Photography // Tom Gould
And just to clarify what you might have heard, I never left these dice
I throw ‘em until there’s nothin’ left in life.
Penned in the opening lines of his brand new album, White Bronco, Action Bronson’s latest full-length effort is an untamed return to independence. It’s ferocious in spirit, and, by the metric of Bronson’s back catalog, a delivery of cheeky, raw character that roams free in the mind of a true renaissance man. Blow after blow, Bronson draws upon undeterred charisma to set the tone of the album’s slow-burning heartbeat, and the end result is a testament to the unhindered vision of a man who never has, and never will, let business take precedence over soul.
In lyrical moments such as the aforementioned, an excerpt from the album’s opener, “Dr. Kimble” — Bronson quickly solidifies his stature as one of today’s master showmen simply by leaving it all on the court. Start to finish, the album captures the energy of a glorious entrance and enchanting exit, and in such a manner, it finds an eccentric voice in the art of communicating identity through music. Accordingly, Bronson is restless and unapologetic when voicing his definition of self, adding a galvanizing dimension to this mission statement via half-baked croons and a perpetual sense of power that punctuates his vocals. Even so, while flowery language may dilute this, it needs to be made clear that Bronson’s way of voicing these thematic traits is not particularly graceful and clean-cut, by many tastes. In fact, it’s joyfully the opposite.
It is in this way that White Bronco is proof of pedigree in an unbridled fashion, led, in part, by the profound thesis, “I headbutt, bitch, I don’t shake hands” (“Dr. Kimble”). While such diction may be raunchy to some, it’s this rough edge that finds fans in the world’s most obscure corners. Bronson is surely not passive by any sense of the word, and additionally undeniable is the fact that White Bronco is a stellar album by any traditional gauging of technical skill. As these two worlds of personality and structural talent intersect, the resulting yield is a man left unkempt in his ways — a sentiment that, while impressive, can’t be considered complete without a brief analysis of its contextual importance.
Here, we introduce Action Bronson’s latest trick: cutting ties. Recently ending his relationship with Atlantic Records as well as denouncing his TV partner, Vice (F*ck That’s Delicious, Traveling The Stars, etc.), Bronson is escaping the reigns of contractual obligation, now back on the loose and energized as ever. Primal in its animalistic spirit and roaring with the confidence of a man who has paved a remarkably unrestricted path in his professional life, White Bronco is a direct reflection of this.
That said, contextually, the Queens native’s latest is a testament to the concept of artistic inertia. While this is not to say that Bronson’s past releases have ever felt anything less than genuine, it speaks to an artist’s soul when they’re able to remain creatively unscathed regardless of any obstacles that might lie in their way. By choice, there is no force to act upon Bronson that will stop him in his tracks, and so he continues to move forward.
Parallel to inertia, persistence is nothing new for Bronson, as his stubbornness toward unfortunate contextual happenstance is certainly worthy of similar merit. Contract or not, he is who he is, and whether this manifests itself as an outrageously entertaining scene of being “butt naked with the Uzi on Broadway” (“Irishman Freestyle”) or the hilarity of an ambitious Taye Diggs comparison (“White Bronco”), it goes without saying that Action Bronson is the blue-chip we’ve always known him to be. He’s a culmination of deepened cultural literacy and curiosity, a vehicle of cascading personal experience, and a representative of Albanian and Queens pride, incapable of losing his identity.
From the kitchen to the mic, around the world and back, this has never rung truer than on White Bronco, where brevity is a virtue and imagination is a fulfilled liberty.
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In terms of my own reaction to White Bronco, I can best articulate my feelings with a sports comparison, just as Bronson would likely appreciate. Upon my first few listens through, this album feels like watching Kobe Bryant score 60 points in his final game as a Laker, taking 50 shots along the way without batting an eye at the prospect of failure. Better yet, connecting this to Bronson’s NYC roots, I would compare White Bronco’s grandiose flavor to Derek Jeter’s final at-bat — a capping off of legacy similar in its anthemic nature to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” — only this time, with a few more profanities. And a Taye Diggs reference.
Nevertheless, whichever angle of comparison one chooses, this album signifies a profound irreverence toward outside expectation.
We’re talking about the same guy who had an entire TV show dedicated to smoking weed and watching Ancient Aliens with his best friends. Oh, and the same guy who happens to be a New York Times bestseller, a magnificent chef, and a famous musician, among other roles. White Bronco is no closing act, but it’s a brilliant time to honor the mark of a man who embodies the lesson of loyalty to true character. As he continues to connect the dots and follow artistic impulse, it’s valuable to note that Action Bronson is a community of a human, and a gracefully rampant one at that.
I asked the White Bronco rapper a few questions about his album, legacy, and more. You can read our conversation below.
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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Your relationship with Viceland is coming to an end, you’re an independent artist once again, and you’re at one of the most creative stages of your career that we’ve seen to date. With all this in mind, what does White Bronco represent?
Well, you know, all good things come to an end, but there’s also fucking things called contracts involved, so we gotta see what the fuck is really good, to be quite honest. White Bronco is just a wild, untamed thing, and that’s what it is. It’s me.
How did your role in the new Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman, come about? Did you audition?
They asked me to come in and I auditioned. They seemed to like me from the beginning, so I think I was going to be in the movie no matter what.
Thinking about the fact that you’re in a Scorsese film must be kind of surreal. And even beyond this role, your extensive resume of success is nothing to understate. I wanted to ask — what are your views on fame?
It’s a beautiful life — you’re able to wake up every day and do something to try and reach your goals and dreams. Honestly, now that I got the taste of success, I want even more. It never ends.
If you had to compare you and Big Body Bes to any duo in the NBA, past or present, what would that duo be and why?
We’re like Ewing and Oakley, honestly. I’d like to compare myself to Oakley. I’m hard-nosed around the rim, I’m a fucking crazy rebound addict.
Or Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton — problem is, I’m kind of like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton put together. I can dish out a fucking beautiful pass, I got the crazy handle, but then I’m coming down the floor and slamming hard. I’m a nasty fuck.
If you could go back and speak to your 15-year old self, what advice would you give?
Just to take things as they are and chill out. Slow down a little bit and enjoy the time, because once you get older, you’re always going to be reflecting on that time and wanting it back. So just enjoy it while you’re there.
I’m Albanian (my family is from Korçë), so I feel the obligation to ask — does Albanian culture influence your art at all? If so, how?
Of course, I just did a big show in Kosovo with Dua Lipa. It was three nights, me, her, and Martin Garrix, whose an Albanian boy — he’s an honorary. I went back to see my family for the first time in 18 years and it was a beautiful thing. I’m overwhelmed by Albanian culture.
I mean how do you think I learned how to cook? From my grandmother. My Nonna would teach me how to make everything, all that fire.
If you had to choose one movie to accompany White Bronco, what would that movie be and why?
I feel like there needs to be a movie for every song, but I would say Dances With Wolves, The Natural with Robert Redford, and Mr. Baseball with Tom Selleck. It’s all about returns to glory, you know? Being a hero.
I don’t mean to cite all baseball movies, but these are all really good movies to me. Garry Marshall also did a hell of a job in A League of Their Own.
What do you want your legacy to be when it’s all said and done?
That’s for the people to think. I’m going to leave my legacy and that will be that. At the very least, they’ll recognize everything I did along with all the trailblazing. Especially in the time of a lot of fucking bullshit.
Lastly, I wanted to ask about the idea of impact. In my eyes, this project represents you moving on and solidifying the impact of all the work you’ve done. As much as White Bronco is a new beginning for you, would you also say it’s the closing of a certain chapter of your life?
I mean, you know, this project is a project. It’s a piece of time in my musical career, and that’s really it. I took the moment that I was in, captured that moment, and froze it in time — that exact moment right there. The White Bronco era. And there’s nothing but more glory to come. There’s no ceiling, just sky and universe.
Has it always felt like there’s been no ceiling? Or were there specific moments of breakthrough that showed you that?
I think every artist has their moments of breakthrough, but I’ve always felt that I was meant to do something here. I’m just contributing my thought to this period of time, you feel me?