We’ve been chasing Action Bronson for a week now the way you chase your high school crush. That is to say we haven’t, not really. You get butterflies in your stomach when it looks like the interview will happen, but when it doesn’t you crack a smile and your friends know you’re hurting inside and you wait. We’ve been looking his activities up in an emotional social-media game of “How Low Can You Go,” and we see him running amok. A show at B.B. Kings in the City and your mind starts talking shit. A pop-up surprise at D’Angelo’s show at the world famous Apollo theatre and another fire-as-fuck episode of “Fuck, That’s Delicious,” and you’re smitten with rage. His fans, though, always prone to hyperbole (or maybe not) drops this on his Twitter page, “Watching @ActionBronson making a guitar weep during da’ sun set, is like watching your child walk for the first time.” All of a sudden it dawns on you that this is why he calls himself “Mr. Wonderful.”
So, when his voice comes creeping out through the other side of the phone you just say a small prayer that T-Mobile doesn’t kill your vibe this time. But of course they do.
He’s been dropping “Mr. Wonderful” in lyrics since at least Blue Chips, but who knows how long the thing has been getting fat in his mind. He doesn’t even use the word “wonderful” for the entirety of his 2011 Kool-Aid man bust out Dr. Lecter. Which, ironically, is an exercise in wonderful. Fine. We revisit his previous short work The Program looking for “Mr. Wonderful” references and all you get are bar after fly-ass bar, the lyrical equivalent of a spot in Queens that sells yogurt, fried chicken, sushi, ice cream, pizza and biscuits behind a hard sheet of plastic window. No luck there, either.
Fast forward to what is, probably, his most well-known work, Blue Chips, and “Mr. Wonderful” is playing a bemused psychonaut relaying street tales of mundane absurdity. The reality of urban life feels porous in his hands. Deathly serious and full of consequence but so what? A “melange” (as he would say) of immigrant interests wrestling each other for supremacy resolves itself as some end up in the light of some 50th floor million dollar high rise, and most end up in shadow. Either way there is joy. And that’s what Action is trying to convey. There is a magic in the familiar, in remembering the lives entertainment turns into paper mache´ and making them froth up with life again. That’s what he does, pulls rabbits out of hats with every murky pop culture reference, word to Ken Caminiti and Olden Polynice and Marty Jannetty and so many others he’s re-added to the zeitgeist.
But what is Mr. Wonderful? It’s a lot of things. A tour through the hedonistic influences of one epicurean adventurer. A world traveler now and a poet and a madman, there’s a four song Rap musical dab smack in the middle of the album. We’ll get to that later. To give it to you straight from the horse’s mouth, he says it’s something like this.
“It’s not just an orgy of Rap, it’s an orgy of music. But there is an orgy or Rap. I say the first six songs would be the illest Rap album that ever came out. ”
Flushing, Queens And The References Time Forgot
HipHopDX: So what can people expect from the new album?
Action Bronson: I think there’ll be riots in the streets full of joy. Tears of joy, riots of joy. People are going to be dancing in the streets.
DX: A lot of people consider you the best rapper in the game despite not yet releasing a full length. How do you feel about that sort of praise?
Action Bronson: Shit. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and their feelings. And, you know, I live up to everything. I’m just that guy. I’m wonderful in all aspects. I would never disappoint. I can only do what I do, and it’s up to everybody else to see if they like it. I love the shit. Everyone around me loves it. And I have people around me that would love to tell me that i’m a fucking piece of garbage.
DX: [Laughs] They keep it straight with you like that?
Action Bronson: What do you mean? This is not some… Like, I’m a baby. I need to babied. I like raw. I like real shit. I want it to be broken down so crazily that I’ll rethink everything.
DX: A lot of people thought you would never drop a full length LP.
Action Bronson: I mean, it’s always been in the works, man. No matter what, I’m always making music. But you know I got signed by a fucking label and it was like let’s fucking go. It wasn’t really their fault to tell you the truth, it was me. I wanted to put Blue Chips out and Blue Chips 2. I wanted to put out my own shit before hand. I really buckled down and got the album ready and it took about a year and a half. During the time I was working on Blue Chips 2, right when that was about to drop I still had some sessions left over… I had so many songs. I had to pick 14 from like a 150. I don’t stop working.
DX: Where do you record, man?
Action Bronson: I just recently got a new setup in my crib, but I record at a bunch of different places. This album I recorded at Party Supplies house. I recorded a lot out in L.A at Alchemists house. I recorded in London, Copenhagen, Denmark. I recorded a bunch of places. Miami. This album took place in a lot of different settings.
DX: The imagery has been very specific in regards to the album. The Harley, the open road, the desert. It’s pure Americana. What are you trying to say?
Action Bronson: It sounds Americana but it’s very Turkish, you know? It’s very Turkish [Laughs] of me to be doing things like that. That’s an original piece of Turkish music. It just gave me that trippy vibe. Like, the whole album has a trippy vibe. But, also, there’s so many different feelings on it that it’s hard to put a finger on it, you know? It’s a plethora of wonderfulness. It’s just a good melange.
Editors Note: T-Mobile’s signal went numb here and I flew into an uncontrollable rage before regaining my composure.
DX: [Laughs] Amazing word right there. Your rhymes are known for their complex wordplay and off-kilter references, why the stout vocabulary?
Action Bronson: I just have a love for the english language. I did well in English class and was just always good with spelling and words and things like that. But I really don’t even know what the fuck, man, to tell you the truth. When I started rapping it was just, honestly, trying to say the coolest shit that I possibly can in a cool way, you know? Using words that people don’t hear all the time and making people think and mentioning things. Because, I’m a big Wu-Tang fan and you listen to Wu-Tang songs now and you’ll still be like, “Oh shit! I didn’t catch that for 15 years” and you’ll catch it now. So, I want people to think. I want people to go Google what the fuck it is and be like, “Oh, shit, you’re crazy!”
DX: You’re a master Chef as well, but you’ve had all kinds of job experiences that you bring to being an emcee. What does that do for the music?
Action Bronson: I feel that my ability to do so many different things and dabble in so many different worlds because I’m from Flushing, Queens, a real mix-up of people. I feel like I’m a little bit of everybody. I’m every culture. You can’t put a culture on me. I feel like I’m every culture because I’ve grown up around it. I’m into a lot of different things. Everyone has a different view, to tell you the truth. So just me coming from that aspect, I don’t want to sound like anybody else. Any types of words being used or any mentionings, it has to be on some totally next shit to throw people off.
You can’t just keep on… I remember for a while there was a line [going around] like “I’m a franchise like a Houston Rocket” and then they mentioned Yao Ming. So like fourteen people around that time used the same reference. I was like “Yo, what the fuck is going on?” And throughout Rap there’s always those types of references, like “I’m ridin’ round and I’m gettin’ it.” Shit like that. Not to say [that it’s] like that, but I’m saying [when] everyone bites that flow and that wording you can’t decipher who’s who. It becomes one mix-up-mash-up of songs. Like, you’ll hear songs. They’ll be like runoffs that sound like each other back to back and it’ll be two different artists. So I just try to bring my experiences and everything else that I know.
DX: Yo, you’re right, man. From the Randy Velardi lines to the Marty Jannetty references…
Action Bronson: Just random shit, man. Just random shit that people forgot. Like, “Oh, man. I remember him.” Just things that I remember in my mind, you know. They’re not things that I look up in a book. I remember these things. Like Randy Velardi… I remember Velardi. I remember everything I mentioned.
DX: You help us remember. Because Rap references are often looked upon as what is “super coolest” and your references flip that idea.
Action Bronson: Right. In less words, that’s correct. You are right. It’s just some cool shit, man. Whose memory and brain power is the illest? I don’t know. I like listening to lyrics. Like that doesn’t mean that… My music taste is out of this world. I like listening to music without lyrics, as well. I’ve become a major music buff/connoisseur type of thing. I’ve always loved great music but I was never to the point where I was like, “I’m listening to music from everywhere.” I’m being introduced to a lot of really cool shit.
“Mr. Wonderful,” Rap Orgies & Mystery Tours
DX: You seem to swing between a lot of different things and influences. How does that translate on Mr. Wonderful.
Action Bronson: Exactly. I’m kind of A.D.D like that. I get so focused on something. I go the fuck in and then I’m off to something else. It’s like slideshow Rap is how Alchemist put it to me one time. He was talking about me and Roc Marciano. How it’s just slide show Rap. Like those things back in the day. Those things that you had to click and you would see different scenes (he’s talking about “Viewmasters.”) And you just saw mad different scenes. That’s kind of where I’m coming from. I just want to get as many scenes as possible. As pretty a picture as possible.
DX: Would you consider yourself a hedonist? You seem like you want a piece of everything.
Action Bronson: [Laughs] A hedonist. That’s a funny thing. You know back in the day a friend of mine’s mother went to “Hedonism.” [Laughs] And I just thought that that was funny and I just always wanted to go to Hedonism 2 down in Jamaica. [ Laughs] I don’t know if the word hedonist can be used other than sexually. Can it be used in other ways?
DX: Yeah, man. Absolutely.
Action Bronson: I guess you can call me a hedonist. I have a lot of passion for a lot of different things. I’m a swinger. I’m a musical swinger. It’s like a music orgy, bro. Like a music orgy.
DX: We think you’ve opened up a lot people’s eyes to the fact that Rap doesn’t have to be just one thing. Do you think that’s the case?
Action Bronson: Yeah, of course. It doesn’t just have to be one formula. You can just go off the fucking deep end and have fun. And that’s what I always do. I just try to have fun. When I get serious, you know, but you still have to throw humor in there because my favorite rappers are the ones that made you crack up, you know? Back in the day, Cam’ron and the Diplomats used to make me die laughing while listening to their records. Just some ridiculous shit. Like [emcees like] Kool G Rap made you laugh because they said such ridiculousness.
DX: For Mr. Wonderful is that what you’re giving us? An orgy of Rap?
Action Bronson: It’s not just an orgy of Rap, it’s an orgy of music. But there is an orgy or Rap. I say the first six songs would be the illest Rap album that ever came out. Then I get a little experimental, and there’s a musical in between. And then, we round it off with some Americana type of shit. Then there’s funkadelic.. It’s just a wild mixture of music that comes together and encompasses my entire being.
DX: You were with Mark Ronson for “Brand New Car” off the new album. How did that come to be?
Action Bronson: The Mark Ronson stuff is pretty special, you know? We got into a pretty special zone. I was out in the UK, in London, working with him. You’re far from home in a foreign land and we caught a feeling?
DX: Party Supplies had a great album as well, and it’s weird that their music works so well with yours. How do you get the stark differences to work?
Action Bronson: Their music is sick. It’s next level. And, you know, I gotta be honest with you, man. It’s so much easier when you have incredible musicians around you because they can execute your ideas and their ideas are just as good. Justin from Party Supplies and Sean from Party Supplies. Justin he can play mad different instruments and Sean is a master pianist and together they just get funk. I brought in a couple of other people [like] my man Curt Chambers from the original roots. He plays in Eminem’s band. He’s the one who played the face melter on “Easy Rider” at the end. He played a Jazz solo on the end of “Terry.”I got solos, man. Piano solos; jazz solos; guitar; ukulele, I’m going in, man.
DX: Did Flushing being a mashup influences help you put together all of those different sounds?
Action Bronson: Yeah, man. You walk a block and you’re in a different country. You walk another block and you’re in a totally other different country.
DX: Do you think you encapsulate the diversity of the New York sound?
Action Bronson: I’m very glad that you noticed that because that’s exactly how I feel and that’s how it is. New York is so mixed up and that’s the shock. It’s totally different. It’s off the wall shit. It’s not one sound. It’s everything that’s around you. When you say I’m from New York it doesn’t mean that you’re going to hear some Bad Boy shit. It’s the mixture of all different genres of music. Your music. And just being an individual and being totally separate from everybody else. I have to be in total control, man. I’m a control freak.
“ When you say I’m from New York it doesn’t mean that you’re going to hear some Bad Boy shit.”
DX: Are you out to find yourself, man?
Action Bronson: Nah, I know who I am. I had a lot of finding myself before I started this Rap shit and I found myself and here we are. As an individualist I’m an only child and an individual, but I love my friends like they are my brothers and the ones that are with me will always be with me.
A Billy Joel Inspired Hip Hop Musical… In The Middle Of The Album
DX: So, you’ve got a musical in the middle of the album?
Action Bronson: It’s four songs. It’s the interlude and then three songs. “Thug Love Story: The Musical Interlude,” “City Boy Blues,” “A Light In The Addict,” and “Baby Blue.” It takes you on three different journeys musically. It’s pretty next level to tell you the truth.
DX: What are trying to do with that, man?
Action Bronson: Billy Joel is a big influence on me and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” is one of my favorite songs. So that just influenced me on making several different parts of a song. It took shape as we were doing it and [we] just added them all together and it just ran like a beautiful symphony, and just ended off so perfectly. In my mind those three songs go together as a musical.
DX: Then it goes into “Only In America.” Can you describe that? Since America is a really crazy place right now.
Action Bronson: “Only In America” is going to sound like a fuckin’ Jimi Hendrix riff on steroids slash Journey slash me slash Lynard Skynard piano type shit. You know, Jazz piano. A fuckin’ dirty country-ass sounding Rock and Roll. It’s some next shit, man, but with stupid Hip Hop Oh No drums. If you don’t know who Oh No is he’s Madlib’s brother and you can only imagine the shit that he makes. It’s fuckin’ out of control.
“‘Only In America’” is going to sound like a fuckin’ Jimi Hendrix riff on steroids slash Journey slash me slash Lynard Skynard piano type shit.”
The Magical Mystery Of Travel
DX: You spoke about being all nationalities and that really shows in your cooking. But how does the cooking affect the music?
Action Bronson: The cooking influences the music heavy. I used to write my rhymes while working in a kitchen. That’s where it all started, and just getting to travel to all these different places [and] getting new perspectives and things to Rap about. Meeting all the people you do and all the situations that happen when you’re in these places and I think it all adds what I like to call sazon to the music. You know, a lot of motherfuckers don’t have flavor. They don’t have savor. It just means that they’re not cultured and they’re not open minded. They might be open minded about buying a pair of Balmain or whatever you call those shits. But motherfuckers need to get to the real. The real thing in life is to travel and see the human beings that have lived on this earth that you wouldn’t even think that you’d ever meet.
A lot of motherfuckers have the same story, man. You come from nothing. You end up with paper, you go do these crazy things. You don’t even realize what you’re actually doing. Motherfuckers work their entire lives just to take trips here and there and to go around the world three or four times a year is just next level. All the countries that I’d been to I never thought I’d be in those places. So you just have to look beyond all the bullshit and just go for it.
DX: You talk about things other Rappers don’t from sex workers in the Bronx to a guy working in the kitchen of some restaurant in Queens. You show their lives as important. Why do you come at things that way?
Action Bronson: I don’t know, man. I’m just a very sensitive human being. I’m compassionate and I have feelings. You have to see all ways of the world, man. I know all of them. Maybe I don’t know all of them, but I know a lot of them. I’ve been poor. I’ve had some money. I’ve been down. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been absolutely happy. I’ve wanted to kill and I’ve wanted to be in love.
“I’ve been poor. I’ve had some money. I’ve been down. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been absolutely happy. I’ve wanted to kill and I’ve wanted to be in love.
DX: A lot of times Rap is about a persona, though. About not letting people see that. Have you ever had that issue?
Action Bronson: I don’t have that issue because I’ve always been comfortable with who I am and who I’ve always been and who I’m going to be as I grow. I made it cool to be yourself again. People like to fake the funk and I just don’t. I don’t care. There’s no fakeness about it. It’s just… It’s me. I don’t get dressed up, I do what I want. I do it because I want to but not because I have to. I just do as I feel.
DX: Have you been looking for that kind of freedom your whole life?
Action Bronson: I mean, who the fuck knows what’s gonna happen? It’s not solidified that I’m good for the rest of my life. I still work like I have absolutely nothing, and I still have that mindframe. I’m not comfortable enough to be like, “Yo, fuck everybody.” So I do what I want but I still choose my battles. I know what needs to be done. I know what doesn’t need to be done. I know what’s bullshit and what isn’t. So I try to run my life like that, and stay true to myself and hope that everyone around me keeps me real and keeps it funky.
Wreckless Hedonist, Family Man, And Feeling Wonderful
DX: You’ve got a family, man, and they’re the dearest thing to you?
Action Bronson: Absolutely, man. My kids are the dearest thing in the world to me. That’s what we do this for.
DX: Would you say you Rap for them?
Action Bronson: That’s definitely a reason. I want them to have a life and not have to worry about shit like my father had to and my mother had to and I had to. You always want your children to have a better life than you did, you know? You also don’t want them to be little shits so you raise them accordingly. You don’t give them everything in the world. You raise them with some character.
DX: After the whole Azealia Banks thing do you think you’re too honest for social media?
Action Bronson: It’s not good for me to be on social media. Sometimes I do stupid things. I shouldn’t say anything to anybody. It’s stupid shit. I’m not good at Twitter. Sometimes I do say dumb shit. But it’s never something that I start. I don’t start problems.
DX: When I listen to your music, I look at it like you’re a painter trying to fit all these mysterious things on a canvas. Do you look at yourself that way?
Action Bronson: Yeah, but I wouldn’t call it a clutter type of thing. I don’t overforce things. I let everything fall beautifully. I don’t overdo it, you know what I mean? I’m not trying to overdo the painting because of simplicity. Sometimes three or four ingredients in a dish is the best dish you’ll ever have in your life. As opposed to 40 million things. I look at myself as an artiste, but I also look at myself as an origami perfectionist. I do floral arrangements. Everything has to be placed perfectly so that when you look at it it’s all feng shui. Everything has to be balanced.
DX: Do you think this album is going to be the best Rap album of 2015?
Action Bronson: That’s up to everybody else to decide. I put my best foot forward every time I put something out. That’s on everybody to argue and debate about [and] whatever. I make music for myself and the people who love it, man. For all the people who love it, thank you. But, I’m not one to call shit like that. If you want to talk about some kind of sports game I’ll choose a winner right now. You want to choose a horse? I’ll choose that right now.
[Man] listen, if I had to fix the game right now, I’d say it’s the most incredible album that’s going to come out this year, for sure. Because it touches so many genre’s. It’s not just a Hip Hop thing. It’s so much more.
DX: So, is everything wonderful?
Everything is wonderful, man. You have to look at things positively and since I broke my leg I’ve been making good decisions so I’m on a roll. I’m just a ball of positivity, man.