May 22, 2014
Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to interview Flushing, Queens rapper Action Bronson for Steve Stoute’s The Tanning of America website. At the time, I was a new fan who couldn’t stop listening to his debut album Dr. Lecter in the whip. So when I got the call to see if I wanted to do a Q&A with him for the site, I was definitely down. Not only did his background as a white rapper from New York City intrigue me for the Tanning series, which focused on race in hip-hop and the music and culture’s overall effect on our country, but there was a significant white rapper boom going on with the success of dudes like Mac Miller, Yelawolf, Machine Gun Kelly, and Asher Roth, and also an Eminem resurgence, so I was curious to find out his perspective on it all and where he thought he fit in. And also, I just thought he was dope, so I wanted to find out about his background and influences and early experiences in the rap game.
What transpired helped lead to Action Bronson becoming my favorite rapper of all time, no exaggeration. I’ve since interviewed him twice more, once for Complex about the making of his project with The Alchemist Rare Chandeliers, and once for NahRight about his 2013 European tour. Each time was a pleasure, and I hope to interview him again in the future. Here’s our first conversation, with intro, which is no longer available on the TOA site. So this is a Westcheddar #TBT exclusive, ya heard?! Enjoy…
Even with the slew of new white rappers on the scene in 2011, Action Bronson has no problem standing out. The 300-pound bald-headed and bearded professional chef turned MC from Flushing, Queens, who is still an unsigned artist, is having a very successful rookie year to say the least. The Albanian-American’s debut album,Dr. Lecter, which is filled with fiery raps and sample-heavy authentic New York production, was received by hip-hop tastemakers with rave reviews. In addition, his live show, where he showcases his stamina and flair for witty humor, caught the attention of The New York Times, and GQ Magazine was intrigued enough by his culinary roots to feature him in a Guide to New York City Dining, highlighting his favorite grub spots in the five boroughs.
After returning home from a recent trip in Los Angeles to work with seasoned rap producer, The Alchemist (they are collaborating on series of upcoming releases), Action Bronson took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his early exposure to hip-hop growing up in Queens, how he forged friendships in high school through writing graffiti, and why he stopped using the N-word when he first started rapping. Plus, he breaks down his culinary background, the diversity at his shows, why he thinks white producers and industry legends gravitate towards him, and the state of the white rapper in 2011.
Interview by Daniel Isenberg
I want to start off by talking about your roots. I know you are Albanian, but are you a first generation American?
Yes. My father is full Albanian, and my mother is a Brooklyn Jew, so I get the best of both worlds. I hate myself, you know?
Yes, I know. I’m Jewish myself.
[Laughs.] Thank you. Tell me about your upbringing in Queens. Did you have a lot of friends with different ethnic backgrounds?
Of course. I live in Flushing, but I live closer to the Jamaica side of Flushing, so my neighborhood is pretty much right across the street from Promenade Project Houses in Queens, which is one of the biggest Project Houses there is. Growing up, I had all kinds of different friends, from every different kind of race that you could imagine. Color was never really an issue or an interest with me. It’s just the person.
Can you remember your first exposure to hip hop? Was it something that all your friends were listening to?
It wasn’t something I found following my friends. I found hip hop myself, to tell you the truth. My cousins put me on back in the day, with like The Box, and just watching them and what they were doing. My cousins would be driving around Astoria bumping the new Mobb Deep, and they always had the newest sneakers and the newest tapes. My family really put me on.
But then, me and my man Troy, we went all out with it. We were addicted. I would just buy any tape in Sam Goody that was rap. All the tapes. Then, in Queens, we would go to a lot of flea markets, and we would get the tapes with the neon cover. Those would have all the ill shit. And right up the block from my crib, they had all the DJ Clue? and Ron G mixtapes.
I know you’re a big Kool G Rap and Cam’ron fan. Were there other rappers early on that you really liked?
We listened to a lot of Beatnuts at that time, in the early days. They’re from Queens, and they were legends around the hood.
Did any specific rappers have an influence on your lifestyle?
I would say just hip hop culture in general influenced me. I can’t really look to one specific person [or group]. Just watching all the old movies, like House Party, and all those types of things were influential.
Were you a big Beastie Boys fan? Eminem?
I gotta be honest with you. Being white, I don’t like other white rappers. I never was a fan of the Beastie Boys, ever. I was a fan of Eminem during his underground era, like in ‘98 and ‘99. But after that, I wasn’t really listening to him. But he’s obviously someone I really respect. He’s made it easier for someone that’s white to be looked at as really nice. He’s a legend. You can never take that away. And he’s still nicer than everybody now.
You’re not only a rapper, you’re a professional chef. Take me back to your first job in the food industry.
I worked at several different places. I went to culinary school, and I worked at my father’s restaurant in Forest Hills for a while. I was there for the majority of my career. I worked at Citi Field for the Mets. I worked at a lot of places. But it all started in the deli section at Key Food on 164th Street and 69th Avenue.
Fast forward to this year, and you had an Action Bronson New York City dining guide published in GQ magazine.
That’s not even the illest one to me. The illest one was in Zagat. I don’t even know how to explain [those]. People catch wind of things. Being a rapper, they’re not expecting you to be a chef as well. I’m a chef that happens to rap. This wasn’t my choosing, it’s just something that happened. I guess it’s my calling at this point.
Those are pretty good looks for an underground rapper from Queens, huh?
Yeah, but I hate being called an underground rapper. Can I just be a regular rapper?
I’m just a regular rapper, I’m not an underground guy. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into an underground role.
I can appreciate that.
I guess I am, because not as many people know about [my music], but that’s not my goal.
Do you get upset when people put the “white rapper” stamp on you?
I mean, my skin color is tan. It’s not white. There’s no color lines for me. I don’t even give a fuck, I just look at myself as me. As stupid and simple as that sounds, that’s what it is. I understand the white rapper label is going to be there regardless because of how I look.
But there are a lot of people out there that will come to my defense as say, “Yo, he transcends color.”
You really just started rapping recently, right?
Yeah, I’ve been [recording songs] for like two and a half years.
What was it that made you want to start pursuing a career as a rapper?
My man Meyhem Lauren, my brother that I grew up with, was a rapper for a long time. And I would always go with him to his shows and watch him do it. And he kept going, “Yo, write something. Do it, do it, do it.” So I just did it. This is like four or five years ago.
So I just started writing, like, funny shit. Not even serious, just for fun. Not knowing how to count bars or to make an actual verse. And then, like two or three years ago, I just said, “Fuck it, I love it so much, let me make some music.”
I broke my leg in the kitchen, and I was laid up for two and a half months. And in those two and a half months, I became who I am now. I had my mind set that I was going to get paid off this rap shit, and that I was going to do it full-fledged, whether I was successful or not. And here we are.
Did you have any touchy racial moments when you first started?
Never. But you don’t realize that the rest of the world doesn’t really get where you’re coming from. When I started rapping, I would say the N-word. Because that’s how we talked to each other. That’s how my friends addressed me, so I thought it was okay. And once you put yourself in the public eye, you realize that’s just a death trap. You become that guy. So I stopped using it completely. I took it out of my vocabulary.
I never really had a moment where anyone said anything to me about it. But my man Meyhem Lauren took me to the side as a friend and was like, “You shouldn’t even go there. You’re already white. You’re just going to give them more reasons to try and hate.”
People aren’t going to understand.
Exactly. And I understand that I’m stupid for trying [to use the N-word in my raps]. That’s not me. That’s not what I want to portray in the music anyway. I say a lot of other crazy things, but that’s where I draw the line.
You’ve worked with a lot of white producers. You’ve got the album coming out with Statik Selektah, Well Done, at the end of this month. You’ve done projects with Tommy Mas and J-Love, you were featured heavily on a Peter Rosenberg mixtape, and now you’re working with Alchemist. Is there something comfortable for you about working with white producers? Have you noticed them gravitating towards you because you guys are both white?
You’re the first person that has ever brought that to my attention. But nah, I really doubt that, because they work with some of the thuggest black dudes that you know about. Lil’ Fame and Bumpy Knuckles love Statik. Alchemist, I didn’t even know he was white. I thought he was Spanish or something until I met him.
Yeah, you’d never know he was a white dude who grew up in Beverly Hills by the sound of his beats.
Exactly. But he doesn’t even act like that. That’s just one cool motherfucker right there. He’s not stuck up on any level whatsoever. But I’ve worked with every kind of person that you could even imagine. It’s not about color, it’s about music. It’s about what I hear.
Statik was one of the first people to take interest in me. I didn’t even know his music like that. When we started working, I realized how talented he actually is, and it just elevated from there. Alchemist I know because of that Queens shit. He’s made some of my favorite music ever. That was an honor for him to want to work with me.
What are you guys working on?
I was just out there, and actually just came back to New York today. We finished an album with twelve, thirteen songs. I’ll probably go back out there towards the end of the year and do another ten or twelve, and get this series together.
Did you enjoy collaborating with him?
Yeah, he’s the man. I love him. He’s a great guy.
Do you think white producers like Alchemist and Statik Selektah, who are affiliated with black rap artists, helped open up the door for a rapper like you?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t look at it like that. I think everyone makes their own lane. Of course, there’s gotta be people to innovate and be the first. But at the end of the day, I think skill, and attitude, and actually just being in the right places at the right time and knowing the right people is what makes you. You could be the nicest motherfucker, and you could be white, and no one could hear you because you’re not nowhere. You’re not on the scene, you’re not pushing yourself to where you think you need to be.
I didn’t know about putting music out on the Internet until this year. I got put on this year. Last time I had a computer was AOL 3.0. And I tell this to everybody. I just got a computer this year, and last time I remember music on the Internet was Napster. Straight up, no bullshit. Now, it’s a world. You can make a full career off the Internet. You don’t have to ever sign a contract with anybody. You can just do it yourself. That’s pretty much what made me. I put all my shit out there, and motherfuckers liked it, and it steamrolled from there.
How’d you link up with your manager Dante Ross? He’s a legendary white guy in the music industry.
Yeah, he’s another white guy [who reached out to me]. I don’t know what’s going on, man.
That’s what I’m curious about. Maybe it’s not you, but them.
Obviously, I would say [me being white is a reason they want to work with me]. That’s for sure. It’s like an anomaly. It’s something mysterious. Like, “This fucking white guy raps like that? Whoa.”
Here you are, this white guy who raps just as dope as the black rappers they’ve been working with, so they are intrigued.
Yeah. I’m just gonna say this, though. There’s only two types of music: good music and bad music. You could be a turban-wearing Arabian. I don’t give a shit. If you’re spitting some shit that I can relate to and I can fuck with it, then I fuck with you. Peep this: I love Das Racist. And they’re Indian dudes. And those are my people. I fuck with them.
Yeah, Das Racist is dope. Getting back to Dante Ross, how has he helped you since he became your manager navigate through the music industry?
We’ve been working together for four or five months at the most at this point. He’s doing his thing, managing, and connecting dots. I had a lot of things on the table I couldn’t handle anymore, you know, email wise. I’m not really that computer savvy, and I’m also a little bit lazy, so I just won’t check for it, or just go continue with life.
You need support when a lot of people are checking for you.
Exactly. It’s overwhelming at times. So, I just pass people off to him. I never had a manager, so I never knew how a manager acts. It’s a learning curve right now. But we’re pretty comfortable with each other, and we work well together. He is legendary. But I’m not gonna front, he knows I had no idea who he was when I first met him. Some people get offended by that shit, but you can’t because you don’t know how my life was.
He’s a guy that unless you were reading liner notes, you might not know about him.
Exactly. And I wasn’t reading no motherfuckin’ liner notes.
There are a lot of new white rappers popping in 2011, from Yelawolf to Mac Miller to Machine Gun Kelly. Is there no longer a concern about what color people are in hip hop?
I think the music has totally transformed now. It doesn’t matter who does it. Things catch on, and people like it. The white shit doesn’t matter. Yelawolf is very talented. People who come from where he comes from relate to it. It’s just like people who come from where I come from relate to me. Everyone is reppin’ where there from. It doesn’t have to be a specific type of person any more. Does any music have color lines any more? One of the best salsa pianists, [Larry Harlow], is a Jew, you feel me?
When you do shows, do you notice who’s out there in the crowd?
There’s definitely a mix of everything. Older dudes, younger dudes, younger girls. It’s definitely a mix. It’s weird to me who listens to the music. I’ve had 65 year old TV producers coming to the shows. It’s crazy at this point.
Does it vary if you go out of New York to certain places? Have you been in spots where you’re in front of an all black or all white crowd?
Of course. But they always react in one specific way: with fuckin’ cheers and joy.
[Laughs.] Right, right.
I’m also 300 pounds, but in my live show you would never be able to realize that. I don’t rap over any tracks [with vocals on them], I just rap over the beat, and it sounds like the song. And I take pride in that. If you’re going to pay to come to the show, you’re going to get real shit, not bullshit.
What kind of music outside of rap do you listen to?
I love oldies, like real oldies. I love salsa and Spanish music, and just Latin music in general. I listen to a lot of jazz. I also like listening to sports talk radio. I get sick of music sometimes, and I gotta just listen to some guys talk about sports.
How heated are you about the lockout now that the Knicks are back in playoff form?
I’m disgusted with basketball right now, man. The Knicks finally have a decent team, and we’re getting shit on over here. It’s rich people getting mad at other rich people and fighting over crumbs. It’s disgusting. At least I got my Jets playing right now.
Outside of sports and cooking, what else are you into that maybe the stereotypical rapper might not be interested in?
I’m into sharks, and marine life.
Is that connected to your love of eating fish?
Of course. I like studying animals that I consume.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you when you tell them you’re a rapper?
I don’t really tell people that I’m a rapper. If you know, you know. I don’t know what people think, I can’t even call it. I know what I would think. I’d be like, “Are you fuckin’ stupid? What are you doing right now? Go chop wood or something.”
But you’ve had a successful year. Are you finding that you’re going to be able to make a nice living as a rapper?
Are you surprised by your success?
I’m surprised in a sense, but now I feel there should be more [success]. And this is all fairly new. This is without any label. This is just me by myself. This is without anybody pushing anything. All this is off the strength of me. That’s what I’m the most proud of, because it’s not made up. It’s real love.
I must say, you pick great beats. How involved are you in that process?
I only rhyme over shit that I like. I don’t rhyme over bullshit. Whether it be a down south beat, or some raw New York hip hop that I know about, it’s going to be quality. But I’m definitely hand to hand with the way I want shit to sound.
You love trees.
Tell me how you’ve seen weed in your life bring people of different cultures together.
I can attribute many relationships to two things: weed and graffiti. If I didn’t do graffiti, I wouldn’t know a lot of people. If I didn’t smoke weed, I wouldn’t know a lot of people. Those two things forged a lot of relationships in high school. Smoking weed makes you chill with people you normally wouldn’t, and then you become cool. But then you become friends, and you learn shit about each other’s lives, and this and that.
You were into bombing, huh?
I wouldn’t know most of the friends I have now if it weren’t for graffiti. Smart Crew. We were bombing all the time. But I don’t have time for that shit now. I still love it though. I still look at who’s up, and I know all about it.
There’s a lot of white rappers still on the scene now. We mentioned Yelawolf and Mac Miller and Machine Gun Kelly, and Eminem who is still making noise. Plus, there’s Asher Roth, who I know you’re cool with. I saw you make a cameo in his latest video.
That’s my man. That’s a nice dude right there. I don’t care what anyone thinks about his music, that’s a nice fuckin’ kid.
Yeah, he’s a good guy. What do you say to the people that are trying to put all you guys in a box?
All you have to do is literally listen to my music. And do a little research. Don’t just look at the cover, you have to open up the book and read the pages. Don’t just peep the way we look, go check the music out, blindly. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, go ahead and move on with your life. No one is forcing you to listen to it.
Did you shut a lot of people up when you did the collaboration with Ghostface Killah, “Meteor Hammer?” I know people were giving you a hard time, saying you sound like him.
Of course. Everyone knows that I love Ghostface and Wu-Tang and all that old school Kool G. Rap and Mobb Deep, but I am me. I can only be one person, and that’s me. I don’t play those games. Nothing is fraudulent, and nothing is unoriginal. Nothing was ever stolen or plagiarized in my entire life, in any aspect of my life, [including] my music.
So what’s the future for Action Bronson? I’ve heard you mention that you want to own your own restaurant.
That’s kind of generic. I’m just bullshitting. Yeah, of course, but I don’t want a restaurant with my name on it like Mickey Mantle’s. It wouldn’t be my name, like Action Bronson’s. It would be some quaint shit you didn’t know I owned. It would be some next level shit.
What about in terms of your career in rap?
To be honest, I don’t know what’s in store for me. I want it to be where I’m able to live. I don’t know if I want to be like Eminem, or if I could be like him. I want to be able to walk down the street, and still be able not get bombarded or punch someone in the face if they’re coming too close. Fans get excited when they see people, and they get a little over the top sometimes. I want to be popular, but secretly.
April 16, 2014
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@Stan Ipcus)
“I woke up to the smell of my ass.” That’s the opening line from my first rap album, Pu Click Poetry. A mean fart yesterday morning reminded me of the line, and after sharing it with some close childhood friends on our never-ending WhatsApp chat, I realized that this year is in fact the 15th anniversary of its release. “Wow,” I thought, as I watched my two toddler-aged boys jump into bed with me and my pregnant wife. “Time flies.”
I Love College
I was a junior at the University of Maryland when I recorded Pu Click Poetry. I had never been in an actual recording studio before—all my previous efforts were laid straight to tape via a crusty mic plugged into one of those Aiwa stereo systems with a 3-disc changer and a dual cassette deck. I had only put together one actual body of work before my first album, a mixtape of sorts titled Hanukah Hold Up, which was a play on DJ Clue’s Holiday Hold Up mixtape. It was basically me spitting over instrumentals I had on vinyl, like Royal Flush’s “Worldwide” and Nas’ “One Love.” Shit like that. There was rarely a hook—it was mostly me just reciting verses to beats I loved, but it filled up a full 45 minute side of a tape.
By the end of ‘98, I was living off-campus in one of the Knox Boxes, a neighborhood of apartments a block up the hill from downtown College Park and across the street from campus. All we did every night for the two years prior was play NBA Live, take gravity bong hits and smoke Ls, drink beers, and freestyle. Our cyphers would be insane, and we recorded all of them. There was always an ill mix of cats passing the mic around, too. Dudes from White Plains, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey, Philly, Maryland. Some were kids who actually rapped, but most were kids who you would never think could rap but were hilarious freestylers and would steal the show nightly. And all the while, I’d be writing rhyme after rhyme after rhyme, in class and sometimes at the crib, with no real goal in site. I just loved it. It was fun, and I was good at it.
In The Lab
As a Hanukah present that year, my folks blessed me with some studio time to record my first album. It was the best gift I ever got. My father had a close friend whose son-in-law was a lawyer at Def Jam—Randy Acker—and he hooked me up with a dude who had a recording studio on Irving Place in Manhattan. So during the winter break in January ‘99, I spent four days holed up in the lab, banging out my first album.
I started completely from scratch. I mean, I had tons of rhymes and ideas for songs and loops, but none of the beats had been made, and I didn’t really have many hooks planned either. The first night, I showed up with two of my boys, some trees, some beers, and a case full of CDs that had songs I wanted to loop up. I probably had a book of rhymes too, but at that point I’m pretty sure I had all the verses memorized. Back then, I used to write my rhymes and memorize them immediately, and have them in my head at all times archived. My boys used to always be impressed by that, but it came naturally to me.
The producer I was working with—Matt—was mad cool. He was ready to help loop stuff up, and basically just do whatever I wanted to do. But since I didn’t have that much time to do the whole album—three night sessions and a day for mixing—I opted to keep things really simple, and have him just loop up the samples and not really add much to them. All the loops on Pu Click Poetry have no additional drums or sounds on them, they’re raw loops. And I didn’t double any of my vocals either. It’s extremely stripped-down. I remember how dope the feeling was of recording vocals in a real studio.
This place wasn’t the craziest studio ever, I’ve been in way fancier spots since. But it had the big mixing board, and the window into the booth, which was big enough for a full band to record in. It was official, and very quickly I made myself at home and got super focused. It was a dream come true. I was recording my first album! Sick!
This was recorded the last night before mixing day. I went in on a Monday night, so it was Wednesday, and all the songs were laid down, and I had the idea to read this poem I had written for a poetry class I was in the semester before as the intro. So Matt dimmed the lights and we lit candles and shit, it was hilarious. We def set the mood right for it, though. The poem is basically the story of me waking up, and getting ready for the day. I say stuff like, “I tasted the days wishes, then put the dishes in the sink/as I gulped a citrus drink.” It’s very visual. Plus the “I woke up to the smell of my ass” line was a pretty funny way to start the album off. It was shocking, something you weren’t ready for, like me! And then at the end, I altered the poem slightly, and said, “Pu Click lit my spliff/And I became Ipcus,” to show my transformation into rapper mode.
This poem was fire on paper. I remember workshopping it in class and everyone loved it. It really came to life when I read it, though. I fucked with my voice on certain lines, and over-enunciated the whole shit, too. I was really happy with how it came out. It was the perfect intro.
2. “Ippy Strut”
This was the standout track on the album, and we all knew it. I’m pretty sure The Meters’ sample was the first CD I gave Matt to loop up. And then he had the idea to take the change in the beat and make that the chorus, which made it even iller. I think I first heard “Cissy Strut” playing in that Quentin Tarantino movie Jackie Brown, and then I copped a Meters compilation or something that had it on there. I recorded this song in one take, four fucking verses and hooks straight through. It was crazy, too, because right as we were about to lay it, Randy Acker and another young guy working at Def Jam—Todd Moscowitz—popped in to say what’s up and show some love. And they watched me record this shit in one pop. If you listen to it, it’s crazy lyrical and wordy too, like non-stop quick spitting through the verses and the hook. Even I can’t believe I did it. But I was in the zone. It was the second night we were there, and I was so fired up and ready to go in on that beat.
I went up to Def Jam the week after the album was done with one of my boys to play them the stuff I recorded. We played this loud as hell in the Def Jam offices. This is 1999. It was nuts. I remember Todd popped in and said what’s up, and after the chorus came on which at the end goes, “Eat my dick like vegetables and lick my testicles,” Randy was like, “I’m not sure they’re gonna be able to play this on the radio.” We all cracked up. I ended up remixing this in 2009 with new verses, and I love how it came out, but nothing comes close to the original. I once performed at a Battle of the Bands on campus my senior year, and I closed my set to this, and all my boys came up where the stage area was and were dancing around and bugging to it with me. Great moment.
3. “Lyrical Delight”
This started as one full song with two long, slow verses, but I had no chorus for it. So I took each verse, and split them to make an interlude and an outro. I had this originally recorded over Method Man’s “Bring the Pain” instrumental, but at the time I was obsessed with the Cymande album. My whole click was. It was one of those albums that within our circle got crazy burn, and we talked about it a lot. I always loved the instrumental track towards the end, “One More,” and thought it would be ill to rhyme to. And it changed the pace of the verse totally. “Bring the Pain” is a pretty up-tempo beat, and the Cymande loop was slow as shit.
A lot of the beats on this album are kind of slow and blunted. That’s the zone I was in musically at the time. I wonder why! No seriously, rap was kind of wack to me in the late ‘90s, like ‘98 and ‘99. There were a few gems that dropped of course, and I was still all about rap music, but I spent a good portion of my time digging back into old soul and funk music during those years and discovering stuff that dropped before I was born. So a lot of the stuff on Pu Click Poetry comes from that.
This was my ode to chronic. We used to call ourselves the C.I.A., the Chinky I Associates. Being “chinky eyed,” as politically incorrect as it sounds, was a very popular way to describe being bent back then, thanks to dudes like Method Man and Redman. We had mad acronyms for our click back then, and this was one of them. And it was only right that I snatched a Cypress Hill loop for the track. Again, another slow, blunted instrumental, but it sounded dope with slow raps on it. The second verse about me being in class with my boy, and us getting up to leave in the middle of the lecture to go get bent is classic if I do say so myself. “I grabbed my backpack/Apo grabbed his fat sack/We gave our teacher dap and told her, ‘Yo, your class is wack!’ and that was that.” And just to do some different shit, I whispered the chorus, which I think I came up with on the spot.
5. “5 O’Clock Ante Meridian” f/ Max B
This was taken from a late night session on WMUC, which is the campus radio station at the University of Maryland. A couple of my boys had a show on late night, right after Peter Rosenberg’s show actually. It was from like 3-6 a.m. So one night, after going out partying or whatever, I got invited up there to spit, and this dude Max B was up there beatboxing for everyone. When it was my turn to rhyme, I stepped up and started rapping, and everyone in there was feeling it. You can hear them in the background if you listen closely. A bunch of cats up there had never heard me spit before, so it was a bit of a breakout moment for me on campus, for sure. And it was my first time meeting Max B, who is now one of my closest friends on the planet. You can tell we didn’t know each other because I call him Gabe when I first get on the mic, who was actually his friend that was there with him. And we’ve made tons of music and performed at countless shows together, that’s my brother. Actually our wives are both pregnant right now with boys (his first, my third), so maybe a new and improved Stan Ipcus and Max B are on the way!
If you listen closely to the beats Max is making, you’ll hear that he’s flipping some DJ Premier instrumentals that were hot at the time, Gang Starr’s “Work” and Das EFX’s “Real Hip Hop.” I’m lucky to be best buds with two of the illest beatboxers on the planet, Max B and Matisyahu. Those are my dudes. They actually performed together at my wedding, and we’ve done mad other stuff together, too.
I basically just brought the tape in and said I wanted to put this as an interlude somewhere. I always loved when artists would put stuff like this on their albums, like when Grap Luva is spitting at the beginning of “On and On” on Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s Mecca and the Soul Brother. Its placement on here was directly inspired by that.
6. “Head Nod”
I was pretty obsessed with Aceyalone’s song “Makeba” around the time I recorded the album. And it had that slow, blunted feel that was beginning to be my musical theme, so I had Matt loop up the little piece of it that was just instrumental. The verses are totally pieced together on this one, but I made them connect with the hook, which again I came up with on the spot. You can hear a couple of my boys who were there with me in the studio on the second hook, before the basketball verse.
The basketball verse was legendary around the way. I originally spit it over Gang Starr’s “So Wassup?!” so all my fam already knew all the words to it. It’s me talking mad shit about my skills on the court. Shit like, “It’s pure wetness when I finesse the rock/Knock you out your socks as your shots get blocked/Plus I break your ankles, and let my balls dangle on your nose/When I take it to the hole like Jalen Rose.” All we did was play ball back in the day, so it was fitting to have a rhyme on the album about it. I love the other two verses on here, too. I spit the first verse one night on WMUC as I remember, the verse with the “Super duper flavor scooper/Got more hot shit than a pooper scooper sitting in the nuker/Cracking jokes like Bob Uecker” line. I wish I still had that recording.
7. “Have Some” f/ Harvey Yackerbottom
I used to have a public access TV show in high school with my boy Andrew Goldberg, who is now a writer and producer for The Family Guy. He would do all these characters, and one of them was Harvey Yackerbottom, a scumbag lawyer. We’d make mock commercials, and he’d slay the voices for all of them. He was always hilarious. So I asked him to come with me to the studio one of the nights to do some comedy bits for the album.
Since I didn’t have hooks for a lot of the stuff, I asked Andrew to do voices in between verses on a couple songs, to add a comedic edge to the tracks. So for “Have Some,” which is over a Herbie Hancock loop, he did his Harvey Yackerbottom voice and played the part of a nightclub host introducing me. He killed it, and my favorite part is at the end, when he just blacks out off the head. I told him to just keep going, and we kept the whole bit. “Where’s my scotch, Louie?!!” So funny.
“Wool” is one of those ridiculous slang terms for vagina that I always thought was hilarious. This song is all about picking up girls, and the fact that Andrew does his Edith Bunker (from All in the Family) impersonation between the verses makes the whole song fucking ridiculous. Here I am trying to spit some pimp shit, and all of a sudden, the girl I’ve been trying to bag is Edith Bunker.
My boy Timmy P is the one who put me on to this Crusaders sample. And Matt caught the loop lovely. I had an original recording of these verses over Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” but this beat gave it a whole other feel. And I always rapped about girls, because that’s all we really gave a shit about besides hip-hop and hoops, so I wanted to have one track about us hooking up with chicks on the album. But the Edith Bunker bit turned it into some silly shit, which I’m not mad at. I wanted it to be a fun listen.
9. “Farting In Your Faces”
This is the other verse over the Cymande sample, same as “Lyrical Delight.” It’s a nice fade out to the album. I’m not sure I really remember the science behind the tracklist for the album, but however I did it worked well now that I revisit it. I’m not mad at this ending. It’s me just talking mad shit about how nice I am on some slow MC shit. I really felt like that back then, too. And even though I don’t really rap anymore, I still feel like that. It’s the rapper in me. I’m glad I chose to rap over these types of beats on this album.
It was way different sounding than everything else that was out at the time, and that my rapping peers at Maryland were putting out, and I think people appreciated that. It felt unique, even with the rhyme styles and shit. These weren’t the easiest beats to rap to, but there was mad room on them for me to play with the styles and my voice, which is what I did. Over the years, I evolved into a much smoother and harder delivery. But back then, I was on some straight rhyming, MC shit, just not on traditional boom bap beats. Tracks like this are the epitome of that approach.
After all the tracks were done, I spent the Thursday of that week at the studio for a day session, just me without any of my boys, mixing and mastering the album with Matt and his man. It was all analog back then, so everytime you hear the beat pull out and shit like that, I did that live on the spot, just feeling it like I was DJing a show for myself. I remember Matt saying I reminded him of Humpty, and his man was like, “This would be big in Europe.”
It was a snowy week, so I took the train in that day, and I have a vivid memory of being on the Metro North back to White Plains with the CD in my discman listening to the finished album. I walked to the bar from the train station to meet up with a few of my boys who were there playing darts, and we were bugging off that shit being done. I decided to name it Pu Click Poetry, as a dedication to my boys who always inspired and supported my rapping. The album was my portrait of our life.
My boy Jon Jo, who grew up with me in White Plains and went to Maryland with me too, helped me design the cover. We sat at Kinko’s in College Park on a snowy ass day when we got back from break and made that shit on one of their computers. My other boy Josh, who is now a clothing designer, was the one who took the pic for the cover. We shot it down by the train tracks in College Park. It was my first photo shoot. Jon Jo somehow figured how to superimpose the pic on top of a snowy shot of Ogden Avenue I had, the street I grew up on in White Plains. And then I threw the shot of me and my pops on the back, because he’s the one who made the album possible in the first place. Damn my old Honda Civic DX is in the shot, too! And Propps Kidd Productions is an inside joke. If you knew what that meant, you definitely cracked up at the first sight of that in the bottom corner.
Back to School, Sort Of
Slowly but surely, the CD started spreading through my neighborhood. I took a semester off because I had no idea what I wanted to major in, and worked as a cook at the most popping spot in town, Cornerstone Bar & Grill. My parents weren’t thrilled, but it was perfect. I worked full-time, and had a chance to focus on my music and try to figure out what I wanted to major in. When I wasn’t working, I’d be burning as many CDs as possible on anyone’s computer that had a CD burner so I could sell them. I’d sit up in random dorm rooms just to get access to a burner. Someone’s roommate, whoever had one, because I didn’t. They weren’t standard at the time. By the summer, I was back in school, and on track to graduate as an American Studies major in 2000. And my CD had circulated enough that in the fall, I had a nice buzz, and started to get booked to do shows on campus and at Frat events and parties and even in DC, performing original music.
15 Years Later
I just listened to the album for the first time in years yesterday, and it brings back crazy memories. My voice sounds nuts. It’s so high and weird. It’s almost embarrassing to listen to, I can’t front. But I can appreciate what I was doing, and the rhymes definitely put a smile on my face. It was all very organic and natural at the time, and the whole album came out tight. I certainly evolved over the years as an artist. I mean, if you listen to this in comparison to Local Legend, which I put out last year, it sounds way different. I learned how to really write songs, and my tone has changed substantially. But there are similarities in the sounds and the samples, so I guess my ear and taste for the music itself hasn’t changed much.
Maybe fifteen years from now, or a hundred years from now, or today, someone will discover this album and be like, “What the fuck is this!!?!? This shit is bananas!!!” Or maybe not. Either way, it exists, and it made an everlasting impact on a small community of White Plains and College Park kids, who for a moment in time, didn’t really give a shit about much else than weed, beers, girls, and basketball.
Download Pu Click Poetry for free HERE.
November 13, 2013
Damn son, I fell off. I vowed to never neglect my baby, Westcheddar, and I have. I’m sorry fam. But I’ve been busy as shit with my actual babies, and taking care of business working my full-time job and writing for NahRight and doing other side work. And in the meantime, I dropped an album on iTunes! My first official album release ever after rapping for almost two decades (that’s crazy). It’s called Local Legend, and it’s ten of my favorite tracks of all-time, on one album, put together to tell my story and showcase my MC and production abilities. I’m very happy with how it was received, and I want to make sure it’s the top post here on Westcheddar while I’m off doing other things. Gonna post a bunch of Local Legend related stuff below. Ready? Heeeere we go…
Local Legend Album Stream
WNYU Interview with Dharmic X
Stan Ipcus “Cap” (Bonus Track)
Stan Ipcus & Friends LIVE! at Webster Hall feat. Matty B, Roga Raph, Denzil Porter, Marlon “Moshe” Sobol, Matisyahu, and Peter Rosenberg (11/4/13)
As for my writing, stay tuned to NahRight for my feature work, and this link below to THE WALL OF IP, which is all my feature work in one spot. I update it every time I have something big published.
Peace to all my Westcheddar fam. I’m out here. Follow me on Twitter for a daily feed of all the stuff I’m listening to and watching and feeling in general, and updates on all my published work and rap life. And I’m on Instagram as well!
Holler at your boy!!! Cheah…
August 5, 2013
I interviewed my favorite rapper of all-time, Action Bronson, for the third time recently. I’m trying to be the Howard Cosell to his Cassius Clay. LOL. Anyway, we spoke about his recent European tour, and his touring life in general both on and off stage, for my latest NahRight The Green Room feature. Check it out below…
And to follow, I spoke with Party Supplies about their upcoming sequel to Blue Chips…
Also, you HAVE TO check out this video of Bam Bam performing live from a nursing home in the UK. It popped up after our interview, or else I would have definitely asked about this. Too much fun.
“Thanks guys. Now I’m gonna hand out chocolates.” Amazing. Peace family.
July 26, 2013
Westcheddar correspondent Billy Henderson was back on the scene at this year’s annual Best of Westchester party, hosted by Westchester Magazine. It’s the party of the summer in the 914, and as always, Billy blessed us with his Top 5 Tables at the event….
It’s that time of year again. The Best of Westchester Party 2013 popped off Wednesday night. Bill Murray, great weather, fake asses (goddamn) and my cousin Lars all made an appearance. I was half drunk on the 6 train when I wrote this Top 5, sitting next to a Bronx State escapee and a teenage girl who was convinced that everyone on the train wanted to hear Chris Brown mad early in the morning. Me, I was turning up the Willie Hutch. Let’s get into it.
71 Water Grant Street
Yonkers, NY 10701
For years Chef Peter Kelly walked around like he ran the BOW party. This year he proved it. Not only did he bring Bill Murray and his new vodka line, he had the best dish there. A Thai marinated grilled shrimp with fresh watermelon, kafir lime, toasted cumin and goat cheese. It read and looked confusing. I’m still wondering why it tasted so fucking delicious. God bless Chef.
2. Mt. Kisco Seafood
477 Lexington Avenue
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
These guys show up every year. All shucking and no jiving. 1600 Oysters from B.C. and Strong Island. Simple yet perfect.
3. The Tarry Lodge
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
First time appearance for this place. They had mortadella profiteroles and a crostini of corn purée and crumbled pancetta. Slammin’.
4. The Cookery
39 Chestnut Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Chef Dave was in the house again this year with the best meatball in the county. Simple, delicate, delicious, and square.
5. Haymount House
25 Studio Hill Road
Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
This place had a few things but their gazpacho with pikachoo crab hit the spot. Cold. Smooth. Crab. Winning combination.
That’s the fuckin’ list. Shouts to Uncle Ralph for another great party, Slovenia vodka, Bill Murray, Westchester MILFs, Chef Bronsolino, and Lars. Stanley Ipcus and Westcheddar…… you already know. See ya next year.
Thanks for another epic recap, Billy! Gotta get babysitters for next year’s party. Been too long since I was in attendance. Peace to Lawyer Mike. One.
July 24, 2013
Okay, I’m giving this new Williie the Kid and Alchemist EP Masterpiece Theatre a very sincere and serious co-sign right now. From top to bottom, this shit is awesome. I’ve been telling my friends who have never heard of Willie that if you love old Wu-Tang shit, you will love this. Alchemist killed all the beats with hard drums and crazy samples, and Willie is nice as fuck on the mic. I’m really impressed. Watch the lead video for the project, “Halal Tuna,” listen to his collabo leak off the EP with Action Bronson and Roc Marciano, and then read our exclusive NahRight Listener’s Guide where Willie himself walks us through each song. Link to purchase the whole project is HERE. Best five bones I’ve spent in a long time.
“Medusa” f/ Action Bronson and Roc Marciano
Hip-hop is alive and well, people. No worries.
July 24, 2013
I’ve been wanting to share this story properly for a while now. Thanks to Pigeons & Planes for publishing. Check it out.
July 24, 2013
I had the pleasure of interviewing my fourth member of Wu-Tang Clan, U-God (above left), to set off our new series called The Green Room, where we talk to artists about their life on tour. This is one of the funniest interviews I’ve ever done. Lots of great stories and memories, and I found a couple ill videos too. Must read for Wu fanatics. Link below.
July 24, 2013
I’m not the biggest fan of the new Jay-Z album, but this “Holy Grail” song with Justin Timberlake is so fire. Instant classic. I literally get chills watching clips of them performing it live. The daytime vid above is my favorite, even though it gets cut off, from the Verizon Wireless Festival in the UK. The one below is dope too, and has the full song. Also overseas. Watch both.
July 11, 2013
Yo! My boy Roga Raph, formerly known as Kaliph, dropped a new music video for his self-produced song “Bad Intel.” This track is dope. I remember when he first played it for me months back, I was buggin’, like, “Yo, this shit is crazy!” He’s a guy who always was sampling old soul records, so when he came with this hard, futuristic shit, I was really impressed. Check out the video above. Aiight!