Old Blue Last, London, December 17
It used to be that the worlds of hip-hop and Master Chef had little in common. No longer, thanks to gourmet grill impresario-turned-rap-heavyweight Action Bronson – real name Ariyan Arslani – whose laidback ’90s Queens rap sound is garnished with more culinary references than a Gordon Ramsay cookbook, and even more profanity. “Got the lamb rack roasted, laced it with fennel/ Fucking yoghurt that been drizzled over/Might be a winner” he boomed on breakout mixtape ‘Blue Chips’ and again this evening on what is supposed to be a demure Monday night in drizzly Shoreditch. Instead, the floor upstairs at the Old Blue Last is shaking like a seizure patient as the 29-year-old cooks up something truly special.
At 273lbs and 5ft 7in small, with the most ridiculous ginger beard this side of the novelty gifts aisle at Dublin airport (actually not ginger but “golden brown just like a biscuit”, according to 2011 cut ‘The Madness’), the rapper doesn’t look like his neatly coiffured contemporaries, least of all recent fashionista-friendly collaborators A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown. But that’s just part of what makes Bronson, tonight decked out in shorts and sweats, so deliriously fun. “We having a good time? I ain’t rapping ’til we having a good time,” he declares with a huge grin after bundling onto the stage. While Drake mopes by candlelight on album covers, Bronson is a hip-hop star who remembers how to have a good time. Tonight that involves launching himself fully into the crowd from the stage with a cordless mic to bounce violently around the room, slinging rhymes with perfect precision despite the violent chaos that ensues as the circle pit engulfs him. Oh, and did I mention this is just the first song?
Powering through tracks from his 2012 mixtapes ‘Rare Chandeliers’ and ‘Blue Chips’, Bronson slings a female crowd member over his shoulder and begins to bench-press her, to her amazement. In a break between songs, two fans stop to assess whether it’s beer or sweat their clothes are drenched in, before concluding quite rightly that what the fuck does it matter anyway – we’re witnessing madness of the best and most beat-heavy description.
The only disappointment is that for a man as prolific as Bronson, with four mixtapes and two studio albums released since 2011, he only stays for eight songs, the set drawing to a close after a cameo from Mega and Mayhem from rising London crew SAS (Streets All Salute). But then again, much like the portions on your plate at a Michelin-starred gourmet eatery, it’s quality not quantity that counts.