Gumbo From The Soul: The Recipe For Hip-Hop

To me, good music and good food go hand in hand. In my home, Sunday morning’s main priority is what are we going to listen to while we eat breakfast. The music has to match whatever I’m cooking. If it’s something light like a stack of pancakes, I might play some Miles Davis or Coltrane. You know, something as easy on the ears as pancakes are easy on the stomach. If I’m cooking something heavy like steak, eggs, potatoes, grits, & toast with some OJ on the side; yes, your mans gets down like that on Sundays, then I’ll play some Fela. I need that heavy, afro beat to get me through that kind of meal.

I grew up knowing that dinner was family time. I spent many summers living with my grandmother in Gaston, North Carolina. This woman had raised and raised 11 children and countless grand children in her lifetime. She dealt with the good, the bad, and the ugly. She was the kind of woman who cooked dinner every night and made sure that whoever was around the house at the time, sat at the table together and ate. It was somewhat of a meeting to reflect on the day with your loved ones. Dinner was your time to relieve whatever frustrations and stresses that you had that day. Your elders would provide advice and guidance so that tomorrow comes around, you’d be better prepared to deal with whatever came your way.

Grandma Bayo’s at home in Gaston, North Carolina

Now for me, music served this same purpose. It has always been my personal form of therapy. My iTunes library is my recipe book filled with delicious meals to feed my soul and rid me of transgressions. It’s packed with almost 30,000 “ingredients” from all over the world. I have soulful, deep fried meals from artists like Al Green, Bobby Womack, & Isaac Hayes. Man, I got some funky joints from the JBs, Parliament, and Sly Stone that will piss your neighbors off. I got some smooth, creamy meals like the Isley Brothers and Marvin for when I am blessed enough to have the company of a woman. Oh, and for those times that a woman leaves me too love sick to even eat, I inherited my father’s brown liquor cabinet full of the blues from Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Take my advice though, drink responsibly.

Heavyweight funk

I have to say though, the best recipe that I have is my gumbo. Gumbo, to me, is the most beautiful mixture of flavors that could be created. The list of ingredients is EXTENSIVE. You can have an endless mixture of seafood, pork, chicken, veggies, grains, herbs, and spices all thrown together in a big black pot. It takes patience to cook this meal. You have to prepare all of your ingredients and slow cook them to ensure that all of the flavors are just right. Don’t let that scare you, though. You have to embrace that challenge because when it’s done and its time eat, Lord have mercy. 
That’s how I feel about Hip Hop. It is the perfect concoction made from all genres of music. You got funky drum breaks, chopped up soul samples, the lyrical content of the blues, and the gritty attitudes of rock music all served up for our enjoyment.

You have plenty of master chefs in hip hop who have spent years mastering their craft and blessing us consumers. You got guys with heavy, boom bap recipes like Premo & Pete Rock. You got more mild, smooth cats like Q-Tip & Ohbliv. Then you got guys that might throw a whole chicken foot in the pot like Madlib. You might look at it like it’s wild but give it a taste and I bet you’ll love it. You got sous chefs, the rappers, that will take those recipes and add their own herbs and spices to mix that take the whole pot to the next level. One of my favorites is Raekwon. Man, he’s always cooking up some marvelous shit to make ya mouth water.

Madlib “recipes”

Gumbo is somewhat of a MacGyver meal. Folks will take scraps, bits, and pieces of things that are just laying around, throw them together and make a delicious “trash pot.” That’s what makes it genius. Hip Hop is exactly like gumbo. It is an art form that takes the scraps or under appreciated parts of music and re-purposes them, makes them brand new. That kind of innovation deserves to be commended. It’s nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Don’t believe me? Grab your special Bonita Applebum and let A Tribe Called Quest serve you guys Ham N’ Eggs, some buttered verses from Phife, with some of Q-Tip’s soul on ice. You’ll most definitely be ready for some electric relaxation afterwards.

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