Action Bronson's new album is a week away — out March 23 on Vice/Atlantic to be exact — and he has a message for fans: "Support a motherfucker and buy it," he says, looking me dead in the eyes and locking in hard with his glance to illustrate he's very serious. "I've been entertaining motherfuckers for years — free tapes, free music — it's my first release for sale. Help a motherfucker out and spend a coupla dollas."
He's got a point. Action Bronson has been entertaining fans since he burst out of a Queens kitchen as a chef a few years back and onto the stage. He's done so via countless tracks and Dat Piff mixtapes, incredible (and incredibly inspiring) videos, and the occasional interview that has to be seen to be believed.
The new album is called Mr. Wonderful, and on this day he will play it for the first time in its entirety to a double-decker bus full of journalists en route to a food truck that will be serving "Texas poutine" at SXSW. It's his own recipe featuring "fingerling potatoes fried up crisp, a beautiful gravy on there, smoked brisket, and cheese curds on top," he says like he's in front of the judges on Top Chef. "And we top that off with some onion and jalapeño."
We're on the balcony of his room at the W Hotel in Austin, overlooking a pool one floor below. "There's a woman with a great fat ass down there," he says admiringly. He then lights a blunt the size of a baby's arm and begins to smoke. He then smokes some more. After that, more smoking. His balcony is a smoldering smokestack.
Action is more proud of Mr. Wonderful than anything he's ever done, he says, and you get the sense rather quickly he's not just running through the talking points. The four songs that have lived on Spotify in advance of the album's release are all top shelf, and he says "Easy Rider" and "Terry" are two of the best tracks he's ever written. Others, "Baby Blue" for instance, see a new look from Action — singing, crooning, heartache Action. Mark Ronson produced the track (which features what is perhaps verse of the year from Chance the Rapper), and Action says it was his own choice to sing on the song.
"It felt natural. I don't ever do anything that doesn't come natural," he says. "That's true in my music and true in my life. That song in particular, 'Baby Blue,' was very much from the heart. I had to get that one out, and singing was the appropriate way to get it out."
Later, on the bus, Action walks us through the album as we wind slowly through Austin traffic and duck under low-hanging tree branches. "At the beginning of this track, I want you to think about The Terminator, the end of the world." He lights up another blunt the size of one of the branches he's just ducked, and passes it to his left, encouraging everyone on the bus to take a puff and pass.
When we arrive at South Bites, a dusty parking lot that's been converted into a circle of food trucks and various tables and tents, Action gets off the bus and starts serving his poutine to a crush of waiting and excited fans. Riff Raff makes a surprise appearance. Action takes a sheet tray filled with his dish and walks it around the grounds, serving anyone who asks and making conversation.
In other words, Mr. Wonderful, again entertaining the people for free.