When I first set out to explore hip-hop’s favorite food, I had no idea just how prevalent culinary lyrics were within my favorite genre. It started with a few lines from Tribe, ‘Kast, Biggie, and Tim and a theme of sardines and grits. I then began the slow and curious process of cataloguing food lyrics, quickly realizing there were far more and of a far greater variety than I could ever hope to capture in a quick-read series.
In the final verse, I’d like to give the spotlight to a few hip-hop artists who, in their relationship or homage to food, go beyond a bar with a cleverly placed rhyme or tasty punch line here or there. These artists, either in a song, album, or their very persona, have taken the relationship between food and hip-hop to a new high. They are:
MF Doom’s second major album is titled “Mm..Food,” an anagram of his name. Every track has a food-related name, and the samples, lyrics, content, and overall theme of the joint invoke grub or in some cases, use food as an illustration of something else. Some are food-related in name only. Track titles include the well-known “One Beer,” along with “Fillet-O-Rapper,” “Kon Karne,” “Kon Queso,” “Gumbo,” and “Kookies.” Also on this album is “Beef Rapp,” which we looked at in Part II.
A couple of notable lyrics: “Here I am, don’t forget the heavy back aches/ Grown and living off of little Debbie snack cakes.”
“Stunner a funner summer number one meal deal bummer/ A bizarre phenomenon is your armor on/ Take ya cash, coma or break ya fast, Ramadan.”
“So wild you couldn’t chase it down with straight fruit juice/ Frown like the first time you taste cous cous/ Stash the deuce deuce, troops askin’ truce, truce.”
Action Bronson is quite an interesting fellow. The son of Albanian immigrants and a native to Queens, he looks like a big jolly teddy bear with light skin and red hair, and his flow has been compared to that of the Wu’s Ghostface. Even more intriguing, he used to be a respected chef and only recently began his foray into hip-hop, so naturally, his lyrics are chockfull of sophisticated food mentions (sophisticated both in the use of things like bone marrow and rack of lamb and in the way he incorporates such mentions into his stuff.) He still hosts an online cooking show called “Action in the Kitchen.” One of his albums is titled “Well-Done” and one of his mixtapes “Bon Appeit…”
He has so many great food lyrics that it’s difficult to pick just one or two, so I’ll leave you with this genius slideshow by Pigeons & Planes, in which they interpreted a handful of Bronson’s tasty bars into full-blown, amazing dishes in their test kitchen. Mad props for this one.
Edan, an “alternative” rapper from Maryland, takes the cake on food lyrics (no pun intended) with his track “Beautiful Food,” which consists entirely of a playful string of foods ranging from “zucchini ziti” to “lunchbox burritos” to “celery sticks with various dips.” The entire song manages to slam together and relate so many different foods that it’s at times amazing and dope and at times silly and comical. “Red wine from ’79.” “Y-y-y-y-yogurt.” It just goes on and on and on. The hook is a simple, “Look at all this beautiful food.” He definitely paints the picture.
Last, Buck 65, also of the “alternative” variety, and his “Food Song,” which much in the same style as Edan, is composed of shoutouts to a long list of different foods although not as bare-bones in its style. Rather than Edan’s artistically abstract approach, Buck stays truer to crafting full-out lyrics by weaving his foods into clever rhymes. He starts out, “Mmmm, food it puts me in a good mood” and goes on to spit such gems as:
“Unforgettable edibles fresh fruits and vegetables/ A tomato tornado and a plate of mashed potatoes/ I’m droolin’ for tabbouleh salad, lentils and chick peas/ I’m ready for spaghetti and cold cuts with brick cheese.”
“I’ll tell you ’bout the merits of carrots and asparagus/ My knowledge of scallops and my advice on fried rice.”
“Watch me wolf down a four-pound minimum/ Of chocolate chip cookies and rice pudding with cinnamon/ I’m starving for fried calamari with seaweed/ I’m trying to save room for strawberries and kiwi.”
As I said when I kicked off this whole delicious project, there’s no way that I could ever do justice to all of the artists, known and unknown, mainstream and underground, legacy and innovator, who have used the universal appeal of food to relate their lyrics to their listeners. So forgive me for omitting your favorite rapper and that one (or many) raw line that really deserved to be mentioned and for shamelessly screening out many of today’s radio favorites who, in my eyes, don’t deserve to carry the torch they claim to.
The most interesting food association I came to uncover throughout hip-hop music and culture is that of money or more figuratively, of creating something from nothing. When we take a pile of ingredients and turn it into a beautiful meal, we are in essence channeling the same energy that a hustler uses to turn a pile of “commodities” into a living for himself and his family. We talked specifically about cheese, but rappers use many food terms to relate to money. My favorite illustration of this is a line of Andre 3000’s:
“Street scholars, majoring in culinary arts/ You know, how to work that bread, cheese and dough from scratch.” I wonder if cooking school students would ever liken themselves to d-boi’s in this way or vice versa. Probably a connection that only an artist could make.
I think the moral of the Hip-Hop’s Favorite Food story is that food extends so far beyond the kitchen and the belly and acts as so much more than just sustenance or nourishment. It pervades our cultures and counter-cultures and acts as a vehicle of emotional and sensory expression in our art forms with hip-hop being no exception. What better way to appeal to the masses than with food? What better way to illustrate a point than with something we’ve all tasted and savored and cherished and loved? Hip-hop truly has no single favorite food—but perhaps food’s favorite genre is hip-hop.
That’s a rap.