“$3.99 for all you can eat, Well, I’mma stuff my face to a funky beat”
– Fat Boys, “All You Can Eat”
This was a huge undertaking that I didn’t really realize the scale of. I had compiled a huge list of foods mentioned in Hip-Hop lyrics, over 150 lines long. I enlisted the help of our friend, Martin Ramos, to cook. It was a crazy day as it was the first time that we had tried to do food as the main focus of the shoot, not realizing how fast the food would spoil after cooking and not look as fresh for the photographs. While we could have done a few tricks to fake it and make the food just look good for the camera, everything was fully cooked and delicious.
See, smell, hear, touch, TASTE the music. Hip-Hop is a buffet of food mentions. From the jump, rap’s first commercial single from Sugarhill Gang (Rapper’s Delight) includes a full verse describing a meal while eating over at a friend’s house. Food plays a prominent role in rap by being flipped into metaphors for everything from wealth to drugs & guns to sexual advances and more. Concepts of food have stretched from rap bars into full albums such as “Mm.. Food?” by MF Doom. Rappers have even built their own personas off of their gastronomic love, including the Fat Boys, Raekwon “The Chef”, Big Pun, and Action Bronson, to name a few.
In Hip-Hop, how you’re eating is how you’re livin’. To project both wealth and poverty, foodstuffs have been used. There is no shortage of songs that name drop “Grey Poupon,” in relation to their TV commercials of wealth and status – even though the condiment can be found easily in any supermarket next to regular French’s yellow mustard, but just a tad bit more expensive. Rick Ross shows off his extravagance, asking listeners if he’s a narcissist because he awakens to a bowl of lobster bisque (I Love My Bitches). On the flip side, meals have also shown the earlier struggles of the artists like sugar water from Ghostface Killah (All I That I Got Is You) and syrup sandwiches from Kendrick Lamar (HUMBLE.) which are nothing but cereal with tap water, and slices of white bread with maple syrup – bare minimum meals when you can’t afford all the ingredients for cereal & milk and a sandwich.
Artists use slang from the streets in their songs as well as force meaning into regular English as they create new definitions for words and trying to make them stick. The subversive wordplay to cover up criminal activity is a common theme, for example, chicken is defined as a kilo of cocaine, and biscuit, a gun. Former cocaine dealer, Malice of The Clipse, compares himself to a baker, eluding the Feds right in front them (Grindin’). Rappers have been creative in talking about marijuana, replacing it with green foods like broccoli and collard greens. Language is fluid, with new comestibles being used in place of new items, like Lil Uzi Vert’s “chicken with the bleu cheese,” (Bad and Boujee) referring to a kilo and the current US $100 bills with blue counterfeit stripe. In the same song, Offset of Migos states that he is “smoking on cookie,” which refers to the Girl Scout Cookie marijuana strain.
Sex and edibles are closely related with much symbolism, both of which can be found intertwined in rap lyrics. All foods are fair game to becoming a sexual innuendo or a pickup line… you can lick, you can suck, you can taste. Who can possibly forget 50 Cent’s endearing simile professing his love for a woman, “like a fat kid love cake”? (21 Questions)
Food is power. Food is language. Food is sex. Food is knowledge. Hip-Hop is food for the soul. SICK STAR explores foods within Hip-Hop, with “EATS, RHYMES, & LIFE”, a visual menu of food lyrics. Bon appetit.
“Eats, Rhymes, & Life” featuring Melissa Reign x Tracy Nova, photography by imagenix. Makeup by Krystyl Hernandez.