By Chanté Griffin
Good music will cause you to smile and dance without thinking. So will good food. Just in time for the holidays, here are songs from our favorite artists that’ll make you groove and leave you reaching for a plate of food.
“Soul Food” - Good Mob
Goodie Mob’s “Soul Food” reminds us how soul food got its name. The group raps about the comfort that soul food provides: respite from discrimination and embrace in a world that constantly tries to keep us down.
Soul food is the art of turning nothing into something delicious, of transforming racism’s leftovers into a delectable feast.
Fast food got me feeling sick
Them crackers think they slick
By trying to make this bullshit affordable
I thank the Lord that my voice was recordable
In contrast, soul food is portrayed as the food that nurtures the mind, body, and soul:
A heaping helping of fried chicken
Macaroni and cheese and collard greens
Too big for my jeans
Smoke steams from under the lid that's on the pot
Ain't never had a lot but thankful for
The little that I got why not be
Somber yet uplifting, the song boasts a steady beat and a heavy bass. You can’t help but nod your head in agreement. It’s the type of song you play when you’re driving home from work after a trying day, or after you’ve heard about another racist incident: the police being called on a black girl trying to sell lemonade or on black folks just trying to barbecue. The song reminds you that somebody’s got your back—an uncle, cousin, mama, or auntie. When you get home, somebody will have a plate ready for you.
Come and get yo' soul food, well well
Good old-fashioned soul food, all right
Everythang is for free
As good as it can be
Come and get some soul food
“Collard Greens & Cornbread” - Fantasia
Is anybody’s love better than yo’ mama’s collard greens and cornbread? What about her sweet potato pie? According to R&B songstress Fantasia, the love that she’s found ranks right up there with her mama’s best dishes.
Sampling Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Your Precious Love,” this song finds Fantasia belting out praise for the one who’s making her so crazy in love. With her unique, gospel-infused singing style, Fantasia proclaims:
I ain't gonna lie
Boy you got me out of my mind
I go crazy when you love me
Got me acting a mess
Even got the nerve to say I'm better than my momma
Collard greens and cornbread yeah
Collard greens and cornbread yeah
Her longing for this man is so potent it makes you question the type of love she’s singing about: Is it THAT good or is it dysfunctional? Either way, it makes you hungry for a side of greens and cornbread.
“Cornbread Fish & Collard Greens” - Anthony Hamilton
Whereas Fantasia romanticizes the soul food analogy, Anthony Hamilton explicitly sexualizes it. His song introduces us to a woman who stands confidently in her sexuality. To satisfy her, Hamilton knows he’s gotta come with a full buffet: cornbread, fish, and collard greens. He serenades her:
Cornbread, fish, and collard greens
I got what you need
If you want it (cause I'm pimp, girl)
If you want it (I'm a pimp, girl)
Although I would have hoped that all artists would have outgrown using the word “pimp” in their lyrics by now, the word’s connotations weaken because he’s slinging “food” and because he gives the woman a choice:
If you want it
If you want it
Hamilton makes it clear that she is the one ultimately in control.
The upbeat tempo boasts a strong beat and bassline that invites you to rock your pelvis back to front, side to side. Hamilton sings with the swag of a man with who is certain that he has what we need. And by the end of the song, I’m hungry. I’m swinging my hips back and forth, snaking my body, and admitting—yes, yes I do want your cornbread, fish and collard greens.
“Family Reunion” - Jill Scott
Jill Scott’s “Family Reunion” is a mid-tempo celebration of food and family that compels you to tap your feet and bob your head.
Scott poetically paints the picture of her family gathering for its reunion. There’s the typical drama: family secrets, spats, and folks in recovery. But what cements them together, besides the bonds of family, is the food. Scott sings:
Neicey made her famous potato salad, somehow it turns out green
Maybe it's all the scallions, could be the celery
But oh, Uncle Jerome loves it
This description of Neicey’s potato salad reminds me of my mom’s potato salad that I can’t get enough of: mounds of potatoes mixed with eggs, scallions, and celery, meshed with mayo and sweet pickle relish. Uncle Jerome’s celebration of that imperfect salad reminds me of family’s willingness to embrace us through most anything.
Oh shit, Damn Micky and Steven are fightin' again
Move out the way, somebody might get hurt
Aw look at that what happen is worst
They knocked over Helenora's Lemon Cake (Em)
You know the one she barely ever makes
I'm gettin' rilled up, I want them to go
But Somebody turn Frankly Beverly on the stereo
Cousin Ruby starts rockin', shaker her good hip and bottom
So we all fall into place, smiling and laughing
Despite the scuffle and the loss of the cake, all is good. There’s always enough food and love prepared.
So grab a plate, turn up the music, and groove.