Jonah Bromwich remembers back in the day
…And in the summer, in the evenings, we’d listen to this guy Action Bronson. He’d release tapes all year round, but I remember, they were most perfect in the summer evenings. Even if they came out in the cold weather, the sound just took you back to the hottest part of the year, just at the point when the day starts to cool off. He had this one called, Well-Done, I think it was with a guy named Statik Selectah, who, incidentally, was not that great a producer, kind of like a poor man’s Pete Rock but without memorable loops — like everything was anonymous if you know what I mean. That’s beside the point though. Thing is, this down-tempo soul lent this guy Bronson the kind of mellow cool that suited his flow perfectly.
Bronson was a weird guy, a big fat dude who just clearly had a really big heart and had fallen in love with the way that other rappers spoke and sounded. He didn’t have that jarring over-enunciated drawl that was so distracting in rappers like Slug or Brother Ali. He just never really seemed vanilla in any way, like the natural cool of New York City had seeped into his overgrown body and made his whiteness kind of beside the point. It just never nagged at you, or even really came up.
He could really rhyme too. There were a lot of quotables on that tape. We’d sit around in our apartment and listen to the whole thing all the way through, and when he said something that we liked, we’d rewind so we could hear it again and we’d just start dropping his lines in our daily lives. Stuff like “I’m lookin’ crispy like a chicken cutlet, one wish is get rich before I kick the bucket” or “Drug roll precise like a hooker with the dice, butcher with the knife, you get took’n for your life.” Sometimes the it would just be whole songs that we could quote, guest verses and all, like “Time For Some” or “White Silk” or “Cliff Notes.”
It was great too, because even the way he’d use features didn’t take away from his whole vibe. Like he had this one song, I think it was called “Cocoa Butter” but for some reason, it was misspelled so the actual name was “Cocoo Butter,” anyway this song featured a duo called Nina Sky who had had a couple of popular songs a few years before. But instead of letting these girls change his sound, Bronson managed to incorporate them fully into the aesthetic he already had going. They just melded right into that jazzy vibe and made it sound like they had always belonged there, like why hadn’t they been showing up to sing the hooks for every underground rapper? That song made sense, it was cool.
Maybe it was just being young and really stupid, but there was kind of a snap to life back then like things were going too fast to catch, but Action Bronson kind of managed to catch those things. He just made life sound like what it was like; he captured the everyday and the music just sounded sweet. No more, no less. He did it really well. I wish dudes still made joints that sounded like that tape.
MP3: Action Bronson & Statik Selektah-“Not Enough Words”