Normally when someone in show business is called a multi-hyphenate, it means an actor has written and directed a passion project movie that nobody really wants to see and the actor is cool with that because the fact that it’s been made means they’re officially in the multi-hyphenate club. Other times it means Ben Affleck gets a goddamn Academy Award for Argo and I get mad about it or James Franco writes poetry and gets away with it. But this is about Action Bronson, who is the ultimate multi-hyphenate and most worthy of the title. At least in my eyes.
The dude was a chef, decided to become a rapper, rapped a lot about food, turned that into a web series about food, turned that into an actual television show about food, and turned that into a cookbook-type book. You know, that classic transformation from chef to rapper to YouTube star to TV host to author. He’s the only multi-hyphenate with those exact hyphenates. They’re so varied that I’m not even sure when to begin when describing how much I appreciate him. Let’s start with “TV host.”
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On his Viceland show, “F***, That’s Delicious,” Action Bronson describes food with obscenities and vulgarities, using similies and metaphors that are often nonsensical or counter-productive. Sometimes he will use more conventional language to describe a dish, and other times (though rarely) he’s speechless. What comes through no matter how he reacts to a meal is is a pure love and appreciation for the cuisine.
He looks like Hagrid from Harry Potter, speaks like Hunter S. Thompson, and cooks like Hiroyuki Sakai.
There’s an almost boyish excitement to his eating, both the wonder of a 6-year-old and the depraved immaturity of a 14-year-old. This creates the vernacular of a whacked-out, avant-garde philosophical poet that loves cuss words and filthy jokes. Bronson’s way of describing his experiences is off-kilter and kind of disgusting but always filled with beauty and joy. He speaks in a language all his own, but that anyone can understand, even if you’d rather not.
The latest Action Bronson video for Munchies, “From Paris With Love”, is maybe the purest example of his style and an easy entry point into all things Bronson.
Maybe you don’t want to watch all 20 minutes, but you should. Here are just a few things he has to say. Here’s the first thing you hear in the video, the rest are presented purposefully without context:
Oui oui, motherfuckers
Oh, put me on the wall and eat my ass
The guy’s a little bitch, he’s no good but he can make a good wine…That’s a more interesting story to me, I want to know his real shit. Does he like hookers? Does he like cocaine?
I find myself questioning my existence a lot when I drink and eat this good food…why am I here? When did we come here?
My family used to fight over the head, like the sheep head or whatever head you had, you would fight
I’m delicate but I’m also drunk and stoned
The texture is somewhat of a chicken nugget, but, you know, the ones from school. The ones that had the weird shit in the middle, it wasn’t really chicken. …It’s not a great way to explain it, but ahh
Do you like wine? Try this. It’s from the lady with one arm
He fuckin’ double parked the Benz just to get out, I love it
Religious experiences…fuck church. We have Le Servan
Out of context these proclamations may not make much sense; in context they put on only slightly more meaning. But they give you a pretty clear idea of how he sees the world around him. His speech has an incredible level of detail, even if those details don’t always pertain to what he’s actually talking about at the time. He’s drawing connections between things that no one else could connect, as if he’s building a staircase from a farmer’s market to Atlantis, only it’s made of bagels and cheese.
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Bronson’s raps follow the same pattern. His songs could almost be described as his television show put to music. Not just the endless food references, but the non-sequiturs and disjointed phrases that probably don’t have a deeper meaning but you can’t quite be sure.
In a recent interview with Complex, he explained his detailed, visual style like this:
I see things with so much more description than just what it is, you know? That’s just how I rap.
His descriptions may come from Atlantis and don’t really relate to that farmer’s market, but it makes sense when it’s all put together in his voice. Like when a contestant on Chopped takes their basket of random shit and transforms it into a beautiful and appetizing dish, Bronson takes random culinary, sports and pop culture takes, whips up some sort of reduction and plates it as a catchy, put-together song. Here are a few lines – just from his newest album, Blue Chips 7000 – that you wouldn’t expect to come from a real, successful rapper if you didn’t know about Action Bronson:
I’m a teenage heartthrob / You smoke little blunts like Kevin Hart’s arms
Came out the pussy wearing Timbs / Oh my lord, it’s him
Two pumps from the inhaler got me feeling like Lawrence Taylor / Two kisses on the cheek for my tailor
I’m qualified to speak for my attorney / Address the jury in a Shaq jersey
Now I’m layin’ in the bed naked / My chick said I look like Kevin Bacon
It’s been an hour and the blunt still hittin’ like a champion / Eatin’ scampi with Batali 50 feet from the Pantheon
These dudes trash like Michael Jordan jeans
I’d give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time
The eighteen-wheeler papi, we’ll drive it through your living room while you’re watching Maury / True story
I’m on the plane to Russia with a hard dick and a tanktop from Target
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This could turn into a sideshow, like how the music of other unconventional rappers (who shall remain nameless to spare me from backlash) can get silly in an old way and not silly in a fun way after a while. Other rappers need lots of features to keep a full album from growing stale, Action Bronson doesn’t. He mostly relies on his sidekicks both from his real life, music and show, Mayhem Lauren and Big Body Bes, to fill any gaps needed. They’ve been together so long they feel like different pieces of one band, not featured artists.
Calling Bes a rapper isn’t accurate, he’s more Flava Flav than Chuck D. But somehow his yelling about various New York localities and personalities seems vital, along with his over the top boasting. A sample: “We’ve been in the game our whole fuckin’ lives! Only God can bench us!” Mayhem’s actual rapping is in the same vein as Bronson’s: “You the type to compliment a Rolly at the urinal / I’m the type to look up continents and then explore a few”
On Blue Chips 7000, there’s only one featured artist that isn’t in his crew. Rick Ross comes in on ‘9-24-7000’ as a pleasant surprise, not as a crutch or prop. Featured artists are necessary for some rappers, they’re simply a pleasant change of pace for Action Bronson albums. His first album, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ used Chance the Rapper on “Baby Blue” in much the same way.
His style is so singular and interesting, other artists are more likely to clutter the picture he’s painting rather that complement his own brush strokes. Mayhem and Body are extensions of himself that fit in perfectly. Nothing else is really necessary.
There’s a world Bronson has created that’s expansive and diverse but comes with restricted access. This world is vibrant with all things culinary, sporting, musical, lyrical, spiritual and cultural. He is gracious enough to let us peek in with glimpses through his music and show and now, his book.
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“Fuck, That’s Delicious” is technically a cookbook, in that there are recipes in there. That’s not the main point, though. As Bronson has described it in interviews, it’s basically a numbered list: 100 food-related things that he loves. Those things are as varied as his rap references. The first item is “a bowl of Crispix over the sink” and the second is “Chankonabe”. The first one is obvious, the second is a stew he had at a sumo wrestling stable in Japan.
This man has seen it all and done it all, and his book is a series of bedtime stories where he tells you little vignettes about his ridiculous life. It’s wonderful. He’s telling you about a life you wish you had, with enough detail to make it seem real. You could respond to this with jealousy, but it’s much more fun and polite to be appreciative.
I mean, look at this shit:
If you can’t appreciate that, I can’t help you.
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I suggest you go listen to his music, watch his show (each of the projects described here has come out in the last month, but there are dozens of hours of TV and music I haven’t described to you – the man is prolific as hell) and buy the book for yourself. Your own life will be richer in several ways. You’ll come across sights, sounds and tastes you’ve never imagined before, while learning even more about this Renaissance man, a modern-day cultural genius, the ultimate multi-hyphenate.
You may not know that Bronson loves a food that is classically unpopular, or that there’s a way to prepare this food that could be delicious. But on page 33 of “Fuck, That’s Delicious,” he introduces you to his Golden Beet Poke:
I’m a beet bitch: I love beets.