A Talk with Action Figure
A rising name in the East Coast underground, Action Figure is a New Jersey-based rapper and producer preparing for the release of Wrestling School, a project crafted over the course of just 10 hours. Set for release on 6th November, Wrestling School is one of many projects the artist has lined up, with a plethora of collaborative efforts in the works.
Fully produced by Action Figure, Wrestling School features a dozen different MCs from Shaw Calhoune to Josiah Hotwire. Through the day, rappers filtered in and out of the studio, with tracks mixed and mastered as soon as they were complete. Action spoke on what influenced his quickfire recording process:
“I was just inspired by stories of guys like Freeway doing an album in 24 hours, as well as Saigon, Mac Miller … I’ve always wanted to do that; I just had to figure out the way to do it … Some of the people on the album, I had given beats previously, and they didn’t send any songs back. So I figured, why not break the ice? Invite people to a session and knock out those songs. It worked out.”
The project comes six months after Haberdashery, the debut album from Action Figure. Featuring names such as Lungs and Micah Write, the collaborations on his debut were handled entirely over email, unlike Wrestling School, in which every feature turned up to the studio to record. “Most of the people on [Haberdashery], I didn’t meet,” he said. “So to me, I felt like the process took too long. People didn’t know who I was; I guess they just looked at me as a person [messaging] them, so most people took their time with it and dragged their feet. I just think, from that process, it moves way too slow … For that album, I had to exude a lot of patience.”
Going into Wrestling School, Action decided to change his approach entirely. Sending out invites over social media, rappers from across the underground gathered in Astra Studios, courtesy of Action’s engineer, War Ready. He spoke more on the creative process: “For the most part, I kind of sat back, played beats for people, played joints, and everybody got to it right away. The first initial session was a full six hours, so that’s where the bulk of the album got done. The last two verses – which were me and KI Bohiti on ‘Untitled’ – we recorded separately from that session.
“It was so much fun. Getting to be around everybody was really fun, and really inspiring. People were valuing my opinion on things. You know, every time someone recorded a verse, they were like, ‘Yo Action, what do you think?’ Everybody, I felt, was trying to make me happy with their lyricism. It was definitely rewarding … I feel like this is more of my coming out project than Haberdashery was.”
Moving forward, Action Figure has a host of ideas for future projects. With various collaborations and compilations on the horizon, his 2024 is looking to be busy. “I would love to do a Wrestling School 2,” he said. “I definitely want to make that a yearly thing.”
Aside from Wrestling School, the rapper has a compilation in the works, titled Tough Act to Follow. Though the lineup of guests is not final, he already has a list of rappers featured. He said: “I got Hooks Arthur on there, who gave me something crazy. I got another MC from Queens by the name of Shirt who’s on there … I got Curits Bland on there, my boy Eric the Red, and I got Echo and MC Wicks in there as well.”
He touched on the meaning behind the title: “The inspiration behind that name was, over the summer, right before Wrestling School, I had a feature for my guy Oss, who’s a producer. He had me do a collaboration with another MC. I recorded my verse first, then the other MC came up after me, and ended up fainting halfway through his verse. So all of my friends were like, ‘You actually killed a man with your raps!’ So I was like, ‘You know what that means? I’m a tough act to follow.’”
On top of those projects, Action has a number of collaborative records planned out. “I’ve produced half a project for Jay Rhymes,” he said. “Me and Eric the Red have got a project coming called Diamond Cutters … I’m doing a series with other producers that I like … It’s going to be short EPs with a few producers who I think everybody should know and love. So the first up will be me and a producer from Queens by the name of Wolverine. He’s a part of my crew, he’s a young guy – 22, he specialises in making drumless beats, and I think his beats are incredible. Dropping in January: me rhyming, him on the beats, six joints, it’s going to be called Luchadors Going Platinum.”
Turning away from his upcoming music, the rapper described his history with hip hop. Having wanted to be an MC since the age of 15, he spent years developing his craft before he emerged as Action Figure. “I was doing music from 18 to 27 with no mask,” he said. “I took an eight year hiatus … I hit a dead end and felt I had to walk away from it. My wife really inspired the idea of a mask. She was like, ‘I have to share you with the world already, as far as you doing music, but at least I know what you look like under the mask, and I get to keep that. I would love for you to find a way to make the music, release the music, but not you release it.’ So with that idea, I started thinking about it.
“I just started thinking, I’m a big wrestling fan. Ray Mysterio Jr. is one of my favourite wrestlers. I was like, ‘Why don’t I just wear a luchador mask?’ And from there, I didn’t think it was going to take off the way it did. I’ve had people offer to pay me $1,000 to take off the mask, just to see my face. I get all sorts of weird requests like that. People have asked me, ‘What do you look like under the mask?’ Some people think I have a deformity or something, but it’s just that I value my privacy. Being able to do music then come home and turn it off. I like being able to go to record stores and not having the prices jacked up high because I’m somebody … Without the mask, I felt like I was always recognised. Now, with the mask, nobody even looks at me twice.”
Having only released his debut album this past May, the career of Action Figure has only just begun. With Wrestling School days from release, Tough Act to Follow set to drop next year, and myriad collaborations underway, the luchador has quickly risen as one of the most prolific names in the East Coast underground. Find Action Figure here: