Action Bronson Brings Out Prodigy At BB King’s In Manhattan
On what seemed like an off night for the rest of the world, Queens rapper Action Bronson was on one.
The eloquent, heavily bearded and tatted MC, adorned in his signature hoodie and gym shorts, gave a sweaty, ruckus-filled performance at B.B. King’s in Manhattan last night. Despite a heavy dose of “shitty New York weather” (his words) outside, the venue was packed to the brim with a crowd as diverse and eclectic as Queens itself, from sorority girls to old hip-hop heads to packs of white boys rocking Timbs and Mets fitteds.
I was wearing salt-stained boots and damp pants, admittedly defeated by the weather until I got backstage before the performance. There, in a mist of weed smoke, Bronson was laughing and relaxed. He was with a familiar crew: Legendary beatmaker The Alchemist (who DJ'd the show) was talking production methods with a denim-clad Party Supplies, the maestro behind both volumes of Blue Chips, while Mr. Muthafuckin’ Marvelous himself, Big Body Bes, Bronson’s cousin and partner in crime, was spitting game to a girl with purple hair. After a few beers and a spicy ginger shot provided by Party Supplies’ girlfriend, who bottles the juice herself, I got my second wind.
Which was good because the show moved at a frantic pace. Funk Flex started things off with a quick set, switching from hip-hop classics every 30 seconds before settling into a groove of definitive New York jams, from M.O.P.’s “How About Some Hardcore” to 50 Cent’s “I Get Money,” which made everyone scrunch up their faces and dance. Brooklyn’s Manolo Rose, who specializes in New York buck music built on huge drums and chanting choruses, was up next and at one point started moshing in the crowd, still mostly dressed in their winter coats.
The Alchemist then took the stage, and things turned up a notch. After a few minutes of technical difficulties, Al garnered a heap of “oh shit's!” from the crowd by playing the instrumental to “Keep It Thoro,” his 2000 tough-as-nails collaboration with Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. To everyone’s surprise, Bronson came on stage to the instrumental, spitting a freestyle—seeped in double entendres about his beauty and grace as an MC—over the timeless piano-driven beat. Even more unexpected, Prodigy himself jumped on stage, performing the song’s original first verse and showing support for his Queen’s brethren.
At the song’s finish, Bronson tore off his New York Jets hat, exposing his freshly grown curly brown locks which he would shake with childish glee all night, and strapped on a single brown glove. It was the beginning of a showcase, and he was introducing it with his signature showmanship, equal parts battle MC and WWE superstar. “I could have been a hand model,” he said, examining his one gloveless hand with mock pretty-boy narcissism before looking out onto the audience and starting his set.
Bam Bam mainly stuck to his go-to jams, focusing on the highlights of his beloved mixtape Rare Chandeliers and EP Saaab Stories. He also broke out both singles from his upcoming debut, Mr. Wonderful; the first, the sprawling, Turkish pop record-sampling “Easy Rider,” was introduced with the foreword that it was the song that he wants to be buried to, while the second, the 40-produced “Actin’ Crazy,” was met with immediate enthusiasm from the crowd. In between songs, Bronson would entertain us with small anecdotes—“I wrote this song while watching the Discovery Channel, shouts out to alligators and shit”—or skits, like when he performed a cover of Ginuwine’s “In Those Jeans” with Party Supplies on the guitar, or when he would pass the mic to Big Body Bes, who would shout out weird things and say “burrrrap” in his signature Flushing baritone boom.
The night ended like most of Bronson’s performances do—with him standing on something he shouldn’t be standing on. In this case, it was the bar on the other side of the venue. His loyal followers, some of which are from the same neighborhood he grew up in, looked on with wild joy as he let out a primal scream and shook his head like a big gorilla. On a dreary Monday in February, Bronson made us all feel like the deranged animals we really are. —Reed Jackson