At first glance, Action Bronson, who performs at House of Blues on Jan. 22, doesn't look like he's one of the best emcees in hip-hop right now. In fact, he looks more like a slightly unkempt version of Henry VIII. He's the consummate poster child for that old adage about judging a book by its cover. When he opens his mouth to rhyme, he has the delivery and tone that hordes of rappers could only wish to have. Yes there's a bit of similarity between Action and Ghostface Killah in the voices and subject matter — especially when it comes to his seemingly endless zany exotic food references and stream-of-consciousness lyrics that tend to fly in from left field. But the crude humor that can be found on songs like "Jackson & Travolta" and "Flip Ya" help to differentiate the two emcees.
In a recent interview with French website Booska-P, Bronson delivered a lengthy list of influences that included not only Ghostface but a bunch of other artists that run the gamut from typical to astounding. Such names included Cam'ron, Kool G. Rap, Raekwon, GZA, Prodigy, Miguel, Bobby Womack, Prince, Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, Yoyo Ma and Yanni. Quite the lineup.
Action Bronson was born as Ariyan Arslani and hails from Flushing, Queens in New York City. He made a splash on the scene with 2011’s Dr. Lecter. Powered by the hit "Shiraz," the Tommy Mas-produced album helped to thrust Bronson into the limelight. Arguably, one of the components of Bronson's success has been only working with a sole producer for each of his releases, giving each project a more cohesive sound. Following Dr. Lecter, Bronson collaborated with Statik Selektah for Well Done, Party Supplies for Blue Chips, Alchemist for Rare Chandaliers, Harry Fraud for Saaab Stories and back to Party Supplies for the second installment in the Blue Chips series. Released in November of last year, Blue Chips 2 ended up on plenty of year-end lists as one of the stellar recordings to come out in 2013.
Out of all of Action Bronson's projects to date, he seems to have the most fun and be the loosest when he and rapper Party Supplies get together. They drop a commercial for the rheumatoid arthritis medication, Enbrel, at the end of the tune "It's Me,” and they include a scene from the cult classic film Coming to America in the song "Man & The Mirror." That’s not to mention "Contemporary Man," which samples five hit songs from the ’80s including Phil Collins' "Sussudio" and Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."
"Well, he's a crazy dude," Bronson says of Party Supplies. "We bounce off of each other. He's a fucking ridiculous human and so am I. We just bounce ideas off of each other all day. It just seems to come easier. I don't know if it's his presence or something else, but it's just something between us. We connect."
For someone who is relatively new to the industry when compared to some of his contemporaries, Action Bronson finds himself in a good position. "I was just like, 'Fuck it', and just went for it," he says. "Obviously, I'm a little surprised because I've never done it before and [also] I'm not surprised because I take to everything quickly usually."
In some rap circles, Action Bronson is being touted as the next big hope for New York hip-hop. "I'm comfortable with that,"he says. "However somebody wants to look at me is fine. I'm comfortable in my own skin."
With just a few years in the industry under his belt, Bronson has already learned his fair share of lessons and applies them not only to his comings and goings as an artist, but also to life in general. "Not everyone is your friend," he says. "Be about your business, don't lie and always keep it real with yourself and others at all times."
After recently signing to Atlantic Records (it released the Saaab Stories EP), Action Bronson is expected to release his major label debut album sometime this year. Even though he's just embarking on the Blue Chips 2 tour now, Action still finds the time to get some things done.
"I'm always working," he says. "Even when I'm on tour, so the work never stops."
He isn't too pressed to work with any artists in particular either.
"Everything will happen in time," he confidently says. "When it comes, it comes. It's nothing I'm going crazy over."
In the past, Action's shows have gotten a little out of hand. There's a video floating around online of him slamming a guy off of the stage, for example. He also says he’s seen crippled fans crowd surfing, people with strategically placed Action Bronson tattoos and "all sorts of crazy shit" that comes along with the wild tour life. But he's decidedly mum on what to expect at his upcoming show at the House of Blues.
"I'll be performing my music and hopefully people enjoy it," he says. "You're gonna have to wait and see what I do. You gotta buy that ticket. Buy that damn ticket and let's go."