From the food to the music to the people, Queens (NY) has it all. So it’s not surprising for a Queens native like Action Bronson to be able to do it all. From rapping to cooking to painting to writing his own book about weed. He wears all these hats at once as if to remind us that chewing and walking at the same time isn’t impossible. His album, Only For Dolphins, is covered front to back with his own paintings. The two covers reflect his signature style: colorful, alluring, eerie and lucid. He juxtaposes his illustrations with rhymes that punch through the complexity of his beats. His music embodies the classic effervescence of East New York. He isn’t shy about admitting that he’s always high and from those weed filled lungs comes a familiar voice made fresh.
Along with his book Stoned Beyond Belief, is his cookbook Fuck, That’s Delicious. The book holds the same title of his show on Viceland, as he and his charming friends eat delicious food. He takes the same respect he has for hip hop and applies it to his plate. With Action, it’s about the flavor. Of food. Of his colorful canvases. Of music and the flavor of life. Action experiments with his seasonings while somehow guaranteeing listeners something that’s delicious.
What inspired the album cover, which you painted yourself?
I’m saying such crazy things. The music is from another galaxy. The only creature that could possibly understand me is the dolphin because they’re so smart. Also we have to save the ocean because we are water. We can’t destroy what we are. We need water to live. That’s really what it’s about. The album art is just the Grim Reaper looking to take over everything. There’s an eventual death. The dolphins are just swimming around, looking for their coins and trying to collect, but there’s always that motherfucking RoboCop looking over us.
Your Instagram is full of your paintings. Has a painting ever inspired a verse? Are there other forms of creativity like painting or cooking that play a role in your music-making process?
Living does. Everything does. It’s really about moments of clarity. It’s hard to explain. It’s a sixth sense. It’s something that’s within you. It’s something that just happens. It’s messages that get sent to your brain and you catch them. It’s just in the air floating and you just grasp them.
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Can you tell me more about your paintings and what they mean to you?
I paint for myself. It’s therapeutic. I would love to show people what I’m doing. It brings the child out of me again. Everything I do, I try to have the most fun possible and everything that I’m doing is reminiscent of when I used to draw as a child because I have all those drawings as well. That’s re-inspired me. Seeing those old drawings, that’s where I’m at now. Stuff like painting cars and different kinds of crazy vehicles and tanks with weapons on them and shit like that.
I love the line on “Dmtri” where you rap, “My grandparents learned English watching Martin.” Then on “Sven”, you mention being half-Jewish. How has having different religions and cultures in your life made an impact on you and your music?
I’m a multicultural phenomenon. I’m from Queens and my father’s family are from Kosovo. They’re Albanian Muslims. My mother’s family are Ashkenazi Jews from Hungary. It’s a pretty crazy mixture. I grew up confused. Not really confused but you celebrate both. You do all these things. You celebrate all the Albanian stuff and some of the Jew shit. You celebrate Christmas. You celebrate everything. All of my friends are multicultural. It’s Queens. That’s essentially Queens right there. That made me the man that I am today. I am everything.
To get back to my grandparents watching Martin, that’s one of the realest things that I ever said in my life. They came here not knowing any English and they would watch shows like Martin with me because I love that show. I love Martin Lawrence, period. And my grandmother watched All My Children and all the stuff that used to come on during the daytime when I was at school, like The Price is Right and later in the evening, Jeopardy. These are the things that shaped us and shaped the English language for them. They used to crack up at Martin when he’d say “WASSUP!” Or with Bruh-Man from the fifth floor, but he’d hold up four fingers. He just came down for some sammiches. I love that they learned English watching Martin.
When did rap go from being a hobby to a career for you?
I was doing shit as a joke to make homies laugh and it just ended up being charming in a way. Around 2009, I started taking it really seriously to the point where I would seriously go to the studio by myself and not wait for the homies to be around. I started rapping by myself underneath the bodegas and underneath those crates where they have storage and shit. That’s East New York, and I just loved doing it. While I was cooking I would be thinking about rapping. When I got off, I went to go do my thing. Then I broke my leg and then everything from there was game on. I wasn’t letting anything get in the way anymore. I said I’d do what I feel I’m meant to do and I did it. I feel like breaking my leg, it unlocked everything. It sent shockwaves throughout the Matrix. It gave me a new lease on life.
I love that you and The Alchemist have an album together and did Fuck, That’s Delicious together. How does the dynamic change when going from a restaurant to the studio with him? Any cool studio stories?
I met Al ten years ago. It’s crazy, he was one of those first people who hit me up to start working. Of course there’s crazy stories but one that sticks out in my mind was probably around ten or nine years ago. When he first came to New York and we were in the studio in Brooklyn, there was an artist that he was friends with who for some reason lent him his jewellery. Al had this jewellery on him. I came to the studio and Al loves to mess around. So he puts the jewellery on me and he’s like “Come here man. One day, if you rap enough and do your thing, you can have this jewellery too.” It was like a chain and watch and a ring and some shit. I reminisce on that a lot and I crack up. I think it’s funny and here we are. We’ve done unbelievable music together from “Rare Chandeliers” to “Lamb Over Rice” to all the miscellaneous songs throughout the years to every song he has on all my albums to one of my favorite songs we’ve ever done called “Terry”. He’s the prototypical type of musician that you want to work with. He’s so engaged and deep into the music. It’s what he cares about and you can tell.
I think he’s an incredible character on the show. I think his hatred for things makes people love and hate him at the same time. To be honest, he really does know good taste. He just goes about it a different way. And now he’s a wine connoisseur who’s learned all types of things and made a lot of progression, trust me.
Your baby, Fuck, That’s Delicious, is on its fourth season on Vice TV. Do you have a favorite episode from this season? Even one that hasn’t aired yet?
For one of the episodes, we went back to Kosovo to my family which was pretty next level. I got to eat with my family and do a concert with my sister Dua Lipa. It was just an overall amazing experience to bring my friends to my grandmother’s house, an 100 year-old fucking communist lot. It was pretty amazing. The food over there is tremendous. My family treated us with the best treatment that you could be treated with. It was a good time.
What have been your go-to things to cook during quarantine and what have been some songs uplifting you through the pandemic?
For the past three months, I’ve cooked every single meal. It varies. Sometimes it stays the same. One of the greatest things you can do is just roast some potatoes together with some onions and some peppers. Roast up some chicken thighs or barbecue some chicken thighs or chicken breasts or whatever. Then combine those. Mix them together in a bowl. Get all those flavors nestled together. You want to essentially have everything harmoniously tasting delicious. I’ve been eating very healthy. I’m trying to find ways to make things interesting and flavorful without me fucking freaking out. That’s really what it’s about.
Last night I made jerk chicken. I make some of the best jerk chicken I’ve ever tasted and I’ve tasted thousands of different jerk chicken. I can tell you the recipe right now. Scallion. You need a little bit of red onion, some garlic, allspice, a little bit of nutmeg, a little bit of clove, a touch of cinnamon and scotch bonnet. You mix that and make sure it’s nice and salty with a lot of black pepper. That’s going to give you that good marinade. You put that on the grill and you’re going to think you’re in Boston Bay, the home of jerk. Shout out to my people in Boston Bay, by the way. I need to get back down there. I love it down there.
The music that I’m listening to – I have to mention this song because I do a show called Live From the Moon radio with Apple Music and I play music from all over the world. Shit you probably never heard in your life and most people will never be able to hear unless you listen to this. I’m giving the collections of things that have been gathered by people who are connoisseurs with this type of music. I played this song called “Christ Will Come” by Ebo Taylor. It’s spiritual for me. It’s African funk, soul, and gospel. It’s from Ghana, it’s unbelievable. It’s unreal. Listen to my show. I have ten playlists out there of the most incredible music you could ever listen to. You have ten hours of music. I do very minimal talking. I could care less about talking. I only care about playing fire music. That’s all I care about. That’s all it’s about. It’s about the art. It’s about the music. It’s about life. It’s about culture, peace, love, equality, and making sure everybody lives as one. The human motherfucking race.