Nine Culinary Ventures By Hip-Hop Artists


Today, excitable Long Island-raised rap firebrand Flavor Flav will open his House Of Flavor restaurant in Las Vegas. The restaurant—which will have fried chicken and something called a “red velvet waffle” on the menu—is Flav’s second attempt to break into the food world, following the disastrous Flav’s Fried Chicken experiment in Iowa. (In brief: It bombed, lasting for just four months, and also stoked the ire of his Public Enemy partner Chuck D.) But Flav’s far from alone in deciding that sometimes the rap game reminds him that he’s, well, just very very hungry. Here’s a guide to the new rap food movement.

9. City Island Express
Last year Fat Joe, in tandem with chef Mark Thomas —or “Chef Mark,” as Joe calls him —launched City Island Express, a Caribbean-inspired seafood restaurant up in his beloved Bronx that also claimed to be “home of the Fat Joe Lean Back burger.” According to Yelp, though, it’s since been shut down. “It was in a horrible spot. Oh well,” said the person reporting the shutter of the Gun Hill Road joint.

8. Hollis Famous Burgers
This burger joint wasn’t an official Run-DMC venture, but the restaurant-slash-mini-museum was given the thumbs-up by DMC. Situated in Hollis, where a young Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay took their formative steps, the walls of this spot were plastered with rap memorabilia from the trio and other Queens representers like LL Cool J and Ja Rule. But it seems that tax problems that forced a temporary closure last April have felled the establishment—the web site’s down, and the phone number’s been disconnected.

7. Rap Snacks
They might not have the cachet of Sabor de Soledad, but Romeo (formerly known as Master P’s rapping tyke Lil’ Romeo) has the hip-hop munchies game locked up since he purchased the Rap Snacks company in 2007. Bandying the potato product as “the official snack of hip-hop,” the brand’s history includes putting the grisly visage of Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the front of its sour cream and onion variety.

6. The Spotted Pig
Despite his high-falutin’ persona, Jay-Z has also confessed in rhyme that all he really wants is “some nice cooked food” (which he prefers to consume while wearing “some nice clean drawers”). It’s an ambition that he built on when he became a partner in the hip West Village gastropub The Spotted Pig—although Jigga’s yet to invoke head chef April Bloomfield’s name in verse.

5. Justin’s
Back when a fresh-faced P Diddy ruled the world—which wasn’t actually that long ago—he decided to diversify his bonds and open a restaurant. He called it Justin’s, after his first child. Alas, the spot closed in 2007, and he carted the whole shebang down to Atlanta. No idea if it employs any of those plucky Making The Band cheesecake warriors.

4. Chef Bronson
New Yorkers love Action Bronson, likely because he combines two things the city is obsessed with: hip-hop and food. Once a chef, he now drops exquisite rap projects that are heavy on references to poutine, breakfast oysters, and cooking ducks in wood-burning ovens. Bronsolino’s parents own a restaurant in the city that, understandably, he doesn’t want to name (he worked there for a while). In the meantime, you can satiate your appetite with his online series of instructional cooking videos!

3. Formula 50
The Vitamin Water brand of flavored drinks might not technically be food, but the sickly-tasting things have enough calories to warrant their own food group. And while most of the range manages to make Emergen-C taste palatable, 50 Cent’s own grape-based blend, Formula 50, hits a rare moment of flavor decorum. He’s since moved on to hawking Street King, an energy shot for which proceeds go to feeding children in Africa.

2. Straits Restaurant Atlanta
Ludacris may have titled an album Chicken & Beer, but he’s got some gourmand in him: Straits Restaurant Atlanta has been written up with gusto by Food & Wine for its Singaporean fare like chili lobster (“a fiery, garlicky riff on Singapore’s classic chili crab”). Okay, we’ll accept that Luda isn’t actually concocting the grub himself—that’s down to chef Chris Yeo—but he apparently has excellent taste.

1. Cookin’ With Coolio
What do you do after your career goes off the rails and you’re stuck being known as that guy who made that song in that Michelle Pfeiffer movie? If you’re Coolio, you indulge in your lifelong passion for cooking and launch an online series of cooking videos. Cookin’ With Coolio shows the rapper to be enthusiastic as he rustles up dishes like Swashbucklin’ Shrimp, Spinach Even Kids Will Eat, and Tricked-Out West-Side Tilapia. This May, Coolio—who’s also appeared on the Food Network’s Rachael Vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off—brings his culinary skills to the Great GoogaMooga food fest in Prospect Park. Can someone please make a Coolio vs. Bronson cook-off happen there?

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