Less than two years ago, Action Bronson (real name Arian Asllani) was a full-time chef in New York, serving up gourmet dishes like frittata Napoletana, ahi tuna and his signature Bronson burger. But after breaking his leg in a kitchen-related accident in January 2011, he decided to take up rapping, an occasional hobby, as a full-time outlet, releasing mixtapes with culinary titles like "Well-Done and Bon Appetit... Bitch!!!!!" in short order.
Cut to August 2012, and Bronson is the latest artist to join the growing roster of Vice Records less than 12 months after its distribution pact with Warner Bros. Records. Under the guidance of manager Paul Rosenberg ( Eminem), who discovered the rapper after the release of digital album Dr. Lecter last year, Bronson decided on Vice amid a brief bidding war that ultimately ended when he visited the media company's headquarters in Brooklyn.
"They just get it. They understand what's cool and what's not," Bronson, 27, says. "This is just different. I don't want to be the same cookie-cutter-type dude. I want to be me, and those guys made me feel at home. There's a bunch of other places I could be, but this was the place for me, I felt."
Bronson's signing comes on the heels of Vice's recent pact with Snoop Lion, formerly Snoop Dogg, for the release of his upcoming reggae album and documentary, as well as the recent release of rapper Vybz Kartel's Kingston Story. Such a hat trick might suggest a strategic shift toward hip-hop for a label that first made its name in the mid-2000s by signing indie rockers like Bloc Party, the Raveonettes and OFF! But Vice co-founder Suroosh Alvi insists it's just a series of coincidences, with upcoming releases from acts like Black Lips on deck as well as another signing "that's not hip-hop or urban rap" expected in the coming weeks.
Now is just the right time for us to be in this space," Alvi says of the hip-hop roster. "Our brand is at the place now where we can offer a lot more scale to these artists as well."
Rosenberg adds, "We all believe that Vice is the right match for Action Bronson's vision as an artist and the type of musical career that he strives for. I can't wait to put our efforts together with Vice's creativity and Warner Bros.' platform to share Bronson's music with the world."
In addition to considerable help on the distribution end from Warner, Vice has properties like the Creators Project (a global events series with Intel) and YouTube Channel Noisey, a music video and interview series that has logged more than 55 million views and 83,000 subscribers since launching in the spring.
That content strategy seems to have played a role in the signing of Bronson, who hosts a popular Web series called "Action in the Kitchen" in which he prepares some of his favorite dishes.
"Vice has Action Bronson fever and has had it for a while," Alvi says. "He's so prolific and so talented that we became obsessed with him. Then we brought him up with [Warner co-president/CEO Todd Moscowitz] and they agreed he's a great fit for our brand. We want to ensure that we can leverage all our platforms in media and Warner Bros.' platforms in the right way and achieve success."
With more than a half-dozen mixtapes and digital albums already to his name in less than two years, the concept of a proper studio album carries its own kind of excitement for Bronson.
"Everything I've put out so far to this point has been with one producer," he says. "This project I'll be putting out with Vice I feel is going to be a mixture of everything I've done so far. I'll gather a dream team of people I've become friends with and we're just going to blow it up."