On Action Bronson and Misogyny

Quin Nelson

In a hip-hop landscape teeming with entertaining characters, Action Bronson is one of my favorites. He is a fat, bearded Albanian from Queens who took up rapping a few years ago after leaving his career as a chef. Through the handful of mixtapes he’s put out, Bronson has cooked up a character for himself, who boasts preposterously of his outrageous good looks, gambling prowess, and athleticism, while mixing in plenty of references to fine cuisine and ‘90’s sports stars. A few of his more ridiculous lines:

“Facially I’m like a young John Kennedy”

“With my hair slicked back, I look like Rick Pitino”

“I fixed the game between Kentucky and Miami of Ohio”

None of these things are remotely true, which is why Bronson is one of the more beloved rappers around. He doesn’t take himself very seriously, he’s hilarious, and he’s very much his own person. His mixtape Blue Chips is one of my favorite works ever and Blue Chips 2 is coming out this Friday.  However, my excitement is tempered by how I am becoming less and less comfortable with how Bronson talks about women.

For all of the endearing traits of Action Bronson’s persona, the one glaring defect is that he is highly misogynistic. Throughout his songs, Bronson treats women as objects, props that showcase his sexual dominance. I think he only talks about women as actual people in two or three songs. I feel bad that I’ve chosen to be a fan of his and ignore the cringe-inducing line after line that disparages women. I suppose I’ve been able to ignore the misogynistic material because it’s hidden under his punchlines, delivery, and sloppy but entertaining lyricism.

The moment for me when Bronson’s attitude toward women became too much to ignore was when he released his recent EP Saaab Stories. The EP cover is a weird, ambiguous scene with Bronson standing and watching two scantily clad women in a bathroom, one of whom is on her hands and knees. It is completely unclear what is going on in the picture, but it clearly paints women in a demeaning manner. By choosing this as the cover, Bronson put the most unseemly aspect of his character at the forefront, making it impossible for fans like myself to turn a blind eye or deaf ear.  This is why I have never listened to Saaab Stories.

Because I loved the first Blue Chips so much, I will certainly listen to Blue Chips 2, but with less enthusiasm than I used to have. It’s frustrating that Bronson’s single crude flaw can ruin such an entertaining character. I get the argument that since Bronson is basically a fictional persona, we should not worry about his misogyny because it is fictional as well.  However, there is nothing to be gained from Bronson’s offensive material. It is not thought-provoking, only cringe-inducing.

The good thing about Action Bronson’s very flawed character is that it is capable of change. Just as in fiction, the hip-hop landscape has the flat characters who never change and the dynamic characters who grow up and develop. Rapper Earl Sweatshirt used to rap about rape and murder and in his most recent album, he abandons those subjects entirely. Quite simply, he grew up. I hope that Action Bronson grows up too, because he clearly has some growing left to do.