Action Bronson: Cheesesteaks To Mixtapes

(Originally written for Reverb1)


“Hold on, let me take a dab real quick, all right?”

You get the sense that this is how Action Bronson starts all his interviews. He sets the phone down, but it isn’t your typical elevator-saxophone-muzak hold. Soulful organ music pipes up from computer speakers, followed by a familiar bubbling noise.

A pause. Then: “Ooh!”

After a spat of coughing vicious enough to dislodge a housefly, he’s back. “Hello?”

Action Bronson likes THC. That’s THC, not weed—the rapper only smokes ultra-high potency marijuana wax. He even has his own line of personalized wax vaporizers embossed with his bearded likeness. So you can understand why one of the reasons he’s looking forward to his return to Colorado—his Jan. 28 show at Cervantes will be his fourth CO show since late 2012—is for the green. “Dabbing in Colorado is one of my favorite pastimes,” says Bronson. “That’s how I get my rhyming abilities up, [increase] my lung capacity—I train in Colorado. It’s a variation of the hyperbaric chamber.”

Like his hip-hop heroes, Action Bronson, real name Arian Asllani, hails from Queens, New York, and that’s where his allegiances lie. “Not a lot of people know that [Kool] G Rap is the best rapper that ever lived,” he says of the Queens-born rapper with due gravity. But more than any Queens-native, his closest match stylistically is Ghostface Killah, one of Staten Island’s finest. From the raspy Godfather delivery to culinary-minded lyrics, it’s clear why so many have connected him to the Wu Tang alumnus.

While Ghostface’s reasons are cryptic, Asllani’s foodie rhymes are just him writing what he knows. Before his first mixtape, 2011′s “Dr. Lecter,” he worked as a cook in his father’s restaurant in Queens with no intentions of becoming a rapper. Then, working in the kitchen one day, Asllani broke his leg, a serendipitous slip that launched his hip-hop career. “I always thought I’d be a famous chef or maybe known for having a great restaurant,” Asslani says. “Never thought about rapping until my leg broke, and then I took it very seriously afterwards. I started making music and it helped me keep my mind off of other things.”

Like many who turn their passion into a profession, Asllani says he enjoys cooking more now that his paycheck doesn’t depend on it. But there’s a tradeoff. “It’s easier to create in a kitchen because you have all the equipment at your finger tips and you have unlimited ingredients. Like, I don’t have a fuckin’ Fry Daddy in my house, you know?”

With his first major-label album set to drop this year via Atlantic/VICE, Asllani sees the studio as another kind of kitchen, the album as the ultimate spread. “It’s crazier than the kitchen cause you’re fuckin’ preparing this fuckin’ meal for months and months and months and hoping that it’s gonna be able to come out, because there’s all kinds of stipulations and shit with labels,” he says. “I just wanna handle the project [in a way] that I believe it one million percent and I’m fuckin’ excited about it, like I am with all my projects.”

Though tight-lipped on the album’s details—he wouldn’t confirm any guests save for a cryptic “there’ll be surprises”—there’s one thing Action Bronson says fans can expect: “Next-level shit.”

Hardly appetizing, but exciting considering how solid the rapper’s new mixtape, “Blue Chips 2,” turned out. ”I don’t look at this as a debut for me,” Asllani reiterates. “I’ve done a lot of work. It’s just more people are gonna know about this one now.”


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