The best food writing attacks each of the senses at once and has a transportive quality. The prose should be enticing, of course, but also act as a potent commentary on society and surrounding contemporary issues. Food writing is nuanced and macrocosmic, a culture of vignettes and peeks into external experiences—and the scenery is everything. Sounds a bit like rap music, doesn’t it?
Two paragraphs into any of Anthony Bourdain’s literature, and I feel as if I'm in the steamy underbelly of Midtown's restaurant scene. Just the same, two bars from Wiki’s No Mountains in Manhattan takes me around the five boroughs and back to the bodega for a well-earned chopped cheese. In one breath, the Beastie Boys take us from piazzas in Italy to the Jewish deli for some matzo and challah bread on “3 the Hard Way.” Much like food writing, there's a texture to food raps, a full and slick quality to their delivery that makes them play as savory and plush as the items in question.
With so many rappers celebrating food culture in their bars, everyone from Biggie to E-40 to 21 Savage, we took the liberty of ranking the top five greatest food writers hip-hop has to offer, including three of their best food bars. Bon appétit.
5. 2 Chainz
2 Chainz is a true and indiscriminate culinarian with his own cookbook, #MEALTIME. He loves expensive and deluxe ingredients: aged cheeses, fine seafood, gold-plated popcorn. 2 Chainz is any aspiring foodie’s ticket to high-society eating, dining, dressing, and Versace apron-wearing. Leafing through his cookbook, which begins, per Grubstreet, with a directive to freestyle your cooking as 2 Chainz has always freestyled his music, we discover that the ATL native is as passionate about seasoning as he is ad-libs and means of describing cocaine.
2 Chainz’s best food bars are as succinct and entertaining as his cooking suggestions. He does not amble on, but in as few words as possible, makes us salivate with his word choice. There’s some noticeable cheek here as well, and an inexplicable obsession with Benihanas. It’s his uncanny ability to make the high life sound both absurd and irresistible that helped secure 2 Chainz this coveted number five spot on our list.
3 Best Food Bars:
“Dippin' it like fondue, spinach dip, cheese stick / Appetizers, entrees, it's you in that lingerie” (“In Town,” Based on a T.R.U. Story)
“Eat lobster tail like French fries” (“Extremely Blessed,” Based on a T.R.U. Story)
“Extra garlic butter I got Benihana issues” (“Crack,” Based on a T.R.U. Story)
4. Rick Ross
When I say the name Rick Ross you think lemon pepper wings, and that's the type of comfort and familiarity I look for when pursuing food raps. Music and eating are two of the best coping mechanisms to exist, and Ross’ gruff delivery and penchant for expensive, ceremonious, and well-traveled production create the perfect soundstage to opulence and indulgence. There’s a depth to his voice that translates to a depth of flavor, so when Ross mentions lobster bisque, we’re drowning in the creamy broth.
Ross’ involvement in food is iconic in itself, with over 30 franchise restaurants to his name. Of these, of course, over half are Wingstops, which cost several hundred thousand dollars to start up. Now there’s a flex.
Hip-hop heads aren’t the only ones appreciating Rick Ross’ food raps, either. The CEO of Wingstop recently spoke with the Boston Globe about the rapper’s impact on the brand, saying, “He’s always very engaging and very supportive of the brand. He might be at a boxing match or one of his concerts or somewhere else and he almost always has a Wingstop cup in his hand. It keeps us relevant.”
3 Best Food Bars:
“She thinkin' Phillipe's, I'm thinkin' Wingstop / Fiendin' lemon pepper, I got my thing cocked” (“MC Hammer,” Teflon Don)
“Am I really just a narcissist? / 'Cause I wake up to a bowl of lobster bisque.” (“I Love My Bitches,” God Forgives, I Don't)
“Sweet tea mob, we up to no good / I bought the ice cream, I bought the hot salsa / I bought potato chips, but now it's Red Lobster” (“Beat Build,” Freaknik: The Musical)
3. Ghostface Killah
Ghostface Killah makes food sound heavenly and luxe, and sinister and menacing. What sets GFK's food bars apart is his ability to make us hungry and intimidated. Fearful of the crime boss, Ghostface fans are just as driven to take his fantastical food bars and turn them into real-life recipes. When it comes to present-day food rap auteurs, Ghostface Killah is their holy scripture. With an acidic cadence and sprawling pen game, Ghostface was built to satiate our palettes with endless bars about seafood and spices.
Ghostface’s best food bars work overtime to tantalize the senses, but also spin tall tales of women he’s taking home, money he’s earned, and enemies he’s smoked without a second thought. Boiling down his music, Ghostface Killah plays firmly in the most treasured of rap tropes, but through the filter of food imagery, his every quip feels fresh and stands the test of time.
3 Best Food Bars:
“Porch for the biggest beer, season giraffe ribs / Rotissiere ropes, hickory cinnamon scented glaze / Perfected find truth within self, let's smoke” (“Nutmeg,” Supreme Clientele)
“Yo honey dip, summertime fine, Jheri dripping / Seen you on Pitkins with a bunch of chickens how you're clicking / I kept shooting strong notes as we got close / She rocked rope, honey throat smelling like Impulse / Your whole shell baby's wicked like Nimrod / Caught me like a fresh-water scrod, or may I not be God / Attitude is very rude boo, crabby like seafood” (“Ice Cream,” Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...)
“We eat fish, toss salads and make rap ballads / The biochemical slanglord'll throw the Arabs / In the dope fiend, vocal chords switch laser beams / My triple sevens broke the slot machines out in Queens / Grey Poupon is Revlon rap, smack pawns, swing like batons / Most my n****s smoke like Hillshire Farms” (“Fish,” Ironman)
2. MF DOOM
This choice should be self-explanatory: Mm.. Food is an album available for purchase or your streaming pleasure. Not only is Mm.. Food packed with tantalizing descriptions, but DOOM also flexes his critic muscles. On “Vomitspit,” DOOM gives a quick lesson in seasoning and a primer on the importance of top-shelf ingredients. On “Hoe Cakes,” he takes the poor quality of fast food to task (“And the heat to turn beef to horsemeat chalupa”) with a level of grace that keeps him from shaming Taco Bell franchise connoisseurs. DOOM is no hypocrite, what with “Kookies” existing as an ode to snacks, and drugs, and women.
Mm.. Food is special because it exists for the same reason food programming exists: escapist media. In an interview with Hot Ones' Sean Evans, celebrated food writer and host Alton Brown explained that the sharpest rise in food media came after the 9/11 terror attacks. People sought comfort, and food is the ultimate pacifier. The same could be said for food raps, which are fanciful lyrical exercises and necessary breaks from how bleak the world can get, especially for Black men in 2004, and 2005, and so on. DOOM’s bars here are not just witty and playful, they’re survialistic, all of which allows him to revel in his own wordplay as the listener chuckle and heals all in one.
3 Best Food Bars:
“He don't mess with the Ritz Bits / Wheat Thins, Saltines or Triscuits / Matzos or Cheez-Its / Catch sugar fits every time that he sees / Chips Ahoy, double chocolate chunk / Something with the bubble and the junk in the trunk / Even the Oreos, no matter what weather / Always kept 'em dipped in milk and stuck together” (“Kookies,” Mm.. Food)
“Feel 'em like the tinge in your ear from drinking ginger beer / When it's on loco head gon' lay low / And heat it like beef patty, coco bread kon queso” (“Kon Queso,” Mm.. Food)
“Even when ribs was touchin' never swallowed the ham / He'd rather eat a sand sandwich salad / It might need salt like your man's bland ballad” (“Vomitspit,” Mm.. Food)
1. Action Bronson
“Fuck, that’s delicious.” We needn’t say much more, but we shall. The unabashed indulgence of each Bronson food bar is more than half the pleasure. Damn near every Action Bronson song has at least one vivid bar about the meal of your dreams (“Now every meal is calamari and boudin blanc”). Of all the aforementioned rappers, Bronson’s descriptions are the richest and most true to food writing’s succulent and innocuous pastiche. This, of course, should not come as a surprise considering before his tenure as a rapper who is very much indebted to Ghostface Killah, Bronson was a successful chef.
The outlandish and freeform style of Bronson’s writing makes his food bars so captivating. Each of his lines could stand as its own fantasy novel. We know the food raps are coming, and yet, like a seasoned chef, Bronson always finds a way to readjust and reinvent his content. How long can we listen to Action Bronson rap about food and women? Forever, if he keeps at it with a tinge of magical realism. At present, when he’s not standing at the vanguard of food raps, Action Bronson hosts a gaggle of shows on Viceland, which fuse his love of food with his brusque and freewheeling personality.
3 Best Food Bars:
“Gipsy Salami cheese is from the cave / Wild dandelion greens dressed up on the plate / Parmesan crisp, we wildin' in Marea” (“Ron Simmons,” Blue Chips)
“Desert wiley with the suede complexion / Fill the glass, toast the brew, smoke the basil soup / Cop and crash a hazel coup, take a nasal too / Yes indeed I smoke minoras with my people / I'm rolling up the trilogy before I light the fucking sequel / Peppers are grilled with the diploma, the smoker / The apple-wood chip thirty-eight enhancing the aroma” (“Ceviche,” Bon Appetit...Bitch!)
“Lightly battered yam, a squeeze of lemon over lamb” (“Flip Ya,” Blue Chips 2)