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Action Bronson Is My Grandfather

Meet the genius Jewish rapper from Queens who isn’t up for a Grammy, but should be, and will be

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Action Bronson (Vice Records)
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Action Bronson is a 29-year-old chef-turned-rapper of Albanian and Jewish extraction from Queens, who is internationally known for his love of THC, epicurean feasts, and whip gymnastics.

He reminds me of my grandfather.

My tough Jewish grandfather died four years ago at 88. He worked in the garment industry, stayed unhappily married, and unsuccessfully faithful for a half century. He never listened to a complete rap song in his life—even though his early adult years were spent in Hollis, Queens, cradle of Run-DMC. Andrew Weiss preferred jazz and swing. He attended innumerable shows at the Savoy and Apollo, bequeathing several thousand CDs that still sit adjacent to my desk, waiting to be uploaded: Duke Ellington, Studio Sessions, 1957-62, Miles and Quincy Live at Montreaux, Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio, and others.

Anecdotes about my grandfather that suggest that, as Action Bronson put it in a lyric, he “was wild since the Rabbi snipped it”:

♦ On the occasion of his 80th birthday party, my recently widowed grandpa brought a black 50-year old woman named Janice to the Pico Blvd. branch of Delmonico’s. She was a church-going woman in a floral-print dress and pearl necklace. Everything was all good until my uncle congratulated him on hitting “the big 8-0,” and my grandfather suddenly scowled and whispered, “Shh … she thinks I’m 65.”

♦ At 83, he was rushed to the hospital after suffering a very minor stroke. His first words to the nurse upon regaining consciousness were: “Hey baby, can you get me a little grass?”

♦ His long-term advice to me was “marry” a rich woman. “The first thing we got to do is stretch our your tongue.” I was 11.

♦ When asked what he did during World War II, he responded, “Try not to get shot and try not to get the clap. One out of two ain’t bad.”

Grandpa was raw. Howard Stern raw. Action Bronson raw.

Bronson represents the off-grid New York that you would think had disappeared if you only went no further south or east than the Barclays Center—the cab drivers rambling at micro-machine speed, the freaks and fishmongers of Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel. The old fuck you-pay me New York City. Sure, there are “kreplach soups, and sable” and shouts out to Shaevitz & Shaevitz, a law firm in Jamaica, Queens, but the sensibility isn’t Jewish so much as it is old-world immigrant. “Barry Horowitz,” named after the WWF jobber who once entered the ring to “Hava Nagila” cohabits with “Larry Csonka,” named after the ’70s Miami Dolphin fullback.

***

Bam Bam, born Arian Asllani, first back-flipped into the whip 30 months ago with a YouTube video called “Imported Goods.” Over a Diana Ross loop, he pushes a Beamer around in a New York Knicks Jersey. There’s a blunt behind his ear, tattoos, baby fat, and a ginger beard. His syllables slash in homage to fellow Queens native, Kool G Rap. There was no hype bubble or big name co-sign. Just a no-frills Flushing native rapping and running into Peking ducks and turbaned men on his daily errands—while happening to sound uncannily like Ghostface Killah, a vocal resemblance that was initially both the main selling point and chief strike against.

You started to see all sides of the rapper’s character in the video for “Shiraz,” where Bronson goofs with an Italian deli owner and purchases prosciutto, back-slapping like he was a young Ed Koch. He cracks open Philly blunts in the park and flirts and freaks like Jodeci with a woman who looks like a wilder version of my grandpa’s ex-girlfriend Janice.

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jonitin says:

Thanks for the artist intro and the riffs, but the editor here did the writer no justice. I went cross-eyed trying to follow this piece. Again, wasn’t without some satisfaction. And who knows, maybe it’s just me shaking in terror from all this news about an approaching 60-mile per hour blizzard. Anyway, good videos.

I agree with jonitin that the article was hard to follow BUT thanks for letting me know about this guy. Reminds me of Ghostface.

Randall Bernstein says:

Ditto to the previous comments. What ever happened to writing a piece that a college graduate could understand? A bit of clear headed writing is needed here. Maybe too much “blunt” going on here?

arktikwolf says:

Can we say, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” children?
LOL

Habbgun says:

The writer, the rapper or both?

arktikwolf says:

The rapper. That said — bluesmen have always bragged about their sexual
prowess and the size of their organ (“I’m a Sixty-Minute Man,” “Big12-inch
Record,” ) and how well they eat (“I eats mo’ chicken . . . “(Howlin’ Wolf), “Give me champagne when I’m thirsty and reefer when I want to get high.” (Muddy Waters.)
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I was not diss-ing the man; hell, the whole genre could be said to be narcissistic. I’m sure Bronson is good to his mother and I wish him all the best.

aymebutavia@yahoo.com says:

you’re comparing rap to jazz–quite a leap, don’t you think?

Dizzle says:

This is a weak article for a number of reasons.

1. It was written 1-2 years too late. Few people need to “meet” Action Bronson at this point, as the subheadline says. He is not new to anyone who listens to hip-hop or music generally. So, like, this is not a story.

2. Is he actually Jewish? The subheadline claims that he is. The body dilutes the claim (“Jewish extraction”, “similarly Semitic”), rightfully I think. Why? Because no article I’ve seen claims that Action Bronson is Jewish (i.e. there are typically vague mentions of Jewish ancestry) or features Action Bronson self-defining as Jewish. It would have been really interesting for the writer of this article to pursue that. Actually, that would have been the only interesting thing for the writer to pursue, because the rest of what he offers is a mash-up of stuff that has already been said.

3. I think we’re all in agreement that the grandfather angle is hackneyed and blah.

4. There is nothing politically incorrect about being twisted off Manischewitz or eating barbequed venison. I challenge the writer to identify what about either of these things is politically incorrect.

5. The lyric from Steve Wynn is “been wildin’ since the Rabbi snipped it,” and not “was wild since the Rabbi snipped it.” Small matter I suppose. But as the rapper Edan once said, “Geometric poop. Get your shit straight.”

arktikwolf says:

Branches of the same tree,
rooted in the blues.

aymebutavia@yahoo.com says:

if the forest is located on Mars, perhaps

arktikwolf says:

Your rapier wit leaves me stunned and humiliated; I feel so diminished
in the shadow of your august erudition. Seriously, your Ethnomusicology degree is from where, exactly? The University of Uranus? Sunshine — it would behoove you to remain silent when adults are attempting to communicate.

meirmoses says:

Strong similarities and roots in many ways…

Natan79 says:

Maybe the author’s joint was too long.

Gotta disagree with you fools. Full of humor and wit — kind of like Bronson himself, eh?

Anonymous says:

His Dad is Muslim and his Mom I assume may be Jewish or half Jewish possibly.

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Action Bronson Is My Grandfather

Meet the genius Jewish rapper from Queens who isn’t up for a Grammy, but should be, and will be