The Action Bronson Genome Project
Cataloging every sport reference made by the New York rapper
This past weekend, Queens chef-turned-rapper-turned-television host Action Bronson was back in the news. After attending Saturday night’s highly anticipated bout in the octagon between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Bronson offered to cater a rematch between the two — as long as it was held out on Jamaica Ave. Though I’m sure we all wish Mr. Baklava the best of luck in his nascent catering business, it would certainly be nice to get him back behind the mic as well. In the almost year since his last studio album, those searching for fresh bars from Bronson are limited to a single song on frequent collaborator Statik Selektah’s most recent project, 8.
The song itself is unmistakably Bronson, from the start-and-stop flow to the over-the-top, slightly absurdist imagery. But also it’s light on what have become his two musical calling cards: references to food and sport.
In May 2015, Rodger Sherman published what is (probably) one of the most seminal pieces of 21st century American writing. Now taught in journalism schools from coast to coast (I imagine), Sherman fastidiously cataloged all 290 sport references that had appeared in Action Bronson’s discography to that point. It is truly a work of art, a national treasure, something to be shared with generations to come. Bronson is a famously knowledgeable sports fan whose passion for the subject is only exceeded by his well-documented love of food. And while the number of sport references do not exceed the 570 food mentions that mark his catalog, they are no doubt an integral part of the Action Bronson experience.
Bronsolino’s obsession with sports goes back to his childhood. Though he only “played basketball briefly, you know, because I’m short and fat,” he grew up playing baseball, a power-hitting first baseman who had to shift to DH when he realized he wasn’t going to grow anymore. As he told Rolling Stone, there’s still a hundred binders full of baseball cards sitting in his mother’s garage. But this can’t be his only source for inspiration, because the references Bronson drops in his songs are not your run-of-the-mill sport metaphors.
These references, which have won the man numerous appearances on ESPN (and one Nike ad), are deep cuts. If you’re a star in a major sport, you’ll have to bank on some other rapper deciding to name drop you in a song. But if you’re a rotation player of some sort or play some less popular sport, Action Bronson is your man. His entire discography contains but one Michael Jordan reference, which puts him on equal footing with Dutch soccer player Ruud van Nistelrooy and a race horse from the 1930s named Colombo.
Unfortunately, time stops for no man, and neither has Action Bronson. Since Sherman published his article in May 2015, Bronson has released another album, 2017’s Blue Chips 7000. He’s also released a number of singles and has featured on several other artists’ songs. Sherman’s work is essential, the foundation on which we build. But now it is up to future generations to continue to track the obscure sport references that Bronson manages to pack into his songs. To that end, I have cataloged every sport reference that Action Bronson has made in the time since Sherman’s opus was published, doing my part to complete the Bronson Genome Project.
Yo, yo, I need a car. I have to go to the Garden, I’m gonna be late. — “La Luna”
But motherfuckers forget ‘til I’m back up on the set/ and every motherfucking jump shot wet. — “The Chairman’s Intent”
Turn dreams into real shit, yeah I might be sick/ sitting court side, I’m likely lit. — “The Chairman’s Intent”
I’m qualified to speak for my attorneys/ Address the jury in a Shaq jersey. — “Hot Pepper”
You can never score a point against my defense/ For many years, my mind been going off the deep end. — “Hot Pepper” NOTE: This obviously could refer to a number of different sports, but I figured from a probabilistic point of view, this was most likely.
These dudes trash like Michael Jordan jeans. — “Let It Rain”
I’d give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time/ I’d give my right lung if I could dunk a basketball one time. — “My Right Lung” NOTE: same :(
I got two shows, I’m about to pitch another/ Throwing alley oops to my brothers. — “Let Me Breathe” NOTE: yeah right, like Big Body Bes could catch an oop.
Black Pippens, I swag different/ That’s why the money in the bag different. — “Let Me Breathe” NOTE: Bronson loves ugly shoes.
I heard Barkley bought a Mazda for a stripper/ Yo, what a shitty tipper, that’s where we differ. — “Descendent of the Stars”
My jump shot got an ark like Noah/ And 20 of every kind of animal can roll up. — “Descendant of Stars”
Six Brazilian women in a white Suburban truck/ I ball so much I got the And-1 tattoo/ Shit man I could’ve played for the Spurs. — “Szechuan Peppercorn”
Wack raps smell like cushioned Jordans/ I’m on that uptown haze. — “Dragon Vs. Wolf”
If you listen, we’ll be skating through customs eating muffins/ Tropical discussions, you can see your reflection up in my Duncans. — “Voodoo” NOTE: more ugly shoe references.
Number 3, John Starks on the jersey/ Bitch I’ve been doing this for thirty. — “Beautiful Life”
Two pumps from the inhaler got me feeling like Lawrence Taylor. — “The Chairman’s Intent” NOTE: Action Bronson on this line: “So I started hitting the inhaler every once in a while, after I take like 52 dabs, which is probably a little bit much, but two pumps from the inhaler got me ready. All pro. I’m back. The sack leader for many years.”
I shoulda tried out for the Chiefs, damn/ A Hall of Famer at the least, damn. — “Hot Pepper” NOTE: damn
Why this blunt taste like Starburst?/ And why your girl cheating on you with a player from the San Diego Chargers? — “TANK”
I was hatched in ‘83/ Fucking standing like the Notre Dame logo right now. — “Durag v. Headband” NOTE: please tell me if you know what this means bc I don’t
Light cigars like a new father/ To the chest like Junior Seau in a blue Charger — “Tension”
I fixed the Seminoles and Hoyer game/ whip the drop in the pouring rain. — “Shea Stadium”
Jimmy the Greek now we laying with the sheet/ Sleep with pieces of sidewalk on his feet. — “Shea Stadium”
I no longer eat bacon/ I no longer bet the mortgage on the Ravens/ I no longer hide the drugs inside the play pen. — “Dragon Vs. Wolf”
She weighed 275, she could’ve played the D-line for the Bengals/ We danced the Tango-Tango/ I sing a jingle, now the Beamer slam like Kurt Angle. — “Voodoo” NOTE: double points on this one for the football-wrestling combo.
Seasons change weekly, life in the big leagues/ I can tell it’s summer by the fig trees. — “My Right Lung” NOTE: fig trees are definitely not native to Queens.
They say that I been sculpted with a Pharaoh’s nose/ I like to think that I got Darryl’s nose. — “Chop, Chop, Chop”
They tried to sign your boy to a deal like a Japanese pitcher. — “Descendant of the Stars” NOTE: I’m not sure if he’s going for the ‘they tried to give me millions of dollars’ or ‘they tried to take advantage of me’ or both or what.
Make your shorty lift her leg up like a cancan dance/ Every time I’m up to bat I’m in a grand slam stance. — “Tension”
The moon his me in the way that pictures couldn’t capture/ My stature like a major league catcher. — “Garlic and Oil”
I bag .330, 40 homeruns, 137 ribbies, 50 stolen bases/ Hold this facelift. — “Dudley Boyz” NOTE: No one has ever done this, but the closest is probably A-Rod in 1998, who hit .310, with 42 homers, 121 RBIs, and 46 stolen bases. Barry Bonds is, as far as I can find, the only person to meet all these thresholds at some point throughout their career.
I need a bitch with a pussy like a little league glove/ I’m the epitome of all fly shit. — “Driving Gloves”
The Captain because I lead by example/ Alone smoking wax in a room full of candles. — “Voodoo”
I shot dope before I wrote this/ Sniffed coke and did aerobics by the ocean. — “Wolfpack,” Blue Chips 7000 NOTE: how scenic.
This is one night only, Dragon vs. Phoenix/ I think I’ll fuck around and throw Aladdin on the remix. — “Hot Pepper”
Like Tom Hanks with a soccer ball/ You get turned into a taco. — “Hot Pepper” NOTE: No, this doesn’t make any more sense in context.
Now it’s time to take a nappy-nap/ I’m so chill, it’s like I’m in a circle playing hacky-sack. — “Bonzai”
I’m always eating dinner/ Still got the body of a swimmer and I don’t like winter no more. — “Bonzai”
I might hang off the side of the mountain to trim a bonsai/ Perfect 10 on the swan dive. — “Bonzai”
It’s been an hour but that blunt still hitting like a champion/ Eating scampi with Batali, 50 feet from the Pantheon. — “Let It Rain”
I should probably put a wetsuit on/ I’ll be right back. — “9–24–7000”
Kelly Slater couldn’t ride this wave/ Or those dudes from The Endless Summer. — “Chop, Chop, Chop”
I need that feeling like I’m levitating in the lotus flower pose/ With patience’s with power shows. — “Chop, Chop, Chop”
I’m in the club with a condom on/ All Under Armour on. — “Durag vs Headband”
Half Robocop, half Mike Tyson tatted on my neck/ This is Captain Bronson from the flight deck. — “Descendent of the Stars”
Motherfuckers ain’t in my division/ Guess you could only play in your position/ I play ’em all and play ’em at their top tier. — “Watching Myself”
Barbell lifts, my lat muscle flexes/ Caramel chic, the ass straight from Texas. — “Tension”
I pulled up in a Benz from ’84 with Lady Saw/ Body builder bitch opened my door. — “Szechuan Peppercorns”
I’m in a penthouse doing yoga moves like I’m a light skin motherfucker man. — “Szechuan Peppercorns”
Devil’s design shooting blind for me/ I won the belt like seven times, couple dimes on me. — “Garlic and Oil”
As the sun hit my features, my dun hide the gun in the pizza/ Catch him while he playing FIFA. — “Bonus Round”
I’ll take it from there, Ace is on Grand ready to work it/ Displayed a smile like Mr. Perfect. — “What About the Rest of Us?”
NOTE: This section could definitely be more expansive (or less), depending on how liberal your definition of sport is. I included references to yoga, professional wrestling, hackysack, and bodybuilding here. But is dance sport? How about gambling? Jetskiing or motor boating? Fishing? Gaming? These will be important issues that future curators of the Bronson Genome Project will have to wrestle with.