A Chef is Born, Then a Rap Star – Action Bronson
Arian Asllani, better known by the stage name Action Bronson, is an American rapper and former chef. He was born in Flushing, Queens, New York, the son of an Albanian immigrant father and a Jewish New Yorker mother. Before embarking on a career as a rapper, which was originally just a hobby, Bronson was a respected gourmet chef in New York City. He hosted his own online cooking show titled Action in the Kitchen.
After breaking his leg in the kitchen, Bronson concentrated solely on his music career. But he made a return to his love of food with the latest web series F*** That’s Delicious, which chronicles his life on tour, performing and eating at the finest restaurants. In this series, he speaks with renown chefs and exposes his viewers to the gourmet side of the rapper’s life.
Rap and Food
Rap and food converged even before Biggie Smalls was craving “a T-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape”; the two have since become cultural touchstones. Action Bronson is positioned right where they meet.
From the beginning, the delights of food have figured prominently in his music. His first album included tracks titled “Jerk Chicken,” “Shiraz” and “Brunch.” His lyrics have plenty of rap’s trademark swagger, and his inspiration is often culinary. Instead of the traditionally desirable qualities you might find in a successful rap star, the women don’t love him for his Benz, but because they “saw me plate some melon and prosciutt’.” Instead of dripping with gold and diamonds, he brags about his “seasonal vegetables lookin’ exceptional.” This puts food in the listeners minds, and eating delicious food is a joyful experience. Rappers like to write about the good life, and eating gourmet food is definitely one of those qualities.
A Unique Combination
Bronson’s show, F*** That’s Delicious has a unique dynamic as it combines elements often not seen combined, the food scene and the music scene. One episode highlights three locations rarely listed together in a sentence: Amsterdam, London and East New York, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is not known for its food. In another, he visits three of his favorite places to eat in Queens, plays handball and signs a fan’s pizza crust.
The cameras, along with Action Bronson’s larger than life presence, attract onlookers, who regularly join the show. One episode begins with a young boy rapping Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” while Action Bronson acts as hype man. In another, a customer at a Pakistani restaurant in Long Island City pulls out a recorder (the woodwind instrument) and ends up providing the soundtrack.
“It’s freestyle,” Action Bronson said. “We talk about where we’re going to go, but then whatever ensues, ensues.” (NYTimes).
The Science of Food and Music
Thinking about how our brain reacts to food and the senses is not new, and recently, the focus on sounds and cuisine has been featured as having more importance than we might think. In one study it was found that participants preferred piano music to be paired with peppermint flavors, while citric acid, orange flower, and especially caffeine were better paired with brass instruments.
Barbara Werner, founder of Musical Pairing, which uses a patented technique to match music with food via a formula, has conducted 30 musical-pairing dinners from San Francisco to New York over the past year. The formula sets a pairing number, based on the main protein, sauce, cooking method, and spice level, and matches it to music, based on genre, tempo, instrument, and dynamics. A chocolate lava cake matches up nicely with Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” (Barrons)
An Oxford University study, further explored in this article’s lesson. The study details the unique findings of listening to both downbeat and upbeat music on the taste of our food, mainly that food tastes sweeter when we hear happier music. Spence sees brands and takeout services developing sensory apps to deliver “sonic seasoning” in the future. Krug Champagne, for instance, has an app that provides musical accompaniment for its bubbly.
I’m curious to see where this focus on food and music, whether it’s through lyrics or through the sonic experience itself, goes in the future.