‘Bon Appetizzle’: Exploring hip-hop’s rich and colourful history with food

The genre's music stars frequently reference food in their songs, but also own restaurants and feature in cooking shows

Host Ludacris makes chicken for Chef Meherwan, as seen on Luda Can’t Cook, Special 1..

Ludacris is the latest rapper to get busy in the kitchen

The hip-hop artist and Fast and the Furious actor stars in a one-off cooking show that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Now available on US broadcaster Discovery+ and in the Middle East through Starzplay next month, Luda Can't Cook finds the rapper, real name Christopher Bridges, donning the apron under the mentorship of award-winning Indian chef Meherwan Irani.

Through the one-hour special, Ludacris transforms his love for Indian food by learning the fundamentals of the cuisine. This includes choosing the right spice combinations, how to fry and braise, and making the perfect curry.

While it sounds quirky, the rapper's entry into the kitchen is no gimmick.

It is the latest serving of hip-hop’s rich relationship with the culinary world, an aspect already explored through music, television and social media.

Food for thought

Rappers dishing out lyrical bits on bites go as far back as the genre itself.

In Rapper's Delight, the 1980 single widely viewed as hip-hop's first hit, The Sugar Hill Gang member Wonder Mike recalls a bad dinner experience.

"Have you ever went over to a friend's house to eat and the food just ain't no good?” he raps. “I mean, the macaroni's soggy, the peas are mushed, and the chicken tastes like wood?"

Fellow rap pioneer Rakim found a sweeter way to boast about his street cred by referencing a pastry. In Eric B and Rakim's 1987 track Eric B. Is President he stated: "You scream I'm lazy, you must be crazy/ Thought I was a donut, you tried to glaze me."

Hip-hop entered popular culture from the mid-1990s, making millionaires out of artists and food increasingly became a business concern and a reference point for wealth.

In 1997 anthem It's All About the Benjamins, Puff Daddy looks at his dinner plate for confirmation that life is good. "Yeah, I'm living the raw deal," he says. "Three-course meal: spaghetti, fettuccini and veal."

Incidentally, the mogul went on to launch his own line of fine-dining restaurants, formerly called Justin’s, with variations of those dishes featuring on the menu.

Perhaps, however, it was Big Ross who said it best with a 2012 song: “Am I really just a narcissist because I wake up to a bowl of lobster bisque?”

The rapper also went into the food game and bought 25 franchises of favourite fast food outlet Wingstop. Ross occasionally big-ups the brand in song by peppering references to his favourite menu items, such as the lemon pepper wings.

The ghetto gourmet

While the restaurant business went on to become a side hustle for many successful hip-hop artists, such as Nas’s Sweet Chick and DJ Khaled’s The Licking, one act found more success in the kitchen than the studio.

As he was becoming known as a one-hit wonder, Gangster's Paradise rapper Coolio traded the bandana for an apron and launched the 2008 book and accompanying web show Cookin' with Coolio.

Each episode finds the “ghetto gourmet” teaching us, in his in own bawdy style, how to concoct "five-star meals at a one-star price".

Episodes feature the Coolio Caprese Salad, the Coolio Fork Steak and that rare veggie dish: Spinach Even Kids Will Eat.

Not surprisingly, the funny show went viral in the hip-hop scene, transforming Coolio into a cult figure and, for extra-delicious irony, it also rebooted his music career.

Partly inspired by his success, other rappers went online to share their own cooking exploits.

Nicki Minaj showed she is also a boss in the kitchen by tweeting occasional creations that belie her Caribbean heritage, including seafood and curries.

Trick Daddy's Instagram account shows the Naan rapper is a whizz with a fryer, as he cooks up southern US treats ranging from conch fritters, ribs and blue crabs to scrambled eggs and grits.

Rev Run from Run DMC (Rev Run's Sunday Suppers) and Action Bronson went on to have their very own TV cooking shows, but the artist most responsible for making hip-hop an indispensable flavour of the culinary scene – and vice versa – is Snoop Dogg.

He teamed up with lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, and the odd pairing are currently ridging high in the ratings with the successful Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party.

Three seasons and 40 episodes later, the programme is a mix of food and talk show as celebrity guests sample dishes fusing Stewart's culinary expertise with Snoop Dogg's street smarts.

Each show comes with a theme such as "Getting Veggie with It", "Let’s Get Roasted" and "Bon Appetizzle".

So Ludacris's foray with Luda Can't Cook is not surprising. It is merely the next course in hip-hop's rich relationship with food – one as sweet as it is savvy.