Eddie Huang, celebrity chef, TV host and author of the memoir <em>Fresh Off the Boat</em>, is pretty sure that hip-hop saved his life when he was a bullied, racially “other” kid growing up in Florida. Even now, the influence is obvious in everything from his restaurant’s playlists to the cover of his book to his <em>Source</em>-esque wardrobe.
Here, he shares the top five albums that got him through his formative SPAM-launching/skateboarding/security fence-hopping years.
Camp Lo, Uptown Saturday Night
I can't even explain it — this album is just my a-alike. From the first time I heard it, I never stopped listening to it, every week. It doesn't even speak to me as literally as it does subconsciously. I've listened to this album over and over, but I think the flow on the tracks just taps into my idle mind. A lot of the lyrics are nonsensical, but Cheeba and Geechi just sound like two kids in high school, talkin' shit, and it transports me back to childhood.
Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die
Lyrically, this is my favorite album of all time (this and Illmatic). It's hard to say anything about B.I.G. that hasn't already been said. I related a lot to his story about coming up by any means, owning how he was a fat ass and still having more game than any pretty mofucker out there. "Heartthrob? Never! Black and ugly as ever! However, I stay Coogi down to the socks." I mean, peep the rhyme scheme, the swag, and the Coogi.
The Diplomats, Diplomatic Immunity
"Put your two arms up/ Touchdown." The Ramones ran downtown NY in the '80s from Forest Hills; Diplomats ran it in the '00s all the way from uptown.
Wu Tang Clan, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
I was never as proud to be Chinese as I was the day I heard Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). I was always a hip-hop head, but a lot of people tried to tell me I couldn't be part of the culture. When these brothers from Shaolin took over the game — with inspiration from Shaw Brothers Films — we felt like we belonged. THANK YOU, RZA.
People know OutKast post-Stankonia, for the most part, but down South we were bumpin' Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and ATLiens. Outkast was the defining group from the Field that repped for flip-flops and socks and sweatpants. This was the perfect album to smoke to, listening to André and Daddy Fat Sax drop knowledge about Jazzy Belles and Elevators.