Going Deep Inside the Amazing World of Chipotle's Music

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I don't usually brag, but I'm better at Chipotle than you. I know hacks you wouldn't even believe. Whatchu know about a quesarito? Bet you don't know how to score free Guac. I go so often that every day, when I tell Nathan I'm going to grab lunch, he automatically just replies, "Enjoy your burrito." I'm such a regular at the Chipotle near my house that one time I forgot my wallet and the manager let me have my meal for free. When I saw him about 18 hours later, I tried to pay for my free burrito and he politely declined. That's my homie right there! (That or there's a "buy four million burritos get one free" clause I wasn't aware of.) I have a crush on the girl who gives me free guac and I'd totally ask her out, but I don't want to risk ruining my guac supply if the date goes bad. I've even done entire interviews based around Chipotle because I'm the most professional guy ever.

So yes, I love the burritos, but what really made me fall in love with Chipotle is their music.  Everywhere else I go I have my headphones on because the world is a dark depressing place without the proper soundtrack. At Chipotle though? I never need headphones because that company knows their music. When the line is out the door I have no problem waiting, partly because I'm physically addicted to their fajitas, but mainly because the music is so great. I can't tell you how many times I've stood by the door, burrito in one hand, phone held as high as possible in the other, I can Shazam whatever song is bouncing out the speakers. I may look like certifiable crazy person, but it's worth it for a new song. As someone who is always paying attention music, no matter where I am, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Chipotle. They could put on the generic music, but when you make me - a guy who makes his living unearthing musical gems - have to  use Shazam, you're doing something right.

Don't take my word for it though. I made a mini-playlist of my favorites songs I've discovered via my many many many many many many many visits to Chipotle.  

Handsome Boy Modeling School ft Cat Power - "I've Been Thinking"

They didn't stump me, I knew this right away, but I was still impressed. I almost jumped over the sneeze guard and covered my body in salsa when I heard this come on. Handsome Boy Modeling School is the best! I had no idea anyone besides me and a small handful of others knew who they were and yet, Chipotle is blessing millions of earholes with theie goodness. For those who may not know, Handsome Boy Modeling School is made up of two amazing producers, Dan The Automator from Gorillaz and Prince Paul from De La Soul. How cool is that?! Also, I totally get why they picked "I've Been Thinking," but I would have gone with a "Day In The Life," which features RZA, AG and the lead singer of Mars Volta; that hook is unreal! It's sharper than the knives they use to cut their perfectly marinated steak. 

The Blow - "True Affection"

This discovery was one of the first I ever made and it was also the reason I downloaded Shazam. I left Chipotle and could not get this out of my head (one listen and you'll have the same problem). I rushed home and searched for hours with no luck. Finally, I stumbled across a Facebook group where people would ask about songs they heard at Chipotle. Sure enough, there was "The Blow," right there on the top. You know you do music real proper-like when there is a Facebook group devoted to figuring out your song selections. Anyway, this song is insanely catchy. I don't know how something so under-produced and spare can burrow so deep into my brain, but that's the power of music. You may recognize this from Mac Miller's flip on "Oy Vey," or because it sounds like "Laffy Taffy." Still, although I love it, I'm not quite sure how a hip-hop head will feel about it. Regardless, "True Affection" is going to be in your rotation for a hot minute, whether you like it or not.

Boy - "Little Numbers"

This was my most recent discovery and it almost didn't happen. I had heard the beginning, but was running late so I bounced, about seven steps out of the door I stopped and though about Handsome Boy Modeling School and all my other discoveries. I marched right back inside and raised my phone to the heavens. I'm glad I did because I'm really into this song right now; it has a simple yet effective bounce to it and a ton of personality. Plus that line, "Time is hard to kill since I met you," is great. I'm always down for some non-rap stuff like this, but don't always know where to look. Luckily, Chipotle has me covered like the saran wrap on the fresh batch of pico.

Meri Lida - Den Thelo Pia Na Xanarthis (Imam Baildi Remix)

Unfortunately, I can't eat every meal at Chipotle and am occasionally forced to forage elsewhere for sustenance. There is this Greek place whose falafel game is on fleek, but, sadly, their music game is, most definitely off fleek. Nobody wants to listen elevator music for 20 minutes. That's why it's only made for short elevator trips. Anyway, leave it to Chipotle, a place known for tacos, to also have some great Greek music. I can't pronounce the name of the song nor anyone involved, but I don't have to speak Greek to know this is awesome. So much sample-able material in this one. Chipotle does Greek music better than a Greek place. Point Chipotle.

"Sara Jaffe - Clementine"

When you spend 12 hours crafting Rick Ross jokes and sample quizzes, you can lose track of time and work up an appetite in the process. Before you know it, your tummy is growling like DMX and it's 9:45 P.M. As much as I hate to do it to my free-guac giving friends, I have to show up right before the doors close. Don't worry, I always hurry my ass up to get out of there so they can go home and relax after a long day of crafting burritos around people's annoying specifications. No lady you can't have just a little more steak, that shit is extra, you are not a special, beautiful or unique snowflake!!!! Ahem, sorry.

I always rush out, except for that one time where I was stuck standing by the exit at 10:08 listing to Sara Jaffe's "Clementine." I can't help it, this song is absolutely riveting. Sara Jaffe has an incredible, understated voice and she really bears her soul on this one. To this day, I can't play this without stopping whatever I am doing and listening. Oh, fun fact, Jaffe is part of a duo called The Dividends with super producer, S1, who just so happens to be a friend of DJBooth. Small world huh?

DJ Shadow - "Scale It Back"

I know, I know, there hasn't been much hip-hop on this list. To make up for it how about a song from one of the most sample heavy producers ever? It's not hip-hop all the way, but tell my that beat does't make your head move like it was boom-bap. I remember this find because had literally just got done Shazaming one song, then as I was shoveling lemons into my bag, I had to stop and Shazam again. Back to back keepers! Reminds me of that time every few weeks where I get Chipotle for lunch and dinner.

Pharcyde - "Runnin"

Let's end on the highest note possible...PHARCYDE!!!!!!!! I didn't even need Shazam for this one. I'll admit it took me a minute, but by the time I reached the front of line, I had it. I do have a bone to pick with Chipotle when it comes to this one. The only reason it took me a second was because it was just the instrumental. Don't get me wrong, I could listen to this instrumental on loop for 48 hours, but it just isn't the same without Slim Kid Tre's verse. I get it though, the language isn't family friendly, but hearing "Running' without the raps is like getting a burrito without beans. Also, this is totally an argument for a different time, but Pharcyde is the most underrated rap group in history. Anyway, I could keep going with cuts like, say this, but Pharcyde feels like a great place to stop because when someone plays Pharcyde, they immediately become really, really cool. It's a fact

Man, there's eight gems right there, but I have to stop there before this really gets out of control. However, doing this story made me realize that while I've obviously spent hours thinking about music at Chipotle, I've never really thought about how they choose it. I guess I always figured that like most chains they have a deal with Sirius or some subscription service. There is just no way some guy at Chipotle HQ (which I've heard is made entirely of tortillas) hand picks each and every song right? Or maybe...great, now I have to know. It was time for some real, actual journalism. So I reached out to Chipotle, asked how they select their music, and got this response from my main man Chris.

"Well, we program all of the music ourselves, and update the mix often so it remains fresh (just like our food). In putting together the playlists, we look for songs with good tempo and vibe, but that may not be familiar to people. What you tend to hear are more obscure songs from bands you know (b-sides, if you will), or more obscure covers of songs you may know. It makes it interesting. And it’s played at a volume where you can actually hear it! We like it at a level that you can easily talk over it if you’re with others, but where you can hear (and recognize what’s being played) if you want to listen."

Man, how cool is that?! It kind of makes me love Chipotle even more, which I didn't know was possible. I mean, when you have real life people picking these great songs, it becomes so much cooler than a random Sirius playlist. You know when you meet someone, then find out they listen to dope music, and instantly become best friends? This is just like that, except I already had an obsession with that person. Music is all around you, just gotta keep those ears open!

Now if you'll excuse me...it's lunch time

[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is (maybe?) “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]