Though he’s only been active in the hip-hop game since 2008, Action Bronson’s live performance has already become the stuff of legends. This was enough to compel me to jump on the opportunity to see him perform live here in Washington, D.C., not far from my home. The Howard Theater is a recently renovated location in DC and a product of gentrification, with the mixed crowd seeming to be reflective of people’s newfound comfort with the area as well as Bronson’s diverse appeal. You could look around at the crowd and see everything from fitted caps to kinte cloth snapbacks to girls with green hair to guys with ?uestlove afros.
After opening sets by local MC Tef Wesley and a very brief performance by Wais P of former Roc-A-Fella group Da Ranjahz, the DJ kept the crowd impressed with some rare samples blended with hits like Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything”. However, once the crowd thickened and the lights went down, the man of the hour took the stage blowing plumes of reefer smoke, accompanied by Big Body Bes to the thunderous drums of the “Big Body Bes Intro” off of Rare Chandeliers. Action wasted no time giving the crowd their money’s worth, spitting rhymes with pinpoint precision, making one wonder how a man of his girth (“You don’t understand…I’m 315 pounds of meat,” he said during a short breather) manages to maintain that kind of breath control, particularly under hot stage lights wearing a thick, black Champion hoodie. DJing Action’s set was producer Tommy Mas of Team Facelift, who is set to partner with Bronson for next year’s Mr. Wonderful album.
In one of the most bizarre yet surprisingly charitable events of the evening, Action leaned down into the crowd and hoisted a handicapped gentleman up onto his shoulders, setting him down on stage so that he could see the show better. He even gave him the microphone for a while and let him rhyme, followed by letting him take a few drags off of his monster-sized spliff. Later on, he again hoists the guy onto his shoulders and proceeds to deliver an entire 16 bars in this position. Antics aside, Bronson’s a man of the people and the diverse crowd literally received him with open arms as he dove down into the crowd to perform certain songs. Only the top of his bald head could be seen as he rapped, posed for pictures with fans and even made his way to the bar for a beverage (“I don’t want a drink, just pineapple and seltzer”) and appetizers, all ordered with the microphone on.
The music spoke for itself. Fans rapped right along to every word of the old and the new. At a point where Bronson was standign amongst the crowd, he performed the rowdy second half of “Eggs On The 3rd Floor” from Rare Chandeliers, then asked the crowd for “dance moves, I wanna see dance moves” followed by the clarification “girls…I wanna see some girls”. Another high point was “Bird On A Wire”, an airy Harry Fraud-produced collaboration with Riff Raff (Bronson performed the second verse in his absence).
At the end of the day, an Action Bronson show is money well spent. In a day and age where you can basically expect a rapper to walk back and forth on stage while 1,000 unidentified goons stand onstage behind him for no reason whatsoever, Bronson owns the stage by himself, using the entire space of the concert hall to connect with the fans who came out to show him love. It’s all reciprocated. From hipsters to hip-hop nerds and adventurous yuppies, none of those differences became a factor as soon as the music came on. As I said, Action Bronson’s a man of the people and he gives back.
Sidenote: I ran into Bronson’s man Ag Da Coroner outside the show, who said he should have a project out in late January. Look out for Meyhem Lauren’s mixtape Mandatory Brunch Meetings to drop December 11.