2012 was a good year for Action Bronson. He picked up a cult following and enough buzz to land a deal with VICE Records. While some rappers might polish themselves into nicely packaged mainstream rap stars, Bronson has maintained the gritty style and slick rhymes that made us fans in the first place. He’s a rapper’s rapper, trading catchy choruses and accessible sing-alongs for non-stop flows and densely packed quotables. Today he keeps it moving with his Alchemist-produced free project, Rare Chandeliers.

Bronson took some time out (while watching women’s body-building) to talk to us about who he wants to work with, how being Albanian has shaped his outlook, and a few things you wouldn’t expect.

Interview by Mustafa Abubaker

AB: Hello!

What’s going on?
What’s the word, homie? I’m good.

So you’re in Miami right?
Nah, I’m in Miami tomorrow. I’m actually watching fucking women’s body-building in Queens.

You had a big year. Blue Chips in March, VICE signing and Rare Chandeliers. What’s one word to describe your 2012?
Life-changing. You know, life-changing in the fact that I know what I’m doing now. Going full force with it. Before I was just taking it day by day. You know, I had a career before rap. Only doing it because there’s nothing better.

How did you link up with Alchemist and create the concept of Rare Chandeliers?
We linked up a while ago. He just hit me up on Twitter. Obviously, I’m a fan of him. He was in Queens, I went over to the studio, knocked some shit out. Went back and forth to Cali to his crib, knocked out a bunch of work. I was just back in my crib one day looking at the ceiling and I have a chandelier hanging. So I said, you know, Rare Chandeliers. The original title was going to be – I didn’t tell nobody this – The Chairman’s Intent. I like that one better, to tell you the truth. That might have to be the name of my debut album on VICE.

What’s the difference between working with Alchemist compared to Party Supplies and Statik Selektah?
Well, it really started out with Tommy Mas with the Dr. Lecter project. Then, Statik hit me up like “yo let’s just do a project.” Working with Statik is cool because he does everything quickly and he knows exactly what he wants to do with the beat; he’s in control of that. Me and Party Supplies, we worked like we just chilled, listened to mad shit. He’s eccentric, he’s like a crazy dude. He’s amazing. He’s one of those dudes you leave him for a second, get him high and just let him go to work. Al? He’s just a fucking machine. All day long. He literally stops to eat niblits laying around his kitchen and that’s it. So, I mean, you have to keep up. So as he’s making beats, I’m writing raps. Vice versa, he has to keep up with me because I was going in, you know, I was in the zone.

Why did you guys decide to release this project for free?
It was the best idea for everybody to do it in that manner because of the VICE deal. There was some sort of issue with selling it. But we had pre-determined this idea a while back so there was no hindrance within VICE. They just wanted to make sure it had its proper timing instead of just having to put that out and have that be the studio album and numbers can be taken into consideration. I feel that we’re going to make even more of an impact and still make money off of it the way we’re doing it. I’m going on an independent tour later on this month, with merchandising and sponsorships and stuff like that. That’s how we try to do it these days. The big label things, that’s cool and shit to have your deal but you need all kinds of money from all kinds of places.

Are there any records that didn’t make it onto the project?
I mean, we have a lot of records. We had like thirty-five, forty records. There’s thirteen on this one. The next one will have more. We’re going to create a little series. That’s the plan.

What was it like filming “The Symbol”? Did you come up with the concept?
“The Symbol” was fucking great, it was fun. It was literally only one day. We knocked it the fuck out. I mean, it was my idea for the concept but not the material in it – that was Rik Cordero. We all worked in conjunction pretty much. That entire thing was just amazing. I love the way everything came out, everything was executed well. Al was in Abu Dhabi or whatever so he couldn’t be there.

What do you hope people gain from Rare Chandeliers?
This right here is meant to show versatility and growth. There’s actual songs. Through all my projects, it’s just me. I’m not changing on nobody. My album as well, you know, my album is me. It’s going to be hundred percent fly shit.

What cities are you most looking forward to performing in?
I love Europe. Europe shows a lot of love. Some of my favorite places are obviously Paris, London. Toronto, I had the best show, had the time of my life there. New York City, you know, that’s my home – that’s my place, my birth. Everywhere I go, it’s all love. The crowd is always heavy and always deep into it. I love performing everywhere. Anywhere that’s going to have me, I’m going. I actually can’t wait to get to Australia and New Zealand. I’ll be there in January. I was supposed to go there in September but it just didn’t make sense at that time. It’s much better at this point, much more worth it.

You’re originally from Albania. Did the Albanian background and heritage affect your upbringing? Would you ever perform there?
Well, to answer that part, I would love to perform back in the homeland in Macedonia where my family’s from, in Albania, in Kosovo. I need to get back there. We were supposed to go there but it fell through. There was some issues with the traveling and border and everything. I’ve been there three times already and it’s pretty heavy duty over there. Got to keep a gun with you everywhere you go. Of course, you know, my father’s a fucking off-the-boat immigrant. You grow up different. You grow up with a weird mentality. I’m sure everyone has their thing. It’s just certain aspects of Albanian manhood that has helped me in this music business.

Despite the official secular stance of Albania, there’s a large Muslim population. Did you ever have any beliefs in Islam?
I mean, yeah, my family is all Islamic. My family is all Muslim on my father’s side. Of course, you know, he wants me to grow up the way he grew up and have the same beliefs but with time, I have my own beliefs and that’s that.

I felt like this needed to be addressed. On some early records in your career, you had said the n-word on some occasions, such as “Swiss Alps” with Meyhem Lauren. Many just attributed it to the culture of Queens, but could you speak on it?
That’s pretty much what it is. You know, just growing up… you don’t care about what everyone else is going to think. Obviously, all my friends are black, Spanish; just different cultures. Even Chinese kids. Every single person talks like that. It’s a word of endearment. But the world, they don’t take it in the same way and it’s obviously not the right thing to do so I stopped that way early. It’s surprising you even brought that up, I appreciate you looking back that far.

Switching gears, you just linked up with Grenco Science for the G-Pen Vaporizer, how’d you link up with them?
I’m a fiend, wax fiend. I’m a pothead, but this is taking it to the next level. I haven’t smoked a joint in a week. I’m just hitting the pen, man. Everywhere I go. Listen, my man: you need it. If you like smoking weed but you don’t wanna be bothered, see cops bothering you or smells in hotels or smells anywhere, you can hit this thing anywhere. You can hit it in front of a police officer and spit in his face. It’s like coffee, it’s just a thing throughout the day. It’s my ‘cigarette’ ’cause I don’t smoke cigarettes. I would smoke ten to fifteen a day when I was smoking a lot but that’s why I’m on this pen; it’s supposed to be healthier and cleaner for you. That’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to get my life together.

Favorite albums and films?
Voodoo. I know it back and forth, I just listen to it over and over again. Brown Sugar, obviously. Kool G Rap, 4, 5, 6. Pretty much all the G Rap albums. Pun, Mobb Deep albums, Nas, you know. People I’m supposed to like. I love White Men Can’t Jump, that’s one of my favorite movies.

What’s one thing about you people wouldn’t guess?
Obviously, people don’t realize that I’m an accomplished chef. But I also like to do tai chi in the mornings. I like to reflect, have my own ten minute reflection time. I like to watch fucking executions on TV.

What are your thoughts on these new rappers in 2012? Who would you want to work with?
I’ve pretty much worked with everyone I wanted to work with. I like Schoolboy Q a lot. I mean, Mac Miller, yeah. We have a fire song. He’s a nice kid. He said he’s going to use it for his album, but I don’t know what the case is. Alchemist produced it. It’s pretty crazy. It’s a good song, [but] it’s not like he’s going to be doing me a favor. He’ll be doing me a favor not intentionally. But yeah, Schoolboy, I fuck with heavy. Ab-Soul. Earl, Domo, whole Odd Future. Joey Bada$$, me and him just did a joint. You know, pretty much everyone I need to work with at this point. I don’t really want to do a lot of feature work unless it makes sense. I’d rather just focus on me and mine.

In your career, what are some things you’ve learned both musically and personally?
Not everyone is your friend. I mean, obviously. You can’t really trust every single person. You’ve just got to keep your eyes open and realize that this is a business. This is not just high school chilling in the park. No, motherfuckers are getting real money. There’s real money at hand and there’s lives at hand and shit like that. You’ve got to take this very seriously. And you get back what you put in.

If you could explain your current situation to your eighteen-year-old self, what would you say?
Shit, I wouldn’t even know. My eighteen-year-old self was fucking stupid. Wilding. We were wilding at that time. There was no thought. Other motherfuckers I was around were trying to be rappers but not me, I was never that guy. I’d be like “damn son, just keep your head up and work, dude. You’ll be out here soon. You’ll be out here real soon.”

What’s next for you?
Ah, man, it’s endless expectations for myself to tell you the truth. I got the cooking show coming soon. I’m just gonna say this. There’s a show in the works that has to do with food and life and everything, reflection, and deep thought. I got the album coming next year, countless performances, all kinds of tours. Look for me to be on the fucking big screen, who knows.