Girls, cars and jewelry are well-documented tropes of hip-hop, but anyone who listens to enough rap knows that eating is one of the genre's most pervasive obsessions. From the Sugarhill Gang to Drake, MCs have demonstrated a constant urge to document what's on their plate. Sometimes, food is used as a cultural signifier to describe the rags-to-riches journey, which might start with Hamburger Helper but end with filet mignon. At other times it plays into metaphors of consumption, with artists such as Lil Wayne (who calls himself "the rapper eater") describing the ravenous manner in which they gobble up the competition. And that's not to mention all of the food-related slang in rap: cheese for money, beef for grudges and so on.
To survey the full breadth of culinary references in hip-hop, we've rounded up 50 of the lines that never fail to hit us in the gut. Did we miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment here, or holler at us on Twitter (@thefeednyc) using the hashtag #foodrap.
50. Ghostface Killah, "Apollo Kids" (Supreme Clientele, 2000)
The lyric: "Ayo, this rap is like ziti, facin' me real TV / Crash at high speeds, strawberry kiwi."
Ghost explained this enigmatic couplet in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: "The rap's good because it's like ziti, which was my best food back then. I threw 'strawberry kiwi' on because I'm into experimenting. I was thinking of a style to write without nobody knowing what I was saying except for me."
49. Big Daddy Kane, "Platinum Plus" (Big L's The Big Picture, 2000)
The lyric: "Come in the hood flippin' the chicken-and-broccoli Timbs."
Those would be brown-and-green Timberland boots, a must-have fashion accessory on the streets of late-'90s New York.
48. 50 Cent, "21 Questions" (Get Rich or Die Tryin', 2003)
The lyric: "I love you like a fat kid love cake."
Though purists balked at this corny line, Fiddyâ€”ever the shrewd marketerâ€”knew exactly what he was doing: turning a nation of teen girls into gangster-rap fans. It's safe to say that the line dominated the demographic's AIM away messages for much of 2003.
47. Kanye West, "Niggas in Paris" (Watch the Throne, 2011)
The lyric: "That shit cray, ain't it Jay? / What she order? Fish filet?"
We're not sure if this insta-meme boosted McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sales or sent them into a slump. Fertile ground for an infographic, it would seem.
46. Young Jeezy, "Put On" (The Recession, 2008)
The lyric: "Big wheels, big straps, you know I like it supersized / Passenger's a redbone, her weave look like some curly fries / Inside fish sticks, outside tartar sauce / Pocket full of celery, imagine what she telling me / Blowing on asparagus, the realest shit I ever smoked."
...and so on and so forth. Jeezy is a food-rap legendâ€”this snippet is merely a taster.
45. E-40, "Gouda" (My Ghetto Report Card, 2006)
The lyric: "Aye, I buy the weed man / Hella turkey bags just to put my weed in / Oh, we gettin' chalupa / Wrapped cheese in a rubber band and call it gouda."
It's safe to say that no rapper in history has known the name of more cheeses than E-40. If only he worked at Murray's.
44. The Notorious B.I.G., "Hypnotize" (Life After Death, 1997)
The lyric: "I can fill you with real millionaire shit: escargot."
If Biggie had written this song today, he might have replaced escargot with "omakase dinners at Masa."
43. LL Cool J, "Milky Cereal" (Mama Said Knock You Out, 1990)
The lyric: "Then there was Pebbles, times was rough / She was turning Trix, to get a Cocoa Puff."
LL sort of betrays the limits of his lyrical agility on this conceptual track, which is full of clunky puns on name-brand cereals. But there are a few choice lines, and we love the bizarre way in which he says "Cocoa Puff."
42. Childish Gambino, "That Power" (Camp, 2011)
The lyric: "MM..Food? like Rapp Snitch Knishes / Cuz it's Oreos, Twinkies, coconuts, delicious."
Here's some meta food rap for you: Gambino (also known as comedian Donald Glover) references the MF Doom album MM..Food? and its track "Rapp Snitch Knishes," then meditates on biracial identity via some gastronomic allusions of his own (Oreo, Twinkie and coconut are slurs for people who are said to be "white" inside despite the color of their skin).
41. Ludacris, "Southern Hospitality" (Back for the First Time, 2000)
The lyric: "Dirty South mind-blowing Dirty South bread / Catfish fried up, Dirty South fed."
Luda would later release an album called Chicken-n-Beer, but it was here that he established his love for Southern-fried delicacies.
40. Edan, "Beautiful Food" (Sprain Your Tapedeck, 2001)
The lyric: "I'm talking about Chicken la King / Mango and garbanzo / Tabouli / Grilled potatoes and vegetables / With roasted garlic and basil / Zucchini ziti / Granola fruit bar..."
This grocery-list--style joint from the Boston-based emcee is comprised solely of the names of different foods. To our knowledge, it is also the only rap song to ever feature a shout-out to tabouli.
39. Das Racist, "Rainbow in the Dark" (Shut Up, Dude; 2010)
The lyric: "I'm at White Castle, tiny-ass hamburgers, tiny-ass cheeseburgers, tiny-ass chicken sandwichesâ€”it's outlandish kid."
The duo behind the oddball hit "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" celebrate their fast-food fetish once again on this track. But don't pigeonhole them as lowbrow eatersâ€”later in the song, they hint at their refined tastes with the line, "We could eat the flyest cave-aged cheese for sheez, ma."
38. Rick Ross, "I Love My Bitches" (God Forgives, I Don't; 2012)
The lyric: "Am I really just a narcissist / 'Cause I wake up to a bowl of lobster bisque?"
Narcissist? Maybe. Fatso? Most definitely.
37. Cee Lo Green, "Soul Food" (Goodie Mob's Soul Food, 1995)
The lyric: "A heapin' helpin' of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and collard greens / Too big for my jeans."
Before he became a global megastar with hits like "Crazy" and "Fuck You," Cee Lo rapped about getting fat on delicious food in Atlanta.
36. Kelis, "Milkshake" (Tasty, 2003)
The lyric: "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard / And they're like, 'It's better than yours.'"
Love it or hate it, Kelis's euphemistic chorus has successfully cemented its spot in the pop lexicon.
35. Young Dro, "Grand Hustle Mafia" (Grand Hustle Presents: In da Streetz Volume 4; 2006)
The lyric: "What you know 'bout shark meat, perch and tilapia?"
That sounds like some big-boss pescatarian eatin' right there, Dro. But we're concerned about the rest of your diet: "Alligator, dog meat, caviarâ€”we mafia."
34. Lil' Bow Wow, "Take Ya Home" (Doggy Bag, 2001)
The lyric: "I got 'em scattered, covered, smothered like hash browns / See I'm the best just ask around."
Back when Bow Wow was still li'l, he paid homage to the famous hash browns at Waffle House, which you can get "scattered" (spread on the grill), "smothered" (with onions) and "covered" (with cheese).
33. The Streets, "Don't Mug Yourself" (Original Pirate Material, 2002)
The lyric: "Chatting shit, sitting at the wall table, telling jokes, playing with the salt, lookin' out the window / Girl brings two plates of full English over, with plenty of scrambled eggs and plenty of fried tomato."
Mike Skinner, the original don of geezer rap, refers here to a full English breakfast, which traditionally includes some combination of eggs, tomato, toast, sausage, mushrooms, bacon and baked beans.
32. Action Bronson, "Tapas" (Peter Rosenberg's What's Poppin Volume 1 Mixtape, 2011)
The lyric: "I'm on the art and the food scene / Fuck rap, laying back eatin' poutine."
After giving up cooking for music, Queens rapper Action Bronson has quickly become one of the most fecund practitioners of food rap, lacing songs like "Brunch" and "Jerk Chicken" with culinary references. He even dropped a mixtape called Bon Appetit...Bitch!!!!!
31. Fat Boys, "All You Can Eat" (Krush Groove Original Soundtrack, 1985)
The lyric: "$3.99 for all you can eat / Well, I'm a stuff my face to a funky beat."
If this video is any indication, Sbarro used to be the greatest restaurant in New York.
30. Fabolous, "You Ain't Got Nothin' " (Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, 2008)
The lyric: "My lil' man is on ya, Marlon and Shawn ya / Lay the beef on his noodle / Make some luger lasagna / 40-cal fettuccine, trey-pound pasta / You reach for this medallion, you must like Italian."
Guns made out of pasta sound like a gangster Giuseppe Arcimboldo painting. Side note: On the same track, Juelz Santana reminds us to never invite him to a cocktail party with the line, "Haven't you all heard? / Y'all all herbs (yep) / I stick toothpicks (where?) / In y'all hors d'oeuvres." Cheeky bastard!
29. MF Doom, "Beef Rapp" (Mm.. Food, 2004)
The lyric: "Beef rap could lead to getting teeth capped / Or even a wreath for ma dukes on some grief crap / I suggest you change your diet / It can lead to high blood pressure if you fry it."
The masked indie rapper crafted this entire indie albumâ€”an anagram of the name MF Doomâ€”around food-inspired samples (including "Would You Like a Snack?" by Frank Zappa) and lyrical references. Other tracks include "Hoe Cakes," "Fillet-O-Rapper" and "Kon Queso."
28. Puff Daddy, "It's All About the Benjamins" (No Way Out, 1997)
The lyric: "Yeah, living the raw deal, three-course meal / Spaghetti, fettuccini and veal."
Six years later, Diddy would put all that carbo-loading to good use by running the New York City Marathon.
27. Jay-Z, "Go Crazy" (Young Jeezy's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, 2005)
The lyric: "More than a hustler, I'm the definition of it / Master chef, lord of the kitchen cupboard."
Sure, Jigga's talking about cooking crack, not duck confit. Nonetheless, we appreciate his Gordon Ramsay-like vigor behind the burner. If only he would lay down a verse over some "buttery biscuit base."
26. Method Man, "Ice Cream" (Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, 1995)
The lyric: "Watch these rap niggas get all up in your guts / French vanilla, butter-pecan, chocolate deluxe / Even caramel sundaes is getting touched / And scooped in my ice cream truckâ€”Wu tears it up."
Fun fact: That guy in the background yelling, "The ice cream man is coming!" is Eddie Murphy.
25. Talib Kweli, "Back Up Offa Me" (The Beautiful Struggle, 2004)
The lyric: "Tried to tell you not to fuck with these debutantes / That's more Kobe beef than Japanese restaurants."
In the wake of Kobe Bryant's 2003 sexual assault case, Talib reiterates some oldie-but-goodie advice.
24. Ice Cube, "It Was a Good Day" (The Predator, 1992)
The lyric: "No barkin' from the dog, no smogâ€”and momma cooked up breakfast with no hog / I got my grub on but didn't pig out, finally got a call from this girl I want to dig out."
Best. Day. Ever.
23. Lil Wayne, "6 Foot 7 Foot" (Tha Carter IV, 2011)
The lyric: "Paper chasin', tell that paper, 'Look I'm right behind ya' / Bitch, real Gs move in silence like lasagna."
Is Lil Wayne employing metonymy here, using lasagnaâ€”a dish associated with Italian gangstersâ€”to represent the mob as a whole? Or does he just not realize that the g in lasagna isn't actually silent? (Or maybe it is silent?) These are the questions that keep us awake at night.
22. Big Pun, "Banned from TV" (Endangered Species, 2001)
The lyric: "Champagne on the rocks, rockin' a Fort Knox Lazarus / Shark salad with carrots, pork chops and applesauce."
Further evidence that Big Pun would eat absolutely anything.
21. Roots Manuva, "Witness (1 Hope)" (Run Come Save Me, 2011)
The lyric: "Right now, I see clearer than most / I sit here contented with this cheese on toast."
Other rappers obsess over caviar dreams and how many bottles of Ciroc are at the table. But Roots Manuva is happy with the simplest of English comfort foods: some melted cheddar, a piece of toast and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Lovey jubbly.
20. Snoop Dogg, "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" (Dr. Dre's The Chronic, 1992)
The lyric: "Falling back on that ass, with a hellafied gangsta lean / Getting funky on the mike, like a old batch of collard greens."
File next to kombucha, Dr. Dre beats and fermented pork sausage at Zabb Elee on the list of stuff that's funky.
19. Guerilla Black, "Compton" (Guerilla City, 2004)
The lyric: "Keep my enemies on IV, once I toast them / Just like my bagels / Have 'em like Christians over they head, smoking halo."
We could never figure out if this was some sort of subversive commentary on Jewish-Christian relations. Unfortunately, Guerilla Black's flash-in-the-pan career didn't provide further opportunity to dig into his religious views.
18. Necro, "Food for Thought" (The Pre-Fix for Death, 2004)
The lyric: "You're lost in the sauce as it clogs your vessels / I'll undo the blouse of your spouse and give her my house special / My raps are hot and sour, they choke you / You make no moves like a vegetable, you're fake like tofu."
Horrorcore legend Necro reimagines the local Chinese joint as a hellish torture chamber, where fortune cookies read: "Very soon in the future you'll vomit green."
17. Jay-Z, "Maybach Music 2 (Lost Verse)"
The lyric: "Six-deuce every time, I never had the Heinz / Fifty-seven can't ketchup [catch up] to mines."
This clever double entendre requires some unpacking: The Maybach 57 and 62 are models of Mercedes-Benz's most luxurious line of cars. Jay-Z calls the 57 "the Heinz," referring to the Heinz 57 slogan found on ketchup bottles. The 62, which he prefers, is referred to here as the "six-deuce."
16. Dead Prez, "Be Healthy" (Let's Get Free, 2000)
The lyric: "I'm from the old school, my household smell like soul food, bruh / Curried falafel, barbecued tofu."
Ignore the part about smoking ganja, and this ode to healthy eating provides a great rebuttal to critics who say rap music is a bad influence.
15. The Sugarhill Gang, "Rappers Delight" (Sugarhill Gang, 1980)
The lyric: "Have you ever went over a friend's house to eat and the food just ain't no good? / I mean the macaroni's soggy, the peas are mushed, and the chicken tastes like wood."
In his verse from hip-hop's foundational posse cut, Wonder Mike describes that awkward experience of going to someone's house and trying to weasel out of eating a crappy meal.
14. Drake, "The Ride" (Take Care, 2011)
The lyric: "And you do dinners at French Laundry in Napa Valley / Scallops and glasses of Dolce, that shit's right up your alley."
While most new-money rappers are still talking about surf and turf and bottle service, Drizzy separates himself from the pack with this knowing nod to Thomas Keller's haute-cuisine temple. We'd love to know if the French Laundry sommelier really recommended that Dolce for the scallops.
13. Fat Tony, "U Ain't Fat" (RABDARGAB, 2010)
The lyric: "I was once a chubby brat / Chillin' with my mom, buying jeans off the husky rack / Skipping collard greens and beans for a Kit Kat."
If you've got food issues, here's your theme song. Houston-based rapper Fat Tony raps frankly about his body-image struggles, and in the video finds himself hallucinating about a waiter with a face made of pizza and a store clerk with Kit Kats for hands.
12. Kanye West, "Last Call" (The College Dropout, 2004)
The lyric: "Mayonnaise-colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips."
While plenty of hip-hop heads have questioned Kanye's lyrical dexterity, this witty bit of wordplay had everyone pressing rewind on his debut album. Whips refers to cars, while miracle may be a reference to the near-fatal crash that 'Ye survived in 2002.
11. Inspectah Deck, "House of Flying Daggers" (Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Part II, 2009)
The lyric: "I pop off like a mobster boss / Angel hair with the lobster sauce."
We might go with linguine when enjoying a nice lobster sauce, but we know better than to mess with the Wu-Tang Clan.
10. Run-D.M.C., "Christmas in Hollis" (A Very Special Christmas, 1987)
The lyric: "It's Christmas time in Hollis, Queens / Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens."
Hip-hop's finest contribution to the Christmas song canon includes a rundown of Run-D.M.C.'s preferred holiday spread.
9. De La Soul, "Bitties in the BK Lounge" (De La Soul Is Dead, 1991)
The lyric: "Well, it was a Wednesday, me and Boss Hog was kinda hungry / Like two eggs, and a slop beef slice of lettuce / And a glass of milk and some cookies."
This fine example of storytelling rap recounts the perils of hollering at women in a Burger King.
8. Jay-Z, "Success" (American Gangster, 2007)
The lyric: "How many times can I go to Mr. Chow's, Tao's, Nobu? / Hold up, let me move my bowels."
In chronicling the nihilism of fame and wealth, Mr. Carter wonders how much fine dining one man can stomach. #rapperproblems
7. Cam'ron, "Wet Wipes" (Killa Season, 2006)
The lyric: "Had a drunken mind, club wobbled out / Next stop: Start trouble inside the Waffle House."
It's tough to choose just one foodie reference from the man who once referred to himself as "the sushi king," but this example remains an all-time favorite. Taken in the context of "Killa Cam," on which he calls himself "the hooligan at Houlihan's," it's clear that Cam'ron is a restaurant manager's worst nightmare.
6. Juelz Santana, "S.AN.T.A.N.A" (The Diplomats's Diplomatic Immunity 2, 2004)
The lyric: "I ain't here to wine ya / I ain't here to dine ya / I came here to pop ya / And I came here for lobster / The whole damn shebang, and they ain't bring the pasta."
This video always makes us feel a little sorry for Juelz: Even in the trattoria of his wildest dreams, he can't get good service. Get this guy to a Danny Meyer restaurant, stat.
5. Nas, "Fried Chicken" (Untitled, 2008)
The lyric: "Mmm, fried chicken, fly vixen / Give me heart disease but need you in my kitchen."
This love letter to deep-fried fowl is perhaps the best high-concept food rap of all time. Nas and Busta Rhymes both deliver well-crafted verses about how the food they love the most is killing them.
4. Slick Rick, "Mona Lisa" (The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, 1988)
The lyric: "I went into a store, to buy a slice of pizza / And bumped into a girl, her name was Mona (what?) Mona Lisa."
Eminem gives Slick Rick's old-fashioned courtship a more sinister spin on "As the World Turns," when he raps, "I met a slut and said, 'What up, it's nice to meet ya / I'd like to treat ya to a Faygo and a slice of pizza.'"
3. Beastie Boys, "3 the Hard Way" (To the 5 Boroughs, 2004)
The lyric: "Oops, gotcha, clutch like Piazza / Sneak between the sheets so hide the matzo / Holler back challah bread...next."
Thanks to the Beastie Boys, Jewish foodstuffs like matzo and challah found their way into the rap vocabulary.
2. A Tribe Called Quest, "Ham 'N' Eggs" (People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1990)
The lyric: "I don't eat no ham and eggs, 'cause they're high in cholesterol / Ayo, Phife do you eat 'em? No, Tip do you eat 'em? / Uh-uh, not at all."
If you yearn for the days when a rapper could say, "asparagus tips look yummy, yummy, yummy" and still sound dope, this is the track for you.
1. Rakim, "Eric B. Is President" (Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full, 1987)
The lyric: "You scream I'm lazy, you must be crazy / Thought I was a donut, you tried to glaze me."
Rakim is likely the most oft-quoted MC in hip-hop history, and this line ranks among his most memorable.