“Live from killer Queens” so begins BOOMBAP! Episode 2 of a new Korean cooking showl from Woodside, Queens-based rapper Lyricks. The show takes its name from the 90s rap style with the “Dorito crunch snare” and is also a play on bap, the Korean word for rice.
Lyricks, aka Rick Lee, eschews measurements and teaches cooking in the way I imagine his parents and grandmother taught him. “I’m not trying to disrespect the ones doing it scientifically, the obes that went to school, the ones that this is their life,” he says in Episode 0. ” Much respect, I’m trying to work to your level.”
This approach combined with his MC persona makes for fun and mouthwatering watching. “It’s serious when I bring in the Kumon lamp,” he says before beginning to make braised mackerel stew for his girlfriend.
“Ladies, at my age it doesn’t matter if you’re cute. The question is, ‘Do you mince?’” Lyricks says managing to combine knife skills and relationship advice. The Korean-American rapper says that since he’s almost 30 he made his stew a little less spicy. “If you’re younger than me and your soup doesn’t look redder than this I’m a slap you.” I’m looking forward to a gamjatang tutorial.
Rap has made it all around the world my friend Damianos said marveling at the Tibetan hiphop that played in the background as we munched on momos and laphing at Himalaya Kitchen. “There’s this Greek dude, So Tiri, who raps about food,” he said describing a video about feta and a visit to Titan Foods in Astoria. And to think I thought Action Bronson was the only Queens-based food rapper. I tracked down the song “Feta Kai Psomi,”whose title translates to feta with bread and had a good laugh. I also found out So Tiri is actually a Bronx boy. Nevertheless, he’s Greek through and through and has written a love song to his favorite cheese, or so I learned after reading the English lyrics. “I drink the broth from the pail with fish roe salad for a snack,” the Greek parody rapper sings as a profession of his affection for the salty cheese. Oh, and, in case you were wondering, that’s not a dog he’s walking in the video, it’s a goat.
Almost every genre of music from jazz and blues to rock and roll and rap has songs about food. There are songs about sweets, paeans to poultry and there are even raps extolling food critics along with bush meat and bánh mì. Here are a few of my favorite gastronomical ditties, with food pairings.
1. Pass the Peas, The JB’s
Just like Bobby, I like soul food “because it makes me happy.” Pair this funky jam by James Brown’s band with a plate of stewed pig ears, collards and sausage and rice from RCL Enterprises. RCL Enterprises, 141-22 Rockaway Blvd., Rochdale, (718) 529-3576
2. Brunch, Action Bronson
Sure the video for this tune by Flushing’s finest chef turned rapper is a grisly tale of romantic betrayal and murder, but hey it’s got a great blues hook and food too. Pair it with an offal-themed brunch from M. Wells Dinette.M. Wells Dinette, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800
3. Taco And A Pork Chop, Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride.
Beyond the call and response, “Taco And a Pork Chop,” there are no lyrics to this swinging bass virtuoso showcase. Pair it with the truly spectacular pork carnitas taco from Tortas Neza. Tortas Neza, 111-03 Roosevelt Ave, Corona
Rapping about food has been a hiphop staple since the Fat Boys filmed the video for “All You Can Eat,” at the Sbarro in Times Square. And the song that put rap on the map Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight is replete with food references, including “collard greens that don’t taste good” and “chicken tastes like wood.” The gastronomic theme is also liberally sprinkled throughout gangster rap—Biggie’s sardines for dinner—and continues with rapper-chef (or is that chef-rapper?) Action Bronson whose rhymes are more food filled than Josh Ozersky’s dreams. So I present two decidedly more far-flung food rappers, one from Tibet and another from Xi’an, China.
Karma Emchi better known by his nom du rap, Shapaley is half Swiss and half-Tibetan. His stage name comes from the Tibetan beef patty that’s available in many of the momo parlors in Himalayan Heights, as I’ve come to call Jackson Heights, Queens. The message behind the tune Shapaley is equal parts national pride and equal parts filial piety. You don’t hear lines like this in American rap: “If your grandpa tells you to pass him his walking sticks you’d better do it…If you don’t wait a minute, I’ll make the dough, put meat on it, fry it in oil and there it goes.” And: “Mother and father if your kids don’t behave just call me up. I’ll be there in a minute and give them shapaley.”
Cao-Si hails from Xi’an, China. The ancient Chinese city is widely known as the home of the terra cotta warriors. In Queens it’s better known as the city that gave birth to the cumin-laced lambcentric fare of Xi’an Famous Foods and its upscale sister restaurant Biang! Cao-Si can rhyme. He shouts out dozens of local specialties. Translated into English they no longer rhyme, but they sound delicious: “Garlic dipped noodles are hot, your tongue might be on fire.” Jason Wang, the younger half of the father and son team behind XFF once told me that he was a B-boy in college. Now it makes sense. Talk about local flavor!