Artist to Watch: Rapping Chef Action Bronson Cooks Up Rugged Rhymes

'My profession is a chef. I just happen to rap'

August 10, 2011 11:20 AM ET
action bronson new york artist to watch
Action Bronson.
Alexander Richter

WHO: A trained chef-turned-rapper from Flushing, Queens, Action Bronson has built up a loyal following in the year and a half since he decided to leave the kitchen for a recording studio. His full-length debut, Dr. Lecter (out now on iTunes and his website, actionbronson.com), is a peppery stew of food jokes, weed talk and pro wrestling shout-outs drizzled liberally over his producer pal Tommy Mas’ deft boom-bap loops. (Listen to "Barry Horowitz" below.) For a certain sector of early Nineties nostalgists, it’s the ultimate in comfort food with a contemporary twist.

CULINARY ARTS: "My profession is a chef," says the portly 27-year-old. "I just happen to rap." He studied at the Art Institute of New York City’s culinary program before working at innumerable steakhouses, a vegetarian restaurant in downtown Manhattan – and Citi Field, where he helped prepare post-game meals for the Mets. (He loved it, even though he’s a Yankees fan.) Those experiences lend a unique flavor to his rhymes, where you’ll find witty mentions of duck prosciutto, Tunisian olives, smoked brisket and other delicacies. "No one raps about food like I do," he says. "I rap about fine dishes – like, all kinds of things that only real chefs and real foodies are going to know about."

HOLY GHOST: It’s impossible to hear Action Bronson’s music without noticing that he sounds a lot like the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. They share not only an insistent, nasal vocal register but a gift for amazingly vivid bullshit. Even though the comparison is flattering, Action’s getting a little tired of hearing it. "I mean, of course I’m sick of it," he says. "I’m my own person. I can’t change my voice from what it is." That said, he’s a huge Ghostface fan, and the two even collaborated recently on an excellent track called "Meteor Hammer." "Ghostface is one of the best rappers ever," he adds. "Wu-Tang is the best. Who doesn’t like that shit? If you don’t like that shit, then I can’t respect you."

KING OF QUEENS: Action still lives in the neighborhood where he spent his childhood – a diverse environment that he credits for expanding his worldview. "I grew up in such a melting pot," says the rapper, whose father is Albanian and whose mother is Jewish. "There’s more ethnicities in Queens than there is in any place on the planet. So you grow up knowing things about other cultures."

SECRET INGREDIENTS: Hip-hop is Action’s only hustle these days – "I haven’t cooked professionally since I started getting rap money," he says – but he’s still known to whip up a mean entree in his free time. "My go-to dish is a buccatini pasta with olive oil and a little bit of sour diesel [marijuana] mixed into it," he reveals. "I extract the sour into the oil, then I toss it with some broccolini and some red pepper flakes and some toasted garlic. I could eat that every day. It gets me goddamn demolished, man."

 Action Bronson - 'Barry Horowitz'

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