Hip-Hop Foodies: When Rappers Turn to the Kitchen
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Grae has also appeared on the YouTube show of fellow progressive rapper Sadat X, whose connoisseurship focuses not on food but on wine. Of course, it works both ways—step into NYC celeb chef Eddie Huang’s affordable bao spot, Baohaus, and not only will you be bombarded by the latest beats, you’ll also enjoy cheeky rap-inspired food paintings. It wouldn't be hip-hop if it didn't have a sense of humor.
Yet perhaps the most high-profile example of hip-hop foodieism has yet to come. In spring, it was announced that Questlove, the celebrated drummer for the Roots, is going into business with Graham Elliott, the Chicago-based celebrity chef who curates all the food services and eating options for the megafestival Lollapalooza. Their venture, “Quest Loves Food Curated by Graham Elliott,” will provide food and a Questlove DJ set for events, parties and festivals, something the Chicago Tribune called “hip-hop catering.” And if it sounds more capitalist than foodie—and it’s certainly bougier than all of the above, there’s something else that more of us can enjoy. Questlove already owns Love’s Drumsticks, an artisanal food truck that serves fried chicken around New York City. Elliott’s take on the fare: “It's an incredibly seasoned free-range organic chicken, fried crispy, and presented in this cool origami wrap." Foodie language at its finest.
So, if this era of cooking is all about the celebrity chef with the outsized persona, who better but rappers to match them? Will the increased acceptance of good (affordable) food among rappers and others in hip-hop help break down the racist, classist perception that only fancy schmancy white folks like to eat well? And more importantly, how can the dissolution of that stereotype help shrink the “ grocery gap,” where stores with more fresh produce and healthier, affordable options return to underserved communities they once fled? Certainly it might sound like a leap from rap chefs to solving institutional food crises, but it’s at a crucial point where culture predicts the coming wave: these musicians potentially reflect the increasingly savvy desires of young people in disadvantaged urban communities of color, whose pocketbooks might not be able to cop $5 Kombucha, but whose palates yearn for better options.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.