It’s that time again, ya’ll.
Much like beef, cheese has a special place in hip-hop. Most of the time, it means cash money. In fact, money is synonymous with quite a few food terms in hip-hop. But today we focus on cheese.
As was the case with beef, there are so many general references to cheese on so many different tracks that it would be futile to try to list them all. Here are a couple of examples:
The hook to NAS’s track “Street Dreams” from the classic album “Illmatic” plays on the Eurythmics hit “Sweet Dreams”: “Street dreams are made of these/ Shorties on they knees for [...] wit’ big cheese/Who am I to disagree?/ Everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’.”
And Trae’s “No Help” starts out with Z-Ro fending off gold-digger friends:
“Don’t come around my way, cause I don’t need/ Another fair-weather friend with a trick up his sleeve/ Acting like you really my [...], but he after my cheese/ Ya’ll [...] get me congested, move around, and let me breathe.”
Lil’ O, also of the Screwed Up Click, was nicknamed Da Fat Rat Wit Da Cheeze in reference to his stature and slangin’ abilities. It was the title of his 2001 album and its title track (shouts to Jairus for reminding me of that joint!).
There are many, many, many more, including a few that are literally referring to cheese. It gives Busta Rhymes digestion problems, as he tells us on “Ill Vibe”: “Bounce down the block, eatin’ food at Luigi’s/ […] constipated, too much extra cheese.”
And in a couple of lines, Young Lay juxtaposes the literal and figurative meanings of cheese on the Tupac track “Got 2 Survive,” in which he invokes the guv’mint variety: “Eat through scrap, black tracks, free milk, and cheese/ While the [Japanese] stack scratch with the Vietnamese/ But I’m finna squeeze, stack cheese they left on a trap/ A young playa mack…spit a rap.”
Aside from cheese in general, hip-hop artists demonstrate an impressive knowledge of specific cheese varieties. “Cheddar” is a longtime favorite, alternative for the catch-all “cheese.” See, for example, when Biggie says, “See it’s all about the cheddar, nobody do it better” on “Going Back to Cali” or in H.A.W.K.’s song “Cheddar,” “Cheddah, cheddah, makes things bettah (getchyo paper, mayne!”)
E-40 also has an entire song dedicated to cheese. This time, it’s “Gouda.” In the song, he uses as a creative update to the cheese/money association: “Oh, we gettin’ chalupa / Wrapped cheese in a rubber band and call it ‘gouda’.”
In “Rainbow in the Dark,” the Das Racist duo hand off fancy cheese lyrics as a means of wooing the ladies. Heems: “Catch me drinking lean in Italy like I was Pisa/ We could eat the flyest cave-aged cheese for sheez, ma.” Kool AD: “Yeah, we could eat Gruyère, as if we care/ We could eat Roquefort, or we could just kick it like Rockports.”
On “Oh Let’s Do It,” Lil Wayne runs through a few varieties, “All about my cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, provolone.” Blackalicious also rap about provolone, but they use it in the context of another funny idiom, refreshingly departing from the money association on “Paragraph President”: “Hit you with the funk it’s like, ‘Who cut the provolone?’” Haaa!
And last, we’ll wrap it up today with a line from Rampage on the Busta Rhymes song “Call the Ambulance,” where he says simply and boastfully, “I’m cream cheese with the English muffin.” Classy.
Many thanks to everyone who has thrown in ideas for this series, and to Chris Schonberger of Time Out NY for compiling these gems. There’s much more to come. We’ll see you next time on Hip-Hop’s Favorite Food….and we out.