We just tryin’ to eat.
This simple hustler’s credo has always been fundamental to the urban rags-to-riches story, which at its core is a fight to put a meal on the table, and to evolve from canned sardines to seafood towers. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that food has always had a place in rap lyricism. Yet reaching all the way back to Wonder Mike’s fumbling lines about dinner at a friend’s house on the seminal “Rapper’s Delight” (“I mean the macaroni’s soggy, the peas are mushed, and the chicken tastes like wood”), it’s remarkable how many ways MCs have found to slice and dice food references into their verses. Who would have thought that hip-hop would take it this far?
These days, Action Bronson reigns as the undisputed king of the culinary rap style, turning mixtape drops into food-blog fodder for the first time ever. But fans of food and hip-hop would be foolish to stop there: From Rakim’s oft-quotes bars about glazed donuts and fish, to the gonzo gastronomic obsessions of avante-garde MCs like Ghostface and MF DOOM, the grub references committed to wax go well beyond a zeitgeist-y shout out to Eataly. There are poetic odes to the humble foods of the have-nots, boasts about crustacean- and champagne-fueled benders, coke-rap allegories that conflate cooking drugs with cooking meals, and even a whole subgenre of lyrical homages to Benihana. It’s a smorgasbord that no rap historian could possibly ignore.
We’ve tackled the greatest food-rap MCs of all time, whose entire body of work demonstrates a commitment to the subgenre. But here, we’re celebrating the hottest food-related lyrics, period. The clips are cued up so you can press play and listen the lines—this is rap after all, so delivery is crucial. We’ve also argued the case for each reference’s place in the pantheon, and trust us—we have heard Biggie’s “T-bone steak, cheese eggs, and Welch’s grape” line. It’s not that hot.