Books

Action Bronson Cooks with the Ultimate Herb in 'Stoned Beyond Belief'

If you're in to Action Bronson's raucous persona and gastrointestinal indulgences, Stoned Beyond Belief will not disappoint.

Stoned Beyond Belief
Action Bronson and Rachel Wharton

Abrams Image

Mar 2019

Other

As far as 21st century renaissance men in our time of bro culture go, it might be harder to find one more entertaining – or unabashedly authentic – than Queens native Action Bronson. Since firmly cementing his place in the pop culture landscape during the early part of the decade, the epically bearded, heavily tattooed rapper has delighted hip-hop heads with his jubilant, idiosyncratic lyrical style. (He's also raised concerns about misogyny in his lyrics, as explored in "When Do Misogynistic Lyrics Become Hate Speech?", by Hans Rollmann.) A classically trained gourmet chef, he's also garnered an equally impressive fanbase as the host of numerous cooking, travel, and talk shows, including The Untitled Action Bronson Show and F*ck, That's Delicious (both on Viceland, of course) the latter of which is also the name of his first book, a memoir/ cookbook/ gastronomic manifesto that's as riotous and ecstatic as his television personality.

But for a man of seemingly limitless passions, Bronson seems to hold one above the rest: a decades-long love affair with marijuana that influences just about everything he does (as anyone who's listened to any of his songs or watched more than 30 seconds of Traveling the Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch Ancient Aliens, also on Viceland, knows well). It makes perfect sense then that this self-proclaimed weed superhero's second literary effort would be an homage to the plant he's described as "the tree of life" and a "conduit to happiness". If you're in to Bronson's raucous persona and gastrointestinal indulgences, the resulting book, Stoned Beyond Belief, does not disappoint. It's a trippy-yet-informative, munchie-laden romp with more than enough ganja-related minutiae to appease everyone from old-school hippies to millennial microdosers. An impossible-to-classify, essential stoner artifact as unique and hilarious as the author himself, penned with the help of James Beard Award-winning food writer Rachel Wharton who, according to her website, has collaborated on books by several chefs/celebrities, helping them "find their voice".

Ostensibly, Stoned Beyond Belief seems to stick to pretty much the same format as F*ck, That's Delicious, even featuring a similarly garish neon cover. But Stoned Beyond Belief goes far beyond F*ck's autobiographical anecdotes and recipes (though it does include plenty of those), with interviews, comics, mooching strategies, hemp history lessons, travel advice, music playlists, blunt-rolling and hash-making tutorials, New Age mumbo-jumbo, tattoo flash pages, and paraphernalia suggestions – not to mention one section that's just a photograph of dozens of blades piled together with the caption "Knives" – jumbled together in no apparent order, like the exuberant musings of the guy at the party who's had one or five too many bong rips.

Bronson, like any good freestyler, thrives in the randomness, a stoned tour guide who wants to take you on the greatest marijuana voyage, regardless of what shape that journey takes. Gleefully touching on countless aspects of cannabis culture in a swaggy New York drawl, he constantly peppers in his own experiences from a lifetime of imbibing, from his misspent youth scouring the boroughs for "beasters" (mid-grade pot) while playing handball and stealing lunch meats to put on Subway veggie combos "before all that fuckery with Jared", to his much later discovery of "next-level" West Coast strains, as well as the extracts, oils, hash, and the terminology – cannabidiol, terpenes, trichomes – that has become an integral part of an exponentially diverse and lucrative industry, to his current status as a backseat mystical guru who wholeheartedly touts the plant's allegedly celestial origins and its integral role in shaping evolution. Though much of this philosophizing is admittedly wacky, it's far more interesting than the slew of dispassionate, science-based cannabis books to appear in recent years, a reminder that for most people, above all else, getting high is supposed to be fun.

The best part about Bronson is that he never claims to be anything less than the sum of all his parts, even the seedier ones. Readily admitting his addiction to his drug of choice, he discusses his body's need to wake and bake and the intense pain he suffers when he doesn't, some of the lengths he's gone to score ("I sold all the old-school boxing books and autographs my grandfather left me when he died"), the always-present potential for negative experiences (as detailed in a story about giving his mother a concentrated oil that caused her to hallucinate and remain bedridden for a day and a half), and his ingrained propensity to lie about his stash – "No matter how much weed I have, I'll always tell someone I don't have weed." When he outlines several strategies for boofing, or "To throw weed in your ass as soon as authorities are noticed," you know he's writing from a place of, um, expertise. As always, there's the honesty that's always refreshing, shocking, and sometimes very gross: "I can't hide anything, that's how I am: I am myself to the extreme."

Remarkably, some of the book's best entries aren't explicitly about smoking (or dabbing, or eating, or vaping) pot, but rather about "heady as fuck" things that, according to Bronson, serve to enhance one's high and/or overall spiritual outlook. These include the stereotypical stoner succulents, healing crystals, the Grateful Dead, graffiti, and instructions for cooking dozens of surprisingly non-magical treats, because eating a weed-laced dinner "is a gimmick, like going to Guy Fieri's restaurant on Forty-Second Street." Instead, drawing on a childhood spent in his Albanian grandmother's kitchen and nearly a decade of rapping around the world, he dishes out an insane selection of culture-spanning comfort food that's mouth-watering regardless of the level of THC in one's blood.

As with Bronson's previous work, there's no separating haute cuisine and late-night grub – Wagyu steak bao and Muslim lamb chop exist effortlessly alongside fried pizza and the "Home Wrecker", which is basically Jewish salami sliced and dipped in mustard, ideally eaten at two or three in the morning. It's a contradiction that works perfectly in Bronson's universe, a place where premeditation almost always gives way to raw emotion; what he loves is what you're going to get. And frankly, it's hard to argue with 15 pages of recipes featuring "melty cheese" with accompanying photographs so deliciously food porn-y it's almost cruel.

Elegantly designed, with dazzling imagery and a bright, minimalist, and occasionally psychedelic aesthetic that shifts rapidly from page to page (all the better for those with slightly compromised attention spans) yet never fails to be anything less than eye-catching, Stoned Beyond Belief would make a gorgeous coffee-table book, even if it was written by "wooks" (those annoying creatures who represent all of the worst – i.e., smelliest – aspects of hippiedom). But under Bronson's one-of-a-kind bleary-eyed guidance, the book transcends counter-culture ephemera as an indispensable guide to every corner of the marijuana universe, a poignant ode to one of earth's most powerful plants, and a fascinatingly undiluted glimpse into the mind of the man whose life it saved.

6
Music
Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Film

'The Serpent's Egg' Marks One of Ingmar Bergman's Strangest Efforts

The Serpent's Egg bares many of the Bergman's trademark features – the suffocating auras of despair and an underdog's sense of triumph over tragedy – but falls short of a more intelligent rendering of human drama.

Recent
Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Music

Weeks Island's 'Droste' Is a New High Water Mark in Ambient Steel (EP stream) (premiere)

Lost Bayou Ramblers' Jonny Campos turns up as Weeks Island with Brian Eno/Cluster-inspired music straight from the bayou. Hear Droste in full ahead of its release on Friday.

Music

Ireland's Junk Drawer Share New Krautrock Meets Post-Punk Song, "Temporary Day" (premiere)

Junk Drawer's "Temporary Day" is a simple yet compelling video for a gripping song that shows why the band have earned such acclaim in their native Ireland.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Music

Miranda Lambert - "Bluebird" (Singles Going Steady)

Miranda Lambert sings her blues the way an artist paints with them on her latest single, "Bluebird".

Music

'Stone Crush' Proves (Again) That Memphis Is Ground Zero for Soul and R&B

Stone Crush shines a light on the forgotten -- or never known -- artists that passed through the doors of Memphis' most storied studios in an attempt at just one fleeting moment of fame.

Music

Circles Around the Sun Shoot for the Stars on New Album

Jamrockers Circles Around the Sun's self-titled third album finds the band transcending darkness after losing their founder in 2019 to chart a groovy new course.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.