Action Bronson is a mensch. A gregarious, hilarious, big-bellied and -bearded mensch whose suave hum of a voice could charm the babushka off your bubbeleh, whether he's cooking up a gourmet roast chicken dinner or spitting verse after verse, as he did during his headlining set last night at a packed-to-the-gills Music Hall of Williamsburg.
The rising Queens MC, who just inked a deal with Vice, an imprint of Warner Bros., topped off this installment of Converse's Rubber Tracks Live, which also featured sets from Tanya Morgan, Flatbush Zombies and Bronson-affiliate Meyhem Lauren. Cameos and surprise guests abounded; a music video was shot; pouches of greenery, Gucci sneakers and two steak dinners were tossed into the crowd. And that doesn't even cover the music.
While Bronsolinio riled up fans with his promised giveaways and outsize performance, it was the wacked-out trio Flatbush Zombies who, perhaps unsurprisingly, had the crowd at their rowdiest. Soaked in 40s, shrouded in blunt haze (well, same with every set) and flanked by friends and fans, Meechy Darko, Erick Arc Eliot and Zombie Juice let loose on cuts like "Face-Off" and "The Hangover" as airhorn blasts and stage divers split the air. A few of those friends took the mic as well, like the Tan Boys (a group associated with the up-and-coming Queens collective World's Fair) and a surprise cameo from A$AP Rocky, who helped Flatbush Zombies and A$AP Ant scorch the earth with their track "Bath Salts."
Those weren't the only surprise guests. Earlier in the evening, Meyhem Lauren got some help from his friend Heems when the Das Racist member mic'd up for his guest verse on the monstrous "Special Effects." The track appears on Lauren's latest mixtape Respect the Fly Shit, from which he performed some choice cuts, including the Despot and AG Da Coroner-assisted "Pan Seared Tilapia." His voice low and husky, Lauren's flow punches its way through beats with the authority necessary to command a stage; it was impossible to ignore how much he enjoyed sharing it with his fellow Outdoorsmen.
"I'm a one-mothafucking-man gang!": that was Bronson's pre-set boast. And while the man did bring out "Meyhem Laurenavitch" (as he fondly calls his friend) for his guest spot on "Expensive Pens," Bronson knew – and made sure – that this set was all about Bronson. Laughing, smiling, puffing joints he then passed into the crowd, Bronson opened with "Pouches of Tuna," the opening cut from his latest mixtape Blue Chips, a collaboration with the producer Party Supplies. An MC whose obsession with fine food and living is matched only by an insatiable love of verbiage, Bronson's lyrics simmer before their inevitable punchline pop. Live, he makes sure each word is audible, whether it's the tongue-twisting line packed with "challah," baklava" and "cașcaval" from "Double Breasted" or the outlandish boast "Facially I'm like a young John Kennedy/ More obscenity, EBT in Genevese" from "Steve Wynn."
While never missing a beat – except when losing his train of thought while mingling with the frantic, sweaty hordes during "Tan Leather," a wholly understandable gaffe – Bronson's set was painfully short. It was hard not to want more after spot-on performances of the Tommy Mas-produced tracks "Brunch" and "Shiraz" from his breakout record Dr. Lecter, not to mention a swoony rendition of "Bird on a Wire" that had its producer, Harry Fraud, nodding his head in approval and everyone in the crowd singing, "Why my drug jar look so empty?/ Drop a hook then I'll probably cop an M3."
While that was supposed to be Bronson's last song, he gave his fans one last present, a truly great one: an a cappella version of the Dr. Lecter standout "Larry Csonka." Taking his time with each line, you could tell the man was wiped out from a full set, multiple treks into the crowd, and at one point rapping with two young ladies balanced on his shoulders. But as Action Bronson "spit that silky shit that's ankle-length like a kimono," it was impossible to confuse exhaustion with pure panache.