Action Bronson's Double Life

Whether you're a fan of his music, happen to watch any of his VICE shows, or have read about his controversial lyrics, chances are you've heard of Action Bronson, and you either love or hate him. 

The Queens native, described as a "raunchy, cylinder-shaped ginger of Eastern European ancestry" by his own record label, is a polarizing figure, to say the least. His world is so rife with juxtaposing elements that he often appears to be living a double life. 

Let's take a closer look at the duality that is Action Bronson's existence, then we'll let you choose your favorite side.  

He left the kitchen to change the music industry

The son of a restaurant owner, Bronson grew up around food and was inspired by his chef father and by his grandmother who "was always cooking three meals a day in the house." Culinary school followed (but he dropped out) and then a gig working as a head cook at CitiField (but he was fired.) Despite those setbacks, it was an injury that made Bronson finally push food to the back burner.

In 2011, he slipped on a wet floor while working at his father's Queens restaurant, broke his leg, and was forced to start thinking about a new career. "It was a trying time," he told the New York Post. "I wasn't sure what I was gonna do."

What he did was make music. That same year, the aspiring rapper dropped his inaugural studio album, Dr. Lecter, and by the time his first major label release, Mr. Wonderful, arrived in 2015, he was making headlines and debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart.

With his dreams of returning to culinary school seemingly forgotten, Bronson showcased his unfaltering devotion to his new career on Twitter, proclaiming of Mr. Wonderful: "There is no music in the world today that is even near this album I've created."

But he's more dedicated to food than ever

Despite his explosive success in the hip-hop world, Bronson has failed to distance himself from his culinary roots. He hosts three food-related shows on VICE: the aptly titled F*ck That's DeliciousThe Untitled Action Bronson Show, which is filled with "a little food, a lot of chaos," and the Snapchat-based Hungry Hearts with Action Bronson. The New York native has also published a 224-page cookbook, and he's even taken The New Yorker on a tour of Eataly, alongside celebrity chef Mario Batali.

What's more, cooking has taught Bronson his greatest life lesson, and that's something he'll never forget. Thinking back to the decade he spent working as a chef, Bronson told Men's Health, "It can get crazy in the kitchen. People can start throwing sh*t and cursing you. But whatever happens, you have to keep cool and weather the storm. Working in the kitchen taught me how to persevere."

His lyrics are outrageous

If there's one thing Action Bronson is synonymous with, it's unapologetic, outrageous lyrics. Time and time again his rhymes have made headlines by pushing boundaries and throwing political correctness to the wind.

Perhaps one of his most controversial tracks to date is 2011's "Consensual Rape," in which he raps about drugging a woman and pushing her to have sex with several men, himself included. "I geeked her up on molly," he says. "Have her eating d***, no need for seasoning. If seven dudes are in the room then she's pleasing them."  

His words did not become any tamer when he signed with a major label, either. Press play on 2015's Mr. Wonderful and you'll hear lines like this from "The Rising:" "My mother said I better win or else she'll f*** me up. Ma, we did it, I love you, you lucky sl*t!"

Yet he's dead serious about music

A self-professed super fan, DJBooth's managing editor, Nathan Slavik, interviewed his idol in 2015 and, as he put it, "accidentally found a musician." As it turns out, Bronson takes his music extremely seriously, even if it may not always seem that way.

"I always make the music I want," Bronson declared. "I have to make it or I'll be unhappy, I won't be able to live with myself. I'll be up at night, be thinking about it constantly. I'm not going to do that to myself."

Another example of just how serious he is about his craft came when the rapper began gushing about obscure collaborators. "The most excited I heard him was when he mentioned that multiple Grammy winner Tom Elmhirst had mixed his album, a fact he relayed in a tone of voice I'd expect to hear someone talk about working with JAY Z," Slavik said. "It's hard to imagine a single fan caring who mixed the album currently playing in their headphones, but for Action it seemed like everything."  

He gives advice on being a better man

From tips on achieving greatness to overcoming fear, Bronson has repeatedly done interviews geared at helping fans live their best lives. Speaking with Men's Health in 2017, he dropped this motivational advice: "Number one: you got to have a great work ethic. Number two: you have to be punctual — life does not wait for you. I'm still always on time. People like it."

Another key to success? Carefully choose the company you keep. "You got to have your guys, your clique, your crew," the rapper said. "The guys you see with me on the show — we've been friends for a long, long time."

Talking with Shortlist that same year, Bronson even made time to share his go-to grooming tips for that picture-perfect beard. "You have to be dedicated, because it will get kinda funky," he said. "I just put a little bit of conditioner in every once in a while, and that's it."

But he sets the wrong example

Just days before he was scheduled to perform at the Osheaga music festival in Montreal, Canada, Bronson cancelled his performance after Quebec's Council for the Status of Women petitioned for the fest to ban him.

Speaking with the CBC, the council's president, Julie Miville-Dechêne, claimed the rapper's lyrics are "clearly approaching, from our point of view, hate speech with all kinds of misogynistic and violent insults." She then called on organizers to follow in the footsteps of Toronto's NXNE festival, which cancelled Bronson's free outdoor show after receiving a petition with more than 37,000 signatures that referred to a track called "Consensual Rape" as hate speech.

Rather than waiting for a repeat of the NXNE incident, Bronson pulled out of the Osheaga gig himself, taking to Twitter to declare: "I'm hoping one day to be let into Canada (because I did no wrong) so I can make it up to my fans who have been with me since the beginning." He followed that up with an impassioned plea to fans, proclaiming, "Montreal, Toronto START A F***ING PETITION TO HAVE ME COME PLAY IF U REALLY WANT ME!!!!"

He apologized for delaying his own music

Action Bronson fans were in for quite the roller coaster ride in 2017, as they awaited the release of his fourth studio album, Blue Chips 7000. In May of that year, the rapper used social media to seemingly accuse his label of holding the record back, tweeting, "Stay independent" and "PUT MY MOTHERF***ING ALBUM OUT."

Two days later, he told XXL that the record would "hopefully" drop on June 23, 2017, claiming the delay was actually his fault. "I've been making music, but TV takes over," he said. "If TV's calling me, I have to pick up the phone, you feel me? I can't just put that on hold, cause television is a big thing. Your face is seen all over the world."

Come August of that year (the record was finally released Aug. 25), he shifted the focus from television to licensing, but he shouldered the blame for the delay, telling fans during an AMA session on Reddit, "It's all on me, honestly. When I use f***ing samples from 1974 Communist Russia, it's sometimes hard to find the publishing company. It never stopped me, though."  

But he keeps taking on new hobbies

Despite apologizing for major delays releasing new music in 2017 and admitting that his TV work caused him to put music on the back burner, Bronson has unapologetically continued to juggle numerous projects and take on new ones.

In January 2018, he revealed that he was going to pursue yet another career path: acting. After joining the cast of Martin Scorsese's Netflix film, The Irishman, alongside greats Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci, Bronson shared the major news on Instagram. Posting a snap of himself alongside the legendary Scorsese and De Niro, he wrote, "Religious Art."

This announcement came just a few days after it was revealed that Bronson would take part in another Netflix project dubbed Game Over, Man! The action-comedy is the brainchild of the trio behind Workaholics and tells the story of three friends who "are on the verge of getting their video game financed when their benefactor is taken hostage by terrorists."