It’s safe to say Action Bronson is a rapper/force of nature that nobody saw coming. The chubby, charismatic former chef, who has roots in Albania but grew up in Queens, New York, has in a very short space of time left his sizable footprint on the rap game.
This was immediately evident upon entering the sold out Highbury Garage in London on December 16th, which was heaving with a random assortment of people whom you wouldn’t normally associate with an underground hip-hop gig; everyone from Metal heads, indie kids, Punk Rockers to the odd hipster or two congregated for this gig, re-scheduled from July.
The room was thick with weed smoke and anticipation before Bronson arrived onstage unannounced sans hype man. Rapping a short verse as an appetizer, he slipped off backstage only to re-enter moments later to treat everyone to the main course. Hitting the ground running through prime cuts from recent Alchemist collaboration album Rare Chandeliers, and Blue Chips mixtape, it was clear that Bronson had the crowd eating out of his hand from the jump.
Bronson then partook in the first of his many tours of the venue, proceeding to walk through the crowd, posing for pictures with all and sundry whilst rapping his way all the way to the bar without missing a beat. Whether playfully ordering his DJ/producer Tommy Mass to change/stop the beat or delivering numerous humorous punch lines, his set was non-stop unpredictable entertainment from first to last song. Importantly, Bronson’s dope flow and fine ear for production could also be heard perfectly through the venue’s finely balanced sound system.
The night’s finest moment came after Bronson’s final walk around the venue to get a drink from the bar. On his way back to the stage, he cleared the way for a wheelchair bound member of the audience to join him onstage; a touching gesture that few other rappers’ would have pulled off, which added to the good vibes flowing through the venue. Biggest cheers were reserved for older material such as “Barry Horowitz” and it suddenly became clear why a lot of the audience connect with Bronson. The majority in attendance were early-to-mid ’80s babies who get all the random pop culture references that pepper Bronson’s rhymes and view him as that goofy talented friend you want to succeed.
After a quick encore to cap the evening off, Bronson departed to a deserved rapturous ovation befitting a people’s champ. The potent combination of pre-Christmas good spirits, abundant jazz cigarette smoke and the sight of a man enjoying his craft and performance all pointing in the direction of a classic gig that will be remembered for some time.