Action Bronson is a 21st century renaissance man. A hip-hop icon who recently released his fifth album, “White Bronco,” the Flushing, Queens, native, whose real name is Ariyan Arslani — with a Muslim Albanian father and Latvian Jewish mother — is probably best-known for hosting a pair of TV series for Viceland: the talk variety “The Untitled Action Bronson Show,” and the travel food series “F—, That’s Delicious.”
His new book, “Stoned Beyond Belief” (his second, following the New York Times best-seller “F—, That’s Delicious,” based on his travel show), is a paean to the miracle of cannabis. It’s a sort of “Whole Earth Catalog” meets Baba Ram Dass’ psychedelic classic “Be Here Now,” a guide to all things herbal, from recipes for his mom’s banana pudding, cheesecake and challah, to ruminations on botany, fast food and the joys of cruising while stoned.
Hunkering down for what he lovingly terms a “sesh” (short for “session”), Bronson admits that “Stoned Beyond Belief” was created — with its snappy art direction and loads of trippy images — with herb users in mind, the kind of “toilet reading” where you can open the book to any page and find something to get into.
“I love overstimulation,” he says. “This book is exactly what I wanted to project, how I feel every moment in my life.”
While Bronson appreciates the West Coast as the place where the best herb emanates — and legalization first took hold — he remains nostalgic for his days hustling when pot was still against the law.
“I think it should be readily available for everybody,” insists Action. “But the main goal is that it’s medicine and it’s there for one and all to enjoy and love, to be treated properly. But you really didn’t think that way back in the day. I was feeling it spiritually, even when I had to stuff my stash in my nut sack when the cops came. You’d toss the blunt, try to step on it, then rub your hands on your crotch just in case they tried to smell the weed on your fingers.”
“Stoned Beyond Belief” represents Bronson’s ideal state 24-7. How does a guy who stays high all day manage to get so much accomplished? Bronson is one of those rare individuals who manages to stay focused even as he gets toasted.
“It grounds me,” he laughs. “I’m hyperactive and have all kinds of mental situations, and I feel like weed, this beautiful plant, broadens my outlook. Smoking hash all day broadens my outlook, it chills me out, it allows me to not get overanxious and to think faster.
“My goal is to stay stoned all the time. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, my friend. I like level changes, you have to mix things up. Like in mixed martial arts, you throw an uppercut, some jabs to the body, then to the head, followed by some low kicks. ‘Stoned Beyond Belief’ encompasses a mélange of feelings. There are highs and lows within the constant, but I like to keep it even. I feel like what I’ve been smoking will last.”
Indeed, don’t expect to see Bronson at your local dispensary any time soon. “I like going directly to the farmers, the artisans,” says Bronson. “I prefer what I smoke to be handmade by people with crazy knowledge of hash-making. Who really only care about preserving the fattest of trichomes, the heads, then washing it with water and ice. … I press it myself. I love the botany side, the cultivation aspect, talking to people who are passionate about growing. Action Bronson’s present method of getting high is dabbing — a way of heating up hash on hot surfaces — which he prefers to do on handmade glass pieces made by renowned artists like Quave and Stormin Norman out of Seattle.
“These people are craftsmen who make functional art,” he says. “It’s like smoking out of a Picasso or a Matisse. It’s harmonious.”
Bronson’s love of weed informs everything he does — from developing his own dry-hopped sour ale with muscat grapes brewed in conjunction with Stillwater Distilleries in Petaluma, Calif., to his current obsession with painting.
“When you’re one with the arts, it serves as a guide,” he explains. “And not just for artists, but regular people leading normal lives. Because weed was meant to be here for us, to do what it does. It opens minds and brings people together. It creates happiness. And that comes out in all my thoughts while I do my art, my painting, my music, my writing, my cooking, my dancing, playing sports. It loosens me up. I’m the best dancer in the world when I’m high.”
Bronson has gotten high with a who’s-who of athletes, actors, chefs, models, comics and musicians, but the ultimate “sesh” is with his boyhood friends.
“Smoking with Snoop was surreal,” he says. “But I had waited so long for him backstage, I ended up smoking the entire blunt [I] meant to share by myself and got so fucking high. So we actually smoked simultaneously, we just didn’t share.”
The man also recently added actor to his resume when he scored a part in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix movie, “The Irishman.”
“He’s one of the best human beings on earth,” Bronson says of the fabled auteur. “It was just me and Bobby De Niro on screen. It was bone-chilling. Honestly, it could have been Michael Caine, Steve Martin or Billy Crystal, and I would have been just as ecstatic. But I love Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. I’m a ’90s baby, born in the ’80s. These are the people that shaped our lives and minds, our imagination, our laughter.”
For a guy who’s done so much in a short time, Bronson’s bucket list includes at least one more item.
“I still need to go on ‘Jeopardy,’” he says, though he better hurry, with host Alex Trebek announcing his bout with pancreatic cancer.
“That’s how my Albanian grandparents learned to speak English,” he explains. “They watched ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Price Is Right,’ “Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Days of Our Lives,’ all that daytime shit. My grandmother loved Martin Lawrence.”
And with that Bronson is off to his next sesh, maintaining that carefully cultivated high, the hardest-smoking man in show business, who manages to make it all look so effortless. “I appreciate that,” he says. “I take pride in my work.”