.
Do you dread anything?
No, what’s there to dread? What’s here today is gone tomorrow.
How do you deal with the traumatic shit or the drama in your real life situations? Has your status helped?
Of course there’s been things that you dread, that’s how you learn not to dread things anymore. You learn and take something from it, and that’s where I’m at. There’s been times in my life, of course, different situations there’s been regret that you have to look past. All that builds character and makes you into the person you are. If you’re strong, you’ll hear. If not, you’ll kill yourself or throw yourself out the window. That’s the difference between glass half empty and glass half full shit. That’s where I’m at.
That’s real. I think I’m hitting the point like where you broke your leg. When you hit that point you look at your parents and understand they’re a person outside of raising you.
That’s real shit. It’s not all about you.
It’s ill having those character building moments.
It helps you be a better human, that’s what it is.
How do you feel about the real New York shit? How the city changed, not even rap. What are these changes to a real New Yorker?
The thing is, Queens isn’t changing much. Queens is still classic. Classic feel. Brooklyn has changed a lot. Manhattan is changing every single day. Brooklyn is changing every single day in front of our eyes. Things just used to be a bit looser. We also grew older and things we used to do aren’t as fun. We used to just walk around with radio, from uptown to downtown, chill, smoke everywhere. The objective was to steal things and smoke.
Do you see the difference having kids?
Kids are just smarter these days. Maybe not as instinctive, though, but very smart. When we were growing up, we would go outside. If you’re on the game, but you’re usually on the game with your friends. The game was done and you would go play ball, whatever ball it is. It always had to do with a ball, whether it was basketball, baseball, football. Ball. I feel like kids stay in a little too much but there are too many things entertaining them inside. They’re being a little too sheltered, in my opinion. There are a lot of New York games that are lost, like handball. It’s a great game. Almost every other street, there’s a park somewhere. Go out and play. Get some fucking kids together and get a game going. That’s how you become social, get friends, build relationships, confidence, all that type of stuff.
Ed. Note: Stay tuned for the next issue of XXL Magazine for our full feature story on Action Bronson.
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