The Green Room with Action Bronson
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Action Bronson returned home to New York earlier this week from his recent European tour in support of Saaab Stories, his new EP release produced entirely by Harry Fraud. But this was far from his first major outing. He’s been killing it consistently on the road for a minute now—around the United States, into Canada, all through Europe, and way out to Australia and New Zealand. Sure, he’s dropped a flurry of dope projects since 2011 that have rapidly increased his fan base—from Dr. Lecter to Well Done to Blue Chips to Rare Chandeliers—but he’s also been steadily winning people over with his unforgettable live performances. He jumps into the crowd, explores the venue, hoists audience members over his shoulders, hits the bar, and takes piss breaks, all while rhyming continuously with impeccable breath control, never missing a cue. It’s absolutely awesome, and always filled with surprises (heads up you may get hit with a flying bag of weed or even a steak).
Now back in the galaxy of Queens, we caught up with Bam Bam yesterday during some brief downtime to recap his trip across the pond, recall some of his favorite show highlights from 2013, and give us a glimpse of what tour life is like with him and his crew for our latest edition of The Green Room. From farting excessively on the plane, to a delightful day off in Amsterdam, to his infamous body slam in Boston, it’s all here. Plus, he confirms that his next project, Blue Chips 2 with producer Party Supplies, is definitely on the way. Go backstage and behind the scenes with Bronsolino below.
Before the Show
Action Bronson: “Let me put it this way. I don’t like being at the venue for too long before a show, so I usually show up a half hour to twenty minutes before I go on. I go in the dressing room and make sure everything I need is there. Nobody’s in there but me and the DJ [Tommy Mas]. We go over the set real quick, boom boom boom. I drink pineapple juice and my club soda, and that’s pretty much it. We’re just being normal humans. There’s nothing really crazy going on back there.
“But there are times when you’re in places like London, Paris, New York, and then it tends to change. Three or four people in the dressing room turns to twenty. Motherfuckers smoking blunts, bitches, and shit like that. That’s not really my thing. I don’t like mad smoke around me before I go on, because I need to use these fucking vocals.
“I really like a relaxed atmosphere. I’m not a fucking crazy guy. I’m crazy maybe afterwards, or spontaneously, but it’s too normal for there to be mad motherfuckers in the dressing room, and for it to be a scene. I don’t like scenes. I like to set the scene.”
“I stopped smoking weed totally. I stopped inhaling smoke, so my voice would be good and I wouldn’t be shitty. I was getting sick off the blunts. I’m G Pen-ing it, and I’m off the Titanium now, the Highly Educated products a good friend of mine is making. My man Task makes all the Titanium products, and all the things that go on to the bong. The Nail, the dabber, and all the shit like that.
“It’s a new wave. Fuck weed. You smell like weed after you smoke that shit, you get pulled over. G Pen, I smoke it on the plane and no one says a thing to me. I bring it through customs, I bring it everywhere, [wax] and all that. They don’t even look twice at it.”
“I get bored with doing the same set list over and over again. So I like to mix it up. I pay my DJ well, and he really doesn’t do much work. He goes on free vacations and gets to hang out with me all day. So I force him to do one hour of work, and that means come to the hotel room, and knock out a set with me before we do anything. So pretty much we’re just sitting there, fucking around, smoking weed or whatever, he’s smoking cigarettes. That’s the work I force him to do. That’s when the set is made. Then I might say right before we go on, ‘Listen, switch it to the Montreal set.’ I just have certain sets in my mind that really went well for me, that I really liked. And he’ll be like, ‘Oh, fuck.’ And he’ll have to do it. [Laughs.]”
“I’ve never rehearsed one time in my life. I find it weird that people rehearse. It’s not like a Broadway play. You have to feel the crowd out. It’s more like stand-up comedy. You can’t go up there and be a fucking robot. At least not me. That’s not how I approach it. I always go through my songs, and make sure I hit every single word. All my little ad-libs. But you always have to feel the crowd out.
“I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I’m mad athletic. I’ve never been 300 pounds in my life until this year. Even at 300 pounds, I’m more athletic than most of these fucking pussies. I don’t understand how I got [my breath control]. I’ve never been able to run miles or anything. I just pride myself in it.
“And I definitely started warming up my voice prior to going on stage, rather than just going into it. I was having an issue with losing my voice, and it was really bad. My throat would get really sore. I can’t have that happening. But my mother was a singer, so [I do the warm-ups], like, ‘La-La-La, Do-Re-Mi,’ and humming in different tones. Trying to hit certain notes. Little exercises to get your lungs open.
“Honestly, I think this dab has been helping me, because I’m hitting this fucking bong, and it’s like that ventilator that they give you at the hospital after you get surgery, you know, with the little ball in it that you have to keep at a certain place? That’s how I feel when I’m smoking this wax. The bong is like the same thing. The Nail gets to a certain temperature where it totally evaporates everything and vaporizes it. The G Pen was made to be a portable version of this. You can’t bring this thing around. You’ll look like you’re smoking crack.
“It’s true, [I like to depress myself before I go on stage]. [Laughs.] I’ve noticed that I do that. I psych myself out, like, ‘Oh, there ain’t no one out there. Whatever, let’s just go out there and do it.’ I just psych myself out to make it not that big of a deal. At this point, I’ve done so many shows. But even in the beginning, I don’t get nervous, or worried. If you fuck up, you fuck up, and you fix the next one. This is not a Michael Jackson show. It’s rap. It’s free form. There’s nothing in my mind that has to be rehearsed or choreographed.
“There are some cases where you have to eat shit at certain festivals, because they might not know you in certain places. Or they’ll be 20,000 people there. You know I’m treading between mainstream and underground hip-hop, so not everyone is going to know. I have to give the performance that I give every single night to make sure I win those fans who don’t know who I am—that have heard my name or heard hype about it—and want to see for themselves. I do a pretty good job of winning people over every single night that are skeptics.”
“The whole scoop behind that is I was a big ECW wrestling fan growing up. And ECW had shows in Queens at the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard. I was at every single one of them. It was like a church hall, and the architecture there was fucking sick. It was like old, polished wood, and it had a balcony. It was the illest little space I’d ever seen. And all these dudes like Rob Van Dam and Sabu would be flying out of the ring, jumping from the ring, into the crowd and on top of everybody, because it was in such close quarters. And they would take the entire match around the building. And I thought that would be a cool thing to incorporate into my hip-hop show.
“Going into the crowd, sometimes people would be scared. But, they’re there to see you. They’re fans. You gotta trust them. If anything gets out of line, then, you know, it gets handled. But I’m not about that type of shit. It’s about having a good time. Letting people touch me. Rapping in the middle of the crowd, men hanging on me, women hanging on me, carrying women, carrying men. It’s all about having fun.
“In London recently, it was like 1,800 people in this place KOKO. It was jam-packed past capacity, and this place has four levels of balcony. So I just take myself, jump off the stage, fight my way through a sea of like 700 people who are on the floor that are grabbing me, holding me, hugging me, biting me, pinching me, pulling my fucking beard, pouring beer on me, just to get to the stairs and climb up to each balcony and start performing from each balcony. The fucking people love it.
“And I enjoy it. It’s much better than just standing on the fucking stage and people looking at you like a fucking schmuck. That’s really where I got it from, honestly. I did a show, and the people weren’t feeling it as much or whatever, or I wasn’t feeling it. So I just fucking went in the crowd and went nuts. I’ll go to the bar and get a drink. I’ll take a piss sometimes and rap while I’m pissing. You’ll never know what’s gonna happen with me.”
“I’m not that guy. I will fuck you up badly. I’m not violent, but I like to fight. I grew up brawling everyday. I’m a born fighter. I like physical combat. I played football and all that. I like that type of shit.
“But Boston gets wild. There was a humungous fight while I was starting my second song. Like five kids get duffed out and knocked out and shit. So everybody’s already on edge. And I’m about to do my joint, and some fucking kid just jumps on stage. Security wasn’t fast enough, so I just disposed of him quickly, and kept it moving. I can go in the crowd if I want, but they can’t come up there. That’s just off limits. If I choose to engage, that’s one thing. But you don’t choose for me.
“It’s crazy, because they put that shit up while I was [still] performing. So when I got off stage, that shit had already went viral. It’s fucking crazy. It was wild. But I did catch him good, because he was like jumping up in the air, and I caught him [mid-air] and just laid him. I hit him with the clothesline, and he just folded. That shit was funny. [Laughs.] Then I grabbed him by the neck and just threw him mad quick. He was outta there. It literally took three seconds. That’s just a small display of my athletic prowess, at 5’8’’ and 315 pounds. [Laughs.]
“I would never punch him. Then you break his jaw, knock him out, and he fucking dies or something. A punch is not going to be thrown. Because I’ve seen that shit happen. My man knocked someone out, he hit his head on the fire hydrant, and died. And then he got charged with that. Of course you don’t [want to kill a person], but you’re fighting. And just some freak accident can happen. I’m never trying to do that to nobody. That’s not my M.O.”
Performing Saaab Stories
“I didn’t start thinking about [how a song would come off live when I was writing and recording it] until I actually made Saaab Stories. I did that with the intention of it being a performance project. A lot of my songs are straight verses. Mad, mad layered raps. You cannot catch everything at a show, even if I’m clear as possible and I sound exactly like the record. It’s a little rough to enjoy [even if you know every word already], because you’re just looking at me waiting for me to do something cool.
“With this new project I put out with Fraud, I was 100 percent thinking about it being a performance project. The intro is not the best performance song, and the ‘Seven Series Triplets’ isn’t the best performance song. But everything else on there has a hook, and knocks. I feel the difference when we play Blue Chips shit. It sounds thin, because of the way we produced it, and the method that we used. And then, when I put Fraud’s shit on, it’s thumping. The stage is rattling, everyone’s going wild. Blue Chips is better for a lounge type thing, or a smaller venue. This, I’ve used it in Europe and at all the festivals. 20,000, 40,000. I definitely accomplished what I wanted.
“Like, Europe loves drums, so when ‘No Time’ comes on, they go nuts. They don’t know what you’re saying, they just love drums. They love hip-hop drums. [Laughs.] As long as they can put their hands up, it’s all good.”
After the Show
“I’m single, but I’m also a grown man. I’m not trying to chase some bitch down, that will never happen. I have kids. I have the mother of my kids, who will probably be reading this. I’ll just say, I do well with women. But I don’t chase women. After my show, I literally tell my guy, ‘Get the car. Let’s get the fuck outta here. I don’t wanna be here.’ I’m completely done with it. Most of the time, I literally go from the stage directly into the car. I don’t play that staying around shit. Sometimes I’ll stay around and take some pictures with people and shit like that, have a drink, but that’s as far as it goes.”
Favorite Tour Stops
“I’m gonna always be fond of one place in my heart. Paris. I fall in love every time, man. They show so much love. That was definitely my best show. I did a lot of festivals and club shows [on this last tour]. And Paris was my favorite club show. It was an amazing show, sold out.
“I had an amazing meal there. It was at L’Ami Jean. They got a superstar chef that could be working at any place he wants. He’s a three Michelin star chef, and he chooses have a place like the size of my apartment with thirty seats. It was unbelievable. It was like seven courses, the chef’s tasting menu. He just killed it. I posted pictures on Instagram.
“When there’s places that I want to be, [like Paris], I make sure that I’m there early, and that I’m there for as many days as possible. I go to my favorite stores over there, like Starcow, and the Carhartt store next door. And Colette. I go in and get what I need to get. Go get some food, get some macaroons. Drive around with these crazy Parisian people that drive me around. Oh my god, they drive a million times crazier in Paris than they do in New York. A million times. I’m a sick fuck. I’m a known driver. I’ve been driving for years. Whenever shit goes down, I’m the driver. And these motherfuckers were scaring me. It was crazy.
“I’ve seen [The Eiffel Tower] and all that shit, but I like to just chill like the people who live there. Motherfuckers live there and have never [gone up in] that shit. I’ll go get some New Balances, buy the homies sneakers and shit and go in, get them fresh for the show or whatever.
“New Zealand is my favorite place I’ve been. New Zealand was out of control. Just being in a totally different part of the world, jumpin in the water in the middle of the ocean. It was an experience. I want to go to Spain, Japan. I’ve been so many places, and haven’t been so many places. India. I want to go to South Africa really badly. Johannesburg, and Capetown. It’s looking like we’re gonna go down there. Hopefully. We’ll see what happens.”
“I fart a lot [on the plane]. Seriously. I wanna see if anyone’s gonna make a sound or say anything about it, ‘cause that shit stinks like ten times worse on the plane for some reason. It’s concentrated shit. [Laughs.]
“Honestly, on flights overseas, I’m in First Class, and the rest of the homies are in the background. You can’t afford for everyone to be in First Class. [Laughs.] So I’m enjoying myself, watching whatever, sleeping on a bed, getting all kinds of gourmet dishes handed to me. I walk around a little bit, do my little exercises so your legs don’t get swollen, and your circulation is good. You gotta make sure you drink a lot of water.”
“I’ll tell you what’s in my suitcase. Twelve packs of the two-pack t-shirts from Harbor Bay. 4X black, 4X grey, 4X white. Casual Male XL. It’s only from the fat store. And I got my swim trunks that I wear, my six pairs of swim trunks. Boom. That’s what’s in my bag. Couple pairs of shoes, maybe one or two pairs of Vans. Then I just buy things over there, throw things out. That’s it.
“They lost our luggage four fucking times [on this last trip]. Tommy and Meyhem [Lauren]. It was fucking annoying. Me and Meyhem were planning on putting out a mixtape when we got back, but that got foiled because the luggage got lost, and it broke the fucking microphone. So it didn’t happen. I always wanna record, I always wanna write, but honestly, I also don’t want to do shit, because when you travel Europe, and there’s consecutive back-to-back day shows, you’re like a dog. It’s not glamourous.
“I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t care who they are. A$AP Rocky, Drake. Sometimes this shit is not glamourous. Like, the other day, when we did Splash! Festival [in Germany]. We left at like midnight, and stayed in the airport until five or six in the morning because the rooms were all fucked up. There was an infestation of mosquitoes. We had to get the fuck outta there.
“Five in the morning, I see Rocky stroll in, Joey Bada$$ stroll in, and we’re all at fucking Burger King struggling to keep our eyes open, ordering ridiculous things off the menu. Everyone was in there wilin’. Statik [Selektah], we were all in there. It was a fucking scene in the airport in Berlin.
“This one time I had a show at 11:30 at night. Then that exact day, I had to go to Switzerland, no sleep, did a show there at 1 o’clock in the afternoon in Zurich. Left that show, got on a plane to Amsterdam, no sleep until the next day. Then I had a couple of days off, so we were wilin’.”
A Day Off in Amsterdam
“There’s all kinds of situations. I don’t know exactly what happens when people are not with me, but I know motherfuckers are wilin’. I know what I’m doing when I’m in Amsterdam. You can catch me in a corner somewhere. You never know. I’m not fucking hookers, but you might catch me coming out of an alley. You might catch me on mushrooms somewhere. You just never know. I don’t want to see anybody for the day. Let me just do what I do, and that’s that. We’ll meet up later. I’m immersing myself into the underworld. [Laughs.]”
“I’m tight. I was being a jerk. It was the last day of the tour, so I was like, ‘Fuck it, whatever. We ballin’ out.’ So I seen 4,500, so I’m like, ‘Whatever, who gives a shit.’ But it was pounds. Then I realized with everything it was like $9,000. But fuck it, though. Right now, we’re getting it, so it’s not an issue. But I’m not that type of guy. I’m not a dumb spender. I pride myself on not being a schmuck.
“It was worth it, because my friends were happy. We were all happy, chillin’ there. We deserve the best, so fuck it. It was wild. It had the jacuzzi in the room. It was the baller suite in The W. It was stupid. Never again. I’m staying in a hostel next time.”
Coachella and Bonnaroo
“Coachella was dope. There was so much love, it was amazing. The first week, fucking murdered it. It was deemed like the second best [set] of all of Bonnaroo or some shit, the block of Trash Talk, me, and then Danny Brown. And the Los Angeles Times went with a picture of me in their main write-up of Coachella, because I went the fuck in. I had a crippled kid crowd-surfing in a wheelchair. I was shirtless. [I threw four ounces of weed into the crowd.] It was my daughter’s birthday, so I had the crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ I was cartwheeling. I had all of Odd Future out there. It was a wild scene.
“Bonnaroo also. I was sitting in the chair doing a bunch of songs, people were crowd-surfing, going nuts while I was sitting. It was a sick scene. They’re entertained by me, what can I say? I’m an entertainer.”
“Hero in my Hometown”
“I love being loved in New York, in my hometown. I love walking around and people saying ‘what up.’ Everywhere, every single place I go, it happens. But when it happens at home, you feel good.
“Every single place I go to [people know who I am]. I’m always low, but I’m also a very nice, approachable guy. I don’t drive anybody away, and I’m not going to be mean to anybody. That’s why people come up to me, because they know I’m approachable and I’m cool. I’m not gonna wil’ out if it’s four in the morning and you want to take a picture. It’s all good. This is what I chose.”
“Blue Chips 2 is 100 percent next. I’m not really sure when, but I’m thinking end of August, September. But probably closer to September for it to drop. I’m probably gonna do another video for Saaab Stories, then drop this Blue Chips 2 shit. Then drop the actual ‘album’ album at the top of next year that’s going to be on a major fucking record label.
“I was bullshitting [when I told Whoo Kid I was done with one producer projects]. I have another one coming with Alchemist, too. Obviously I’m gonna do them. I love these guys, I could never not work with them. Alchemist, we already have another project to put out. Me and Party Supplies had another project to put out right after Blue Chips came out.
I’m very excited about it. I’m excited about all projects, but [the] Blue Chips [series] is definitely one of my favorite things to do. It’s actually what kind of popped me off.”