09.19.2017
Kendrick Lamar
Damn

I was wrong about Damn. I heard the singles and wrote it off. "It sounds like he's given up and reaching for radio hits," I grumbled. "It doesn't hold a candle to has last two unimpeachable classics" I groused. "It's everything wrong with the current state of popular music," I whinged. Oh but then I listened to the damn thing. I already said I was wrong, what more do you want from me?


(1)
03.27.2016
Kendrick Lamar
untitled unmastered

There’s this whole contingent of music writers who refuse to accept Kendrick Lamar as our lord and savior. I understand them, but I don’t understand them. And it’s not an uninformed bunch. It’s hip hop dudes (albeit, probably like, white academic hip hop dudes who listened to Wu Tang growing up and wrote their doctorate theses on “Violence and Jewish Identity in Mobb Deep’s The Infamous”). They seemingly know their stuff? And yet there’s this uncomfortable unwillingness to give Kendrick Lamar his due. I almost feel like they want to fight off dudes like, well, me, who come in as outsiders who don’t really follow their world much, don’t care which mixtape Young Thug just released, have no idea who Lil Boosie is, and suddenly proclaim Kendrick (oh, sorry… “K Dot”) the contemporary master of the art form. I get it. We’re annoying. Kind of how I felt back when the Arcade Fire became a Thing. I had to be like, “Okay, calm down everybody” and then check out for a couple album cycles. But still—what’s their problem? The dude is great. He has things to say. He has a multitude of ways to say those things. His voice is a multi-instrument ensemble. He’s extraordinarily thoughtful, but still funny and surprising. His taste in collaborators and beats and arrangements is impeccable. What’s not to like? He’s the best. And this untitled unmastered proves it; it’s a collection of “unfinished” recordings not good enough to make his last album, and it’s possibly the best hip hop album of the year. I’m sorry hip hop music writer dudes. It’s real.

04.01.2015
Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly

Speaking of geniuses: Kendrick Lamar. This guy is the best rapper currently rapping. His lyrics are sharp and thoughtful and gut-punching. His delivery is dramatic and honest and musical. His choice in producers and collaborators is impeccable, and their work is seamless and progressive. To Pimp a Butterfly (as well as M.a.a.d. City) is an host-to-god work of capital-A Art. It should be playing on repeat in a museum somewhere. It's incredible. And it's no fun at all.

11.28.2012
Kendrick Lamar
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Either I've been totally brainwashed by the tsunami of critical acclaim this Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City record has been getting, or else I'm fully convinced that it is seriously work of capital-a Art. I can't decide. But for now I'm going with Art. The lyrics, the delivery, the production, even the between-song skits (!) all come together in a way that is rare in the rap world and form something that is way bigger than the sum of its parts. There are no singles, no real hooks, nothing to play at a party. But it has this energy and narrative to it that's like reading a good book, or watching a great movie. And a legitimately emotionally jarring ending! When's the last time you've been moved by the ending of a rap album? Pretty amazing. Now I just need to get over the fact that he aped his style from Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, and I'm totally on board.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
Church Avenue Deli CorpBrooklyn
Bacon egg and cheese on a roll

There are two things you need to do to officially become a Real New Yorker. One, you have to carry around a New Yorker canvas tote bag. You know the one. Second, you have to eat a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from a local bodega. This second one, I finally did, at my local unnamed generic Deli & Grocery. (Their official legal name is Church Avenue Deli Corp, which is what it says in small letters in their window, so for the sake of keeping this music and food blog impeccably organized on the back end, that's what I'm calling it). It cost me $3 (exactly) and tasted like bacon egg and cheese on a roll (exactly). That's all I have to say about it.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
LakruanaStaten Island
Sri Lankan buffet

The entirety of the Twin Cities contains one Sri Lankan restaurant. And I say "Twin Cities" because it's not even in Minneapolis or St. Paul, it's down in a strip mall in the boonies of Rosemount. Rosemount! In fact I think I've reviewed it on this very site. It's good. But I can't really compare it to other Sri Lankan restaurants because, like you may have read in the first sentence of this very paragraph, there are no other Sri Lankan restaurants in Minnesota to compare it to.

Meanwhile, just across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in cruddy old Staten Island—the dumbest borough—there are seven Sri Lankan restaurants to enjoy! That isn't to say that there are exponentially more in the rest of New York; Staten Island is actually home to a disproportionate percentage of the city's Sri Lankan population, therefore restaurants. And not just restaurants, but buffets! The most beloved of them—its presence whispered like fables amongst the intrepid food aesthetes of Brooklyn and Manhattan, rumors of spices and pastes unrivaled yet uneaten because how the fuck am I supposed to even get to Staten Island?—is Lakruana. An almost entirely inconspicuous place on the outside, just a Asian restaurant-y looking front door in the midst of electric supply stores and loose trash and who even knows what else, on the inside Lakruana is a fucking wonderland. Supposedly they've imported nearly everything in this place from Sri Lanka, from wire and rope chairs to wooden roof tiles, to cast iron pots with the buffet is actually served out of. I'd say the effect is "crazy" if that wasn't culturally xenophobic of me, so maybe I'll stick with "sensorially bounteous." Or rather, "It's a hoot." The food itself was quite good, because what little Sri Lankan food I've had is always quite good, and far richer and more varied than a lot of straight Indian food, but thinking back on it I don't really remember the details. But man was it a good trip to a Sunday buffet. I'd highly recommend checking it out if you have any idea how to get to Staten Island.

12.08.2018 - by Steve
Yummy TacoBrooklyn
Tacos

Oh man, I've been living in Brooklyn (did I mention I'm living in Brooklyn?) for over a month now and I realized I've only updated Music and Food once. I'm a busy man, okay! And also, there's just too much. I couldn't really cook for the first couple weeks, so I ate way too many meals out at way too many places, and I don't even want to start trying to M&F all of them. Which isn't to say this is some wonderland of the best food you've ever eaten on every block. In reality, it's just a place with some restaurants like anywhere else. There just happens to be so many people everywhere that there are so many restaurants and delis and cafes to feed them all. But what this really means is that there's mediocrity everywhere. Which I mean lovingly. Just regular weird "how does this place stay open?" food everywhere you look. Case in point: Yummy Taco. This is a taco joint, obviously, but one that is fully owned and operated by Chinese people, in the space which very obviously used to be a Chinese restaurant. As a relief from New York's many "real" Mexican places—which are surprisingly not very good, and deserving of an entire essay on their own—this is very much American Mexican. "Mom tacos," as a friend once called them. Flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce. I kinda love it. And for as weird as Yummy Taco is, weirder still: it's a chain. There's at least 4 other locations of this Chinese owned American Mexican restaurant. New York is weird.

11.08.2018 - by Steve
Blue Ribbon Fried ChickenManhattan
Fried chicken sandwich

Hey! Look! Music & Food is officially 10 years old! That's fucking weird, right?

I'd recommend you don't go back into the archives and find my first official post on here. It's an embarrassing misreading of Randy Newman's "Sail Away." But more than that, it's a hopeful and optimistic misreading of the state of America in 2008. I'd been working on building this new music and food blog as an outlet to practice some nascent coding skills, and it just so happened that the site was ready to launch just a couple days after the beautiful and magic election night, when we all felt great and the future was wide open. But now, exactly 10 years later, that beauty and magic has been gutted by people who hate beauty and magic. But also there's no such thing as magic.

And also, holy shit, I live in New York now?? And this is my first official New York food post! And it's Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, which I hit up while running an errand in the East Village (because I now run errands in the East Village). It looks delicious, and is stocked with a number of great looking hot sauces and honeys. But just like the magic of November 2008, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Mac and cheese was good though.