Serving as the main course of the evening alongside music luminaries M.I.A., The Presets and a number of rising producers such as KiNK (Live), Project Pablo and Krystal Klear, is New York MC Action Bronson: an enigmatic character renowned for both his mastery as rapper and culinary chef.
For many, Action Bronson represents a new breed of rapper: a multi-talented star capitalising on their irresistible curbside appeal as hip hop continues to take up the majority of space in mainstream culture. Whether through television hosting gigs on cult late-night Viceland programs or via his distinctive snarling rhymes filled with bombastic culinary references and abstract comparisons, it’s incredibly hard not to fall for Action Bronson’s paradoxical aura as an entertainer.
Born as Ariyan Arslani in the multicultural melting pot of Queens, New York, a career as a rapper was never one of Action Bronson’s lifelong ambitions. Despite being raised in an era where locals like Nas and A Tribe Called Quest received heavy airplay citywide, hip hop was no more than a hobby for Bronson. However, one way or another, recognition was always demanded by the New York rhyme spitter: for years, Arslani worked as a highly respected gourmet flame grill chef throughout the city, and even hosted his own online cooking series, Action In The Kitchen.
This was until one day, a fateful wet floor caused Bronson to slip and break his leg while at work, forcing him out of the kitchen with nothing but a rhyme set and countless culinary lyrical inspirations to keep him occupied.
After attracting the attention of several local hip hop blogs with early culinary-themed releases such as Bon Appetit .… Bitch!!!!! and Dr. Lecter, Bronson entered the conscience of America through a handful of guest verses on projects from members of Odd Future, the now-seminal LA hip hop collective helmed by the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean.
Through these collaborations, Bronson sparked relationships with modern rhyme kings Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples and the late Mac Miller, with the latter playing a large role in Bronson’s rise to prominence outside of the US.
In 2013, Bronson featured prominently on high-profile releases from the likes of ASAP Rocky and Chance the Rapper, and nabbed a spot on the cover of the country’s biggest hip hop magazine as part of the prestigious XXL Freshman List alongside Travis Scott, ScHoolboy Q and Chief Keef.
However, it wasn’t until 2015 that Action Bronson attracted mainstream success with his debut studio album Mr. Wonderful. Bolstered by the soulful charm of singles ‘Easy Rider’ and the Mark Ronson-produced ‘Baby Blue’, featuring a standout verse by Chance the Rapper, the album cracked Billboard’s Top 10 albums chart and hurtled Bronson onto the radar of the populous – for better, and for worse. Irked by critical comparisons to the Queens rapper [the pair sound almost identical on record], Wu-Tang Clan wordsmith Ghostface Killah posted a bizarre six-minute diss-video online which featured copious amounts of crotch-grabbing.
The online brouhaha culminated in Killah threatening to ‘hang him from his beard’ and ‘gut him like a pig’ after Bronson implied his rapping cadence had surpassed that of his forebearer. While the two have settled their differences now, Bronson’s subsequent Google search traffic proved there’s no better promotional tool like hip hop beef – and nobody knows beef like Bronson does.
With a string of acclaimed rap releases under his belt, Action Bronson’s natural recorded charisma saw him expand into the world of television through a deal with Viceland in 2016.
His debut offering Fuck, That’s Delicious depicted Bronson flexing his muscles as a chef, cooking and eating his way around the world with a slew of guests including Jonah Hill and French restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Follow up Traveling The Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch ‘Ancient Aliens’ was a stoner’s late night dream that saw Bronson kick it with his buddies, smoke weed and critique the fundamentals of conspiracy theory-laden documentary series Ancient Aliens.
While Action Bronson experienced widespread success with his onscreen ventures across the world, it must be said that all good things must come to an end, with Bronson announcing the end of his partnership with Vice this year in late October. Although the rapper/chef/TV multi-talent plans on starting afresh with another network, 2018 also saw Bronson expand his interests to the silver screen by joining the cast of The Irishman, Martin Scorcese’s upcoming Netflix crime drama which will see Bronson star alongside cinema legends Al Pacino and Robert de Niro.
All this comes on top of the release of his third studio LP White Bronco, a tight-knit jazzy release which sees Bronson spreading his creative endeavours to new levels – does the man ever slow down? The answer: no.
With Australian fans set to receive a live sampler of White Bronco when the Queens MC touches down in Melbourne to headline The First NYD, if anything, 2019 only looks like we’ll be getting more of Action Bronson. Make sure you start your year the right way with an entrée from Queens’ finest. Bon appetit.