Action Bronson has an insane work ethic. He started his adult life as a chef but turned rapping from a hobby into a career when an injury took him out of the kitchen. Now 38 and a full decade into that career, he’s a day away from dropping his fourth major-label LP, Cocodrillo Turbo. In the interim, he’s starred in three TV shows, had three children, and authored three books, including two New York Times bestsellers. Clearly, whatever Bronson does, he does without compromise. When he decided to hit the gym at the top of the pandemic, he lost 127 pounds in about 9 months. He smokes, by his own admission, a shitload of weed. On his TV show, Fuck, That’s Delicious, he had TV cameras follow him as he ate the world’s greatest food — that was the entire premise.
His latest written work, 2021’s Fuck It, I’ll Start Tomorrow: A True Story, is part memoir, part self-help book. But mainly, it’s another sketch from the blueprint of his unique philosophy on life — one he’s been fleshing out for years through dozens upon dozens of songs about food, drugs, sports, and sex. Cocodrillo Turbo is no exception; it’s Bronson in full, uncompromising flow.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Bronson to discuss Cocodrillo Turbo and Fuck It, I’ll Start Tomorrow but our conversation turned down far stranger avenues: from hedonism and testosterone to crocodiles and bodyboarding.
This Q&A is taken from the latest episode of The FADER Interview. To hear this week's show in full, and to access the podcast's archive, click here.
The FADER: This is your album release week. What do you get like on weeks like this? Are you nervous? Energetic?
Action Bronson: I'm very even every single day. I take it minute by minute. I'm happy, I'm excited, but I'm holding it in.
Why are you holding it in?
What is this, fucking Judge Judy? Dr. Phil?
If you think that's bad, wait till I get going on your memoir.
Oh my, I don't even know about that. There's no such thing as [my] memoir.
I mean, you billed [Fuck It, I'll Start Tomorrow] as self-help, but that was a memoir you wrote last year.
I didn't bill it as anything. That's the fucking companies that be. They list things the way they want. To me, that was a check.
“I’m sick of fucking talking about shit. People don’t do enough fucking movement. They love to talk.” — Action Bronson
You’ve said you hated writing that book, but reading it, you seemed like you were having fun just line by line, telling stories. Did you really not enjoy it?
I didn't enjoy the process because it was tedious and it was fucksome. The book changed many times, and at the end of the day, I just left it in my voice. Whatever I was saying, it came out the way it came out. It was like a prelude to a kiss that all needed to come out for things to change. Change is never an easy process.
Did you know at the beginning of that process, “All right, I need to do this so I can change?”
No, I realized that afterwards, That was a catalyst, because I was reminiscing about crazy shit and I was like, "What the fuck is wrong with me? These are the stories I'm telling?" I left out millions of stories. That's why we need to keep doing 20 books. But it's enough with that type of shit. Enough fucking writing things, enough talking about things. It's time to get down to fucking business. I'm sick of fucking talking about shit. People don't do enough fucking movement. They love to talk.
In the book you talk about having a four-hour break in the middle of a day when you were shooting a film with Pete Davidson [2020's The King of Staten Island], and you were pissed off that you had to spend a couple of hours sitting around because you could have been in the studio, working.
I'm getting pissed off right now hearing about it; I was there fucking 12 hours for nothing. My studio was in Brooklyn. We were filming in Brooklyn. What do you want me to do? I'm not a diva, but I am a realist. Let's be serious here. I'll fucking come right back.
“Cocodrillo Turbo: that’s what they call me when I’m on the bodyboard. I lay head first and I’m a fucking predator. I’m an apex predator, death rolling on the wave.”
You weren’t like, “I wish I knew that I had that time off so that I could hang out with my guys in Brooklyn.” You wanted to be in the studio.
Everything is work. Every moment could change everything with a thought. So I don't waste any fucking time and I don't take it lightly. When I say I'm working, I'm working.
But there is a similar atmosphere on a record as there is in the book: this feels like somebody who's really enjoying himself. You don't make it feel like work.
When I first started doing music, I had so much in me. It was so new, it just it was pouring out. Now it pours out in moments, so I treat each of them [as] extremely special. I don't force it. I’m doing so many other things, but they all link together. It's not because I like one thing better than the other. I just get infatuated with things and I just fucking go deep.
That's more than work; that's love.
I love life. I love what I do.
Going back years, I was at Vice when you were doing Fuck, That's Delicious. That show… Do you have positive associations with the word “hedonism?”
I have tremendous fucking allure for that word. I learned about hedonism when I was young. One of my friend's mothers went away to Hedonism and we didn't know what the fuck it was. That's a gathering in Negril, Jamaica where they all fuck. I wish I was there.
You're looking great, by the way, and that’s a lot of work. When you work out, you don't just do 50 pushups a day. You're pushing it really hard. Do you think that drive that pushes you to the gym is the same thing that pushes you to the studio, is the same thing that pushes you to write?
It's called manna, it's what's within you. I was born with a strong will, so I'll always go to the furthest extent to do what I feel in my heart. It's unconscious, but it's also built through experience. A lot of people talk shit, but they've never been through anything. I'm almost 40 years old; I’ve been around the block a couple times.
The FADER: You came to this industry pretty late. You knew more about yourself than, say, Earl Sweatshirt, who you're on tour with now. He came in really young and had to figure himself out as he went.
He's the same age as I [was] when I started, 28. He [was] thrust in, and you saw the tolls it took on him. He's different now. He's growing up and he's changing [through] all those experiences… People need to go through things.
When you’re around a guy like Earl, do you see yourself as an elder statesman or a mentor? Do you want to share your experiences with that generation?
I just lead by example. I don't son anybody. To me, I'm the same age as him; you can't tell me I'm older. I'm still with the grooves.
You write about being sort of battle-hardened by an immigrant upbringing, being half Albanian, half Jewish.
I'm just a fucking European mutt. Albanian, Russian, Hungarian, whatever. I don't take much to religion. I believe in the universe and myself. Growing up [in Queens] hardens you just like the animal kingdom. You grow a tail. When you're around water, you grow fins. You lose the fucking hands and legs. You either adapt or you don't; survival of the fittest. Being born in ‘83, we grew up talking to our grandparents. We had our crew, but we’d also be mentored by the older people in the park. We didn't have all this bullshit to take our attention spans away and make us weirdos. We went outside and interacted with other human beings and [ate] dinner at other families’ houses. That doesn't happen anymore. You used to have to call or knock on the door to see if someone could come outside. Times changed.
I'm from an immigrant family as well, and my mom would not let me be picky with food when I was a kid. She was like, "Shut the up, you're eating olives." As a dad, do you try to impart some of that flavor of what you had growing up on your kids?
Your kids are not you, so you can't have full control. Everyone walks their own path. I don't want them to grow up exactly how I did. I had an amazing childhood, no doubt, but I want them to have their own experience.
Let's go to Cocodrillo Turbo. Water is important to this record, and it comes up in a video for “SubZero.” Can you tell me a bit more about what it means to you and that finds its way into this record?
It's not so literal. I mean, we’re all water. But bro, fucking Cocodrillo Turbo: that's what they call me when I'm on the bodyboard. I lay head first and I'm a fucking predator. I'm an apex predator, death rolling on the wave.
The main thing that I associate with Action Bronson in 2022 is confidence, just pure...
Do you think it's machismo?
Nah, just a lot of testosterone. That's what happens when you start doing squats. Your shorts get a little shorter, shirts get a little tighter; you start feeling yourself a little more. [Laughs] I've always had confidence, but now it's genuine. I'm comfortable in my own skin. It's not cockiness or overconfidence or some fucking douchey shit. It's just me. If we're talking competition, I'm a fucking animal. I want to win everything, but I know winning isn't everything., and I don't need verification from anybody to define me or my career. Motherfuckers can say what they want. They're not selling out 6,000-people shows. You can see who was around 12 years ago when I started and who's around now still being productive. Not many people.
I'm not gonna be all up in your face telling you how I'm the greatest in the world, but that's how I attack my art: with the confidence [that] I'm at the top of the mountain, even though I might not be. I've done a lot of fucking things, and I've transformed. I've come back. I've kept going. That's prehistoric, ancient shit, and that's what I am. I'm gonna be around forever.
The thing about the crocodile is that it basically hasn't evolved in millennia because it hasn't needed to. It's the ultimate killing machine.
It's not just a perfect killing machine. It's perfectly made for its habitat. It's alienesque: the chambers of the heart, the way it's constructed.
That's something you relate to, then.
I relate to nature. I'm derived from nature.
You’ve talked a lot about the influence of psychedelics on your work and on you as a person. Do you work on the occasions when you do that, or do you have to completely disconnect from that?
There's nothing set in stone. Each time finds you in a different situation. There's been times where I've had some amazing ideas, and lots of good things come from it. But a lot of times you're just having a good time, embracing it, enjoying it. I don't like to be around too much fuck shit or too many weird people. You just sit in nature and enjoy.
You've got a bunch more tour dates lined up with Earl and Alchemist and Boldy James. It's an incredible lineup. What's it been like getting back out, seeing the whites of your audience's eyes again?
I was ready since all this bullshit started. I'm always ready — a little more cautious, obviously, because you don't want someone coughing on you [or] touching you. But other than that, it's all good. Shows have been phenomenal. Traveling has been amazing. Nice and easy. Just enjoying it, doing it smart.
I'm gonna to let you go. But before I do: Knicks next season: any hope?
I always hold out hope. My glass is runneth over with hope.