Action Bronson on Hipster Food and Why He Won’t Eat Mackerel
Chef-turned-rapper-turned-TV-star Action Bronson has just released Blue Chips 7000, the third release in his acclaimed Blue Chips series. Though he’s released three studio albums, a project with Alchemist, a major label EP and more, the two free Blue Chips tapes (released in 2012 and 2013) remain his most celebrated work. Their formula was simple but effective: batty punchlines, technical feats of X-rated rapping and beats culled from off-the-wall samples. For what he says is the final entry, a slew of producers make funky loops out of wide array of grooves: Austrian jazz-rock, highlife, Eighties New Wave, Thai funk, the Fat Boys and more.
Though he’s currently exploding as a cable TV star thanks to his Viceland shows F*ck That’s Delicious and Traveling the Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch ‘Ancient Aliens, Bronson still remains dedicated to his rap career.
“I feel like I’ll know when it’s time to just hang it up,” he says. “Because at this point, I feel like music to me is just fun. I love this shit. I could do this for as long as possible.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Bronson in his new Brooklyn space to discuss his dedication to food, what he orders at McDonalds and his latest release.
Is that the wig from the “Chairman’s Intent” video over there?
[Laughs] It’s just laying there in the corner. It’s just laying there in the prop area. That’s also the leather duster from “Easy Rider.” ‘Cause I still rock them. I still wear that shit.
Where do you wear the wig?
I wore the wig last night at Webster Hall. I put it on to perform the song. … You know, when I was growing up I had all these fire things. Everything that I had everyone wants now, you know. All those collectables, all the wrestling toys, all the sneakers, all just the cool shit I shoulda kept, but you end up throwing shit out and just moving on.
Was that your big collection, the wrestling figures?
I mean, my grandfather fuckin’ laced me up with all those, the rubber ones where the knees bent and shit like that? I had every single motherfucking one. It was crazy.
Did you end up getting any eBay cash for them or did they just go in the Dumpster?
I don’t know. They just got lost in translation, man. You know, I remember I used to bite the hands off and the legs, you know. So there’s like a half-bitten Junkyard Dog. I remember specifically I bit the hand off of Junkyard Dog. It was a crazy time in my life. I was gifted some recently for my birthday. I got Junkyard Dog back, I got Macho Man, I got Sergeant Slaughter, I got Hillbilly Jim. I got a bunch of those guys in the bathtub area, where I used to keep ’em.
How has your life changed since being a TV personality?
I mean, you know television is a very powerful thing. … There would always be people saying, “What’s up,” to you in the street or stopping and freaking out. But it’s just the range of people that freak out now [Laughs]. It’s like 70-year-olds and like 65-year-olds and 50-year-old guys with their whole family at a table eating. It’s just you know it’s just a beautiful thing. I like being universal.
Do you have other celebrities approaching you?
It’s almost like a blur. It’s almost become like – it sounds crazy, but it’s almost Entourage-esque, but not corny. Like really Queens shit, you know, like it feels normal to fucking bump heads with these people. Like Lin Manuel Miranda, I met him the other night at SummerSlam backstage and he told me he’s a fan. … I met Macaulay Culkin the other night, but I don’t think he knew who I was. [Laughs] I also didn’t recognize him either ’cause he was wearing fucking bunny ears and a normal outfit. So I didn’t recognize him either.
Are you at all worried about the idea that you may be turning into more of a TV personality than rapper? Or does that concern you at all?
I’m conscious of the transition of what has been going on, and there’s people that don’t even know me for rap at this point. As long as they know me, it’s all good. They’ll figure it out at some point. … I’ll always be making music until it’s not hot no more or until I don’t feel like I’m at that peak.
As someone who is dedicated to food, is it hard to eat good food when you’re on the road?
No. There’s always good food everywhere. You just gotta know the right people. You could find a little market and fucking get some raspberries and eat those or get some stuff at the farmers’ market and make it yourself, you know what I mean? You don’t have to just be you know drowned in McDonalds or whatever. I mean, we’ve all done it, there’s no doubt. I’ve been in Norway fucking 2 in the morning and the only thing open was McDonalds. I’ve been in fucking weird places in France and the only place open was McDonalds.
What does Action Bronson, chef and food expert, order at McDonalds?
I’ve been ordering the same thing at McDonalds since I was in sixth grade. The Number Two, which consists of two cheeseburgers, fries and a drink. And I get hamburgers instead. It’s never gonna change. I like the single-patty burger for some reason. It’s almost like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth. It’s very nostalgic in a sense. And I’ve had it in Amsterdam, and it was really fucking fresh and delicious. Everyone’s a gourmand, but I’ll eat whatever, man. I’ll eat whatever gets me by in that case; I mean it’s all about survival.
What is on your rider?
It changes. Right now on my rider I have black truffle. The past four shows I’ve had black truffle backstage. Fresh peaches, seasonal fruit. Seasonal fruit always. Pistachios that are sealed. Almonds that are sealed, roasted. No salt on the almond. Salt on the pistachio. Four bottles of Frank Cornelissen wine, preferably Susucaru, but I’ll take Contadino on a second note. And if it’s real dire straits, I’ll take a MunJebel. Massive case of Fiji water. Baby wipes. … And there’s usually a buy out for a magnificent meal. So whichever city we’re in, we get a beautiful restaurant to cater.
Tell me about one of the more decadent venue delivery meals you’ve had.
Funny to say, Cleveland, Ohio, the Greenhouse Tavern. Chef Jonathon Sawyer delivered one of the greatest pieces of fried chicken masterpiece I ever had in my life. This was not just a regular fried chicken. This was a fried chicken with a tabasco crust, so it was unreal.
Brooklyn is exploding with fried chicken right now.
It’s exploding with several things. I think that the fucking food world is exploding with a lot of bullshit. I hate seeing 50 of the same places, man. Come up with some other shit. All burger spots, fucking sandwich spots. Everyone wants to do like a next-level sandwich spot. Pizza … give me some other shit, man. I want some authentic ethic food, man. I don’t want to fucking taste fucking hipster food. Even though some hipster food is good, there’s no doubt about it, I want ethnic shit. That’s why Queens is the place.
Andrew Zimmern …
I love him.
He eats all kinds of stuff, but his Achilles’ heel is durian.
You want to know my Achilles’ heel? My Achilles’ heel is mackerel. I fucking despise mackerel. I really don’t like cooked fish in general. I don’t like when fish is cooked. I like it raw. Raw, cooked, anything mackerel [spitting noise].
That’s such a specific fish, too.
It is, but it’s very rank. It’s very oily and rank. It’s not a good one.
When was the last time you had mackerel?
In Rome. And the lady who made it for me told me she was gonna make me like it. She was gonna make me like it. … I didn’t like it. I just still didn’t like it.
What is it like to release a sample-based record on a major label in 2017?
I mean it’s not easy. No one wants you to do it. … I love sampling. I love finding these old samples.
What’s your digging method?
YouTube. YouTube digging is an art on its own, you know.
Did the label tell you, “Look, you’re probably not gonna make much money on this.”
That’s not what I’m fucking worried about, papa. I’m just worried about the music being out there and people enjoying it. The money isn’t what drives me, so that doesn’t matter to me.
Why is this the end of Blue Chips?
We got to put a fucking stop to it somewhere. I’m starting a new series. A new series is coming.
Are you gonna say goodbye to samples anytime soon?
No. Samples is the base of rap music. Like who am I to fuck tradition up? Who am I? I can’t do that. I’m following suit with the greats and this is how they made music. This is also innovating in a way ’cause nobody is doing this anymore. This is archaic and modern.