Thanksgiving is a holiday that one would imagine brings out the best in Action Bronson. Aside from having a notable side job as a rapper (more on that later), he’s a trained professional chef who loves an audience; see his YouTube show “Action in the Kitchen” for ample evidence. His rhymes themselves are served with enough food references and cooking tips to cobble together a recipe book from his lyric sheets; for that, there’s songs like “Jerk Chicken” and “Tapas.”
But in speaking on the phone from a tour stop in Austin, Texas, the day before Thanksgiving, he’s far away from the Queens, N.Y., kitchen where someone else will prepare the next day’s meal, which leaves him with plenty of time to talk about other things.
“Obviously I will be doing something with the leftovers,” he promises, after running down a menu that will include neck bones, hams, greens, and “all kinds of macaronis.”
Within a few minutes, our conversation meanders onto subjects including his favorite cooking show (Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”), whether he’d ever be on one himself (the answer is no, because he’d eventually get in a fight), and his colorful thoughts on the harsh New York Times review of Fieri’s Times Square restaurant that went viral last month: “You can’t just go there and open some [expletive] and have it be a month or three-month grace period where you’re garbage. It can’t be.”
This may not seem like the most informative introduction as to why Bronson has seen rap go from a hobby to a full-blown career in the short span of 21 months, but understanding his thought process reveals more than the requisite details of his beginnings. Since releasing his first album, “Dr. Lecter,” last March, Bronson has quickly become one of hip-hop’s most in-demand and compulsively listenable lyricists by inviting listeners into his mind, where pop culture footnotes collide with XXX-rated fantasies and drugged-out musings on ’80s sports heroes, cult movies, and, of course, food. If the object is to take these seemingly disparate elements and make lemonade, Bronson cooks a full-blown meal. He will perform at the Sinclair in Cambridge on Tuesday.
Case in point: his latest mix tape, “Rare Chandeliers,” released free on his website last month, the cover of which features a caricature of Bronson blasting a shotgun in full tux and wearing a wolf’s head like a warrior’s trophy pelt. On songs like “Sylvester Lundgren” and “Blood of the Goat,” he lays out a gritty cinematic narrative with himself as the star, careering from gunfight to expensive lunch to sexual escapade like a mix of Shaft, James Bond, and Gordon Ramsay. When he gives a random shout-out to Gerard Depardieu midway through “Randy the Musical,” it’s not inconceivable to imagine them actually partying together at some exclusive Parisian supper club.
“I feel that I try and progress every time I do music, every time I do a verse. I don’t try to do the same thing I’ve done. I have a lot of useless knowledge that is actually becoming useful because I rap now,” says Bronson of the pastiche of vintage influences, almost all of them from the ’80s and ’90s, that color his music. “It’s crazy. All the years of watching all kinds of movies with my grandfather in the ’90s, every movie that came out we watched. You can pretty much look at the cover of the album and know what the tape is about.”
So when the question comes up of how Dennis Haskins, better known to most as perpetually bewildered principal Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell,” found himself incorporated into Bronson’s entourage at some point during the summer and ended up with a song named after him on “Chandeliers,” it seems like the most natural thing in the world.
“Dennis Haskins, that’s my man,” says Bronson. “That’s just the homie. I don’t even know how that happened. I honestly don’t know. Who knows how Mr. Belding came into the picture? It’s kind of amazing though, right?”
It’s exactly the sort of thing that makes Bronson’s ridiculously profane and bizarrely entertaining music endearing to hip-hop’s underground revivalists, and also what likely keeps even someone of his estimable talent and charisma from breaking through to mainstream audiences looking for something to dance to on a Saturday night. Thanks to “Chandeliers,” his third excellent release in just over a year following “Well Done” and “Blue Chips,” and his forthcoming official release on Warner Bros./VICE Records, Bronson has built himself a prominent stage with which to serve his creations. It may not be everyone’s meal of choice, but it’s anything but bland.
“The underground, we make a living and we have our artistic integrity still,” he says. “But I would love to be on TV. There would be nothing better than to be on TV and be in movies and have people love me and be driving Porsches and Ferraris and doing coke chilling on a New York rooftop with black women who shoot guns.”Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_