Action Bronson with The Alchemist | Neptune Theatre | Friday, April 3, 2015
Words by Emery Desper.
(Due to complications, 206UP wasn’t able to get photos from the evening. Action Bronson would encourage you to smoke something and use your imagination.)
These days, wherever Action Bronson performs, his reputation precedes him. Long before I heard his music I was aware of the “white Ghostface,” and, while I think this comparison is a bit off the mark, his voice and style are indeed reminiscent of classic New York City MCs. If you don’t know much about New York hip-hop, it would be easy to say that a white rapper from Queens is merely parodying Black rappers from the five boroughs. I disagree with this entirely. To me, Bronson sounds like a New Yorker first and foremost and he especially sounds like one from Queens, a borough known for its diversity and confluence of cultures.
That said, my usual side eye glances I tend to direct at rappers with light complexions was missing last Friday when I rolled dolo to Bronson’s sold-out show at the Neptune Theatre. In 2014 it was easy to throw shots at white MCs just for being white. Action Bronson doesn’t earn my respect for being a white MC that can rap; he earns it because he is simply good at rapping and also good at being himself.
The entire time I watched Bronson walk back and forth on stage — a movement that appeared to be a cross between a necessary hobble and a showman’s swag step — I kept thinking of what it must have been like for him to come up in his Borough as the son of immigrant Albanian parents. Action Bronson raps like he received his training from cyphers on the block holding court with the homies, and much less like he spent hours poring through albums by his favorite MCs.
Bronson is a punchline rapper which is in large part what makes his music fun. That skill went a long way with the Neptune’s crowd. You could have set your watch to him dropping clever bars, leading up to the inevitable moment when he would lay down the lyrical body blow, eliciting collective looks of, I can’t believe he just said that, accompanied by the requisite closed-fist-up-to-mouth “Ohhhhhhhhhh!”
Action Bronson was well received to say the least. I, on the other hand, was close to feeling terrified — lost in a crowd that was 90 percent men, 85 percent of which qualified as the dude-bro variety. Because of the venue’s proximity to the University of Washington campus, many underage peps were on hand, some of whom could’ve used a hard lesson on how to behave at a rap show (or any show for that matter). A special shake of the head goes to whomever thought it was a good idea to interrupt Bronson’s set by lobbing a mixtape on stage. Bronson kept it real gully and stomped the compact disc into pieces, kicking it back to the crowd with emphatic swears. Quite a few kids interrupted his set, trying to rep for Seattle while Bronson was doing his thing.
Action Bronson’s music is lyrically grandiose, both an expression of the man’s immense sense of humor and a love letter to the city he’s from. The stripped-down styling of his samples and the tales in his rhymes provide a distinct ‘80s feel. Some of the crowd favorites were “Actin’ Crazy,” “Only in America”, “Baby Blue,” and the set closer “Give Me One Reason.” I personally loved the unlikely props to Tracy Chapman and so did everyone else. It was a good way to end the night.