Action Bronson on Being Independent, His Love for Painting & How 'White Bronco' Unleashed His Inner-Beast

Tom Gould
Action Bronson

Action Bronson knows his lane -- whether it's in hip-hop or in the kitchen. It’s the day before Thanksgiving and the Queens rapper is currently specialty shopping at Regalis Foods.

“I take it upon myself. Sometimes it bothers me that people don’t appreciate the time I’m taking, searching and buying these products,” he laughs.

Don’t expect turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce out of a can at the 34-year-old’s table. The menu reflects the rapper’s gourmand sensibilities and passion for cooking: white truffles, rare Japanese kumquats and Ginkgo nuts in soy sauce fermented for 10 years. “I'm not great at traditional Thanksgiving foods,” he admits. “I know [what] my strengths are for sure.”

That self-awareness has led the rapper to leave his deal with VICE/Warner Bros. and forge a new path as an independent artist after six years. VICE previously served as Bronson's label and the conduit for his food show Fuck, That's Delicious.  Now on his own, Bronson takes the reins with his latest release, White Bronco (EMPIRE). The album sees the rapper returning to his roots, creating the music that he wants -- on his own terms.

How has your independent situation creatively helped fuel this project? It sounds like you're happy and you're in a better place.

Yeah. I feel there's no pressure on me from any sort of nobody. I just do what I'm doing and just put it out whenever I want. There's no talking. There's no conferences. There's no meeting people or having to do just simple conversations, that I would like to stay away from.

When you're on a label, things like picking a single, you have to think about versus when you're independent.

Yeah picking a single, that’s not where my mind is at. That’s not where my art is at.

Creatively, where was your head space with this project?

Well I've been traveling nonstop the past almost 10 years now so, it's always on the road or on-the-go. But this record, I did most of it in my studio. It’s an actual loft space in Brooklyn. It’s multi-purpose for me. I'm not only doing music. I'm doing all kinds of things where it’s just like an artistic hub. It's my little imagination center, you know?

This is at your house?

Yeah it’s my house. I make all my music and I have people come through and jam. I have artists come through and paint. I paint nonstop. It’s just a different type of situation. I love to host. I've always been a host. People always come to my house. So I just feel like it’s better for me. It has a good vibe. Beautiful view of the city. Unbelievable rooftop. So, I'm just in a totally different artistic zone right now.

How so?

I’m creating everything. I'm just letting everything flow. I’m at an artistic turning point of my life, a renaissance. I'm exploring. I'm learning things that I never knew about myself. I've picked up things that I didn't know I could ever do. I'm just letting everything come as it comes and not forcing anything and just doing whatever I want, literally whenever.

Speaking of doing what you want, it seems that you went back to producers you’ve worked with before like Party Supplies and Harry Fraud on White Bronco.

When you're around like-minded people and they bring what they bring to the table, it's just so easy. It's like you get into these crazy vibes. I like very eclectic rhythms and different types of music. I like things that evoke a feeling. I like very colorfully produced music not just rap music but the music sample and that we make ourselves. I can't really explain the intangible thoughts I’m having right now.

It's like a feeling. You know in your gut when it feels right.

Yeah there's no doubt about it. So minded people, Fraud is like minded, Knowledge is like [minded]. Alchemist is always next to me in some capacity. We’re always together. He’s a like minded human being. Being around these producers who are musically geniuses, in my opinion. It doesn't have to be, you have to fucking play an instrument incredibly to be a musical genius. You could arrange. It’s just different. In my mind, these guys are just on another level than other people.

What are your favorite tracks?

Honestly the whole record was special to me. The first track [“Dr. Kimble”] on the album was done two nights before I put it out. Like me, just clearing samples myself. We got one denied. I had to go back to the drawing board. So me and Fraud knocked that out two nights beforehand. I felt like that was a turning point in the new age of Bronson, like [using] a live band. Still sounding like it’s a sample. That joint has no sample, it’s just live playing. It broke into my mind and gave me a good feeling.

This isn't the first time you've used live instrumentation, is it?

No, but if you were using live instrumentation it has to sound a certain way. It has to sound like it's been recorded shitty, like it sounds like it's on a tape. I feel like “Mount Etna” is a very special one [also]. My first line, “Anywhere I go, I stick out like my cousin Vinny.” If you know [the movie], my cousin Vinny sticks out like a sore thumb anywhere. And that's me.

Thematically, is there a message you want to convey with the album?

For me, White Bronco means that it's the releasing of a wild wildebeest, just a wild untamable animal. It's not exactly a horse. It's just a wild untamable subject. And that's just me. I'm back on my shit. I’ve never left. I just feel like I've broken through that wall. You're locked in this gate and you just get so fucking tired and sick of it and you just blast through because you know you're that powerful. You're a bull locked in a wooden fence. It's not really gonna fucking hold you in, if you really want to break through it. So I guess, I gathered up the balls and I got my mind right and I broke through that bitch.

On the flipside, is it scary at all being independent and on your own?

There's always a risk when it comes to you know, breaking out and going on your own but the reward is so much sweeter than depending on somebody else. I know what I am. I know who I am. I know the type of music I make. You know, unfortunately in this day and age and in this climate, the music I'm making is not pop. So I feel like, with the right team around me, I could control my genre of music. Absolutely, there's no doubt about it.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

I look forward to every single day I wake up. I open my eyes and I start dancing, just being alive. I'm looking forward towards everything. I love to wake up and paint. When I hurt my knee during the summer, I was rehabbing. In the last couple of months, I’ve just been painting. Ever since I went to Alex and Allyson Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, it’s really opened my eyes.

How do you approach a painting?

Sometimes I’ll sketch things out. Sometimes I just know with it. It always ends up not where I expected it to be. And you always end up changing. Like each painting that I have, more than likely there's five or six or seven before that was underneath that. I love painting on objects—wood, different kinds of things that I find. I like sculpting. I like doing things that are creative. I like organizing African music playlist. I don’t know. I’m just into all kinds of shit.

Where can we see your paintings?

Well I've put a couple of things up on the Internet. I'm working towards doing something maybe in 2019 where I show some things. Not on some pretentious shit. Just to show. I have no expectations. I do this. This is my therapy. It's hard put yourself out there for critique. I don't give a fuck anyway. This is all in good fun.

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