There’s no shortage of rappers who incorporate food into their work. Most notably, onetime chef Action Bronson sprinkles his tracks with references to fine dining, even spinning those interests into a Viceland TV show called Fuck, That’s Delicious. But there’s no other rapper who uses food as a springboard for exploring broader concepts quite like Chicago rapper Clinton Sandifer, who performs and records as ShowYouSuck.
Food isn’t necessarily the first thing you might notice about Sandifer, who has a slightly Southern lilt and raps with a commanding flow that’s both aggressive and playful. His songs regularly nod to hardcore punk, Houston rap, and cartoons—something that’s made him something of an anomaly in a hip-hop city that’s recently birthed sinister drill superstar Chief Keef, gospel-pop phenom Chance The Rapper, and scores of others. But Sandifer’s music is also rife with references to clam chowder, Big Gulps, corn dogs, salad, waffles, and—most notably—pizza. These passing mentions of food can enrich his songs with a sense of euphoria or melancholy, where a one-liner about calzones can reveal multiple, subliminal narrative layers.
In 2011, Sandifer released his first full-length mixtape, One Man Pizza Party. “It has a double meaning,” he explains to The A.V. Club. “The more obvious one is ‘This guy’s a really good time.’ Pizza parties are really fun, and if myself is a pizza party then I must be a good time… It was always a good thing if your parents took you to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and that’s synonymous with pizza. In my household, it was always the Friday night meal, the meal that capped off the week. It’s always had a really positive connotation in my life, and it pretty much started from childhood and school. It was always used as a reward.
“But the other end of that is parties usually have multiple people, ” Sandifer continues. “If it’s one person then that’s kind of also a sad thing. A lot of the songs go between things being a really good time, or there are songs about being a loner. So it plays to both ends.”
That thematic connection has since played out across three more OMPP mix-tapes, in addition to a couple of odds-and-ends collections called Loose Slices, plus several one-off tracks that casually reference pies. That’s not to mention the 6-foot slice Sandifer will occasionally bust out at performances (it’s made out of foam, not anything edible). In short, the man loves his pizza. And it and other foods continue to be a major ingredient in his music, whether it’s in his solo work or in Air Credits, his new group with mash-up masters the Hood Internet, whose first release, Broadcasted, is due at the end of October. In advance of that, Sandifer spoke to The A.V. Club about some of the many songs where food served as his creative inspiration.
Sample lyric: “Welcome to the bridge / This is food for thought / Welcome to the fridge / Don’t touch the Little Hugs / Those are for the kids / You can have what you want / Just don’t binge / When you’re done be courteous / Clean up your spills / If food was money / I guess I got meals / I guess I got cheese / I guess I got dough.”
Sandifer: You kinda welcome them to this world, right? There are certain things that really aren’t for you in here, but there’s totally some things that are. There’s some limits here. When I’m saying, “Welcome to the fridge,” it’s kinda like, “Welcome to all this cool shit that you can feast on.” I’m rapping about all this awesome shit that you can listen to as much as you want—but, like, the Little Hugs are those little quarter-drinks, juices that have the tin-foil top. If you go to your nearest corner store you can always find these. They come in blue, orange, red—they’re shaped like little barrels. Usually if you go to a black family reunion, there’s a cooler full of those, but those are only for the kids. If you’re an adult and if you drink one of those, it’s kinda looked down upon.
All in the middle, that was just about being naturally courteous in life. “I guess I got cheese / I guess I got dough,” that’s more me being literal, ’cause I’m rapping about a fridge. Also in rap, they call money “cheese,” “dough,” and all that shit. So I’m just making a regular rap line, but I actually mean it in the literal sense.
Sample lyric: “If you like clam chowder, then this is beef stew / If you’re vegan we’re gonna treat you to cubes of tofu / Some tracks of stir-fry and some callaloo”
Sandifer: Callaloo, it’s a Jamaican soup [Editor’s note: It’s closer to a side dish than a soup]. I learned about it from The Cosby Show; they had a whole episode based around callaloo. Cliff Huxtable and Clair, on their honeymoon, they went to this Jamaican restaurant, and for their anniversary, Cliff wanted to recreate the restaurant in their home. So he flew in the chef from Jamaica, and he wanted the callaloo soup, but the chef didn’t cook with meat anymore—he was trying to force tofu upon him. That’s how I referenced tofu with callaloo.
Sample lyric: “Party ain’t a party if the party ain’t here / And a sandwich ain’t a sandwich without the Miracle Whip”
Sandifer: That was a throwback to Miracle Whip commercials, ’cause that slogan hadn’t been used since, like, the late ’90s. It’s really cool when there are people who get that line. It means they’re old, like me. That was really it: ending with the reference of an old-ass commercial. There’s really no super-huge significance to it. It was just kinda like a “Wow, did he say that?”
The A.V. Club: How do you feel about Miracle Whip?
Sandifer: I like it a lot. It’s not my go-to choice, but they had the best branding, and I’m all about whoever has the best branding.
Sample lyric: “Now I’m trying to diet / Where the salad at? / Passin’ on the croutons / Watchin’ ThunderCats”
Sandifer: I had started dieting for a while, and the first thing I had going into that was a salad. I wasn’t such a huge fan of croutons then, but I am now. So naturally, part of my days was eatin’ salad and watchin’ ThunderCats. That was real-life raps. Before learning about health and shit, I feel like that’s what people learn is the healthy thing to eat: a salad. I feel like the proper jump-off was a salad. I feel like that was an awesome way to start off a rap song.
AVC: Do you remember what kind of salad you’d made?
Sandifer: It was from McDonald’s, so it was still terrible. But in my mind I started the right way.
Sample lyric: “I’m medicated, self-medicated / No salad here, just greasy slice / My homie out west poppin’ pills / At the same time mixin’ oatmeal / Well I pass on it, just pass on it / My calorie intake is unreal / My tolerance to heartbreak is unreal”
Sandifer: It’s all about self-medicating a break-up with food, and also referencing that the people around me are heavy drug users. I’m not into that, but I still have my own, very intense vice at the same time. Also that song is referencing “25 Lighters,” which is a really famous song from Houston that’s also about drug use. It’s just basically a song about addiction and drug use, but also referencing the kind of drug use you’d usually hear in a rap song.
Sandifer: That was actually the first video where I wrote the treatment shot-by-shot. I wrote that video on a really early morning, and it was made to the style of Royal Tenenbaums or Life Aquatic—definitely highly Wes Anderson-influenced. I wanted a really dry video with a lot of tracking shots, and very literal with every line that I’m saying.
AVC: You’re rapping about Slurpees and Big Gulps. What’s your history with 7-Eleven drinks?
Sandifer: I feel like the same with most of Midwestern America: We go play basketball and then we’ll walk over to the 7-Eleven and get snacks, and a Slurpee is always part of that. Also, Slurpees are heavily tied to The Simpsons [Slushies] and Bart Simpson, which was another huge part of my life. You never hear someone rapping about them, and that’s kind of what my shit is about—rapping about shit I like that I’ve never really heard in rap music before.
Sample lyric: “Coke up or that Faygo / Shout out to them Juggalos”
Sandifer: I believe it was the few months before I put out One Man Pizza Party 3, I went on tour with Yelawolf, and quite a few of those dates resulted in me becoming very acquainted with Juggalos—specifically Boston, where I was told that I was given Juggalo protection. So every once in awhile I like to mention Juggalos in a rap, just because they gave me so much love when I was on my first nationwide tour.
AVC: What’s your own history with Faygo?
ShowYouSuck: I guess Faygo has always been around in my life, ’cause it’s been in corner stores. I never really drink Faygo all that much, and I didn’t know Faygo had such a connotation to it because of [Insane Clown Posse] until later in life. I just knew Faygo as that pop that was in corner stores all the time. I would drink pineapple, because that was the only pineapple soda I could get at the time—Crush didn’t start making pineapple till later. But I’ll take a pineapple Crush over pineapple Faygo all day.
Sample lyric: “Sip Slurpee from Big Gulp now that’s yo’ communion / An unholy union / If Satan made music produced by George Lucas / Now please pass the hummus”
Sandifer: The song is kind of a cult song, with the “Rad God” as sort of like an introduction into the cult, so to speak. [It’s] building on the culture I already built with all the songs that mention Slurpees: Naturally, if you come to the Church Of The Rad God, communion would be drinking from a Slurpee cup. The George Lucas line is if the sound was produced by George Lucas, it would be pretty loud—thinking about THX sound and all the Star Wars movies. That was a rap over-exaggeration. The hummus… I often like to rap three serious lines, like three lines that sound like really braggy rap lines, then end it with something very lighthearted. Like a line about eating hummus.
AVC: What is it about hummus?
Sandifer: It’s super-communal. There’s nothing aggressive about hummus, so I just wanted to end that very aggressive three lines with something unaggressive and kind of welcoming. Asking, “Please pass the hummus” is back to, like, “Welcome to the sharing circle,” this very calm, chill place.
Sample lyric: “AC/DC / Beef cooked angus / You call ’em calzones / I call ’em anus”
Sandifer: You ever watch Parks And Recreation at all? That’s a reference to how they shit on calzones, often. Ben, he’s always making calzones, and they’re like, “What the fuck?” I really don’t have a problem with calzones. You know a calzone isn’t pizza, but it’s still kind of the same making. So obviously if I’m a one-man pizza party guy, then I’m gonna shit on the thing that isn’t really pizza.
Sample lyric: “Candy cane trippin’ / They jelly, call ‘em Smuckers”
Sandifer: “Candy cane trippin’” is me being a rapper, so I wanna say a line that’s kinda rap-y. A lot of rappers, especially a lot of Houston shit, they talk about candy paint on cars—very vibrant paint colors. “They jelly, call ’em Smuckers,” it’s me making a reference to haters. In rap music, people make reference to haters all the time, but it’s still tied in with me mentioning candy. It’s just me doing my version of some really rap bravado shit.
AVC: Later in the song there’s the part where you rap, “Jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jam don’t shake like.”
Sandifer: Yeah, I wanted to do a bounce section. I’m really into New Orleans bounce music, and I wanted to use that section for some real bounce shit. Also the common line about ass shaking is “jelly don’t shake like that.” So I kind of incorporated all that to bounce music—shaking ass, jelly, and candy paint. It’s just all rap shit, all in this condensed area. The rest of that song isn’t very, like, rap-rap.
AVC: How much does Southern rap factor into your love of hip-hop?
Sandifer: Houston and New Orleans—mostly Houston, has the hugest influence on me as a rapper. It just made rap so cool, because everything Houston-based—and a lot of New Orleans, too—is slang-based rap, and that’s my favorite rapping. I learned so much from it, ’cause I have to use context clues to figure out what they’re talking about, and that’s my favorite way of figuring things out. I’m not huge on looking stuff up. From listening to Paul Wall and Scarface—even E-40 in the Bay—I have to use so many context clues to figure out what they’re talking about in their rap, and that’s just the funnest shit for me.
AVC: There’s a bunch of food bits in this video. There’s the Claymation skeleton eating pizza in the intro, the high school cafeteria food, the Icee, and then at the end the skeleton and his girlfriend sharing the pizza.
Sandifer: All those food references were totally, 100 percent on purpose. They were kind of like a callback to all previous songs. Whenever you see food in the “Daria” video, you can equate it back to a specific theme that I had running through my music before.
AVC: What’s the most subliminal bit of food in the video?
Sandifer: The Slurpee drink, ’cause it’s a reference that’s always been around, and through Slush Cult was the one that stayed around the longest—that’s the reference that’s stayed along longer than pizza, I think, really.
AVC: The pizza references here are actually a lot less prominent. Was that on purpose?
Sandifer: Um… yes. But only because I still had a bunch of songs that hadn’t been released that still reference pizza. Throughout time, I took those songs, took my vocals off of them, and gave them to other artists. There’s still one more that I am gonna release within the next month or so called “Fuck That Diet, Let’s Eat Some Pizza.” I’ve done it live pretty frequently, but I hadn’t released a studio version of it yet. I wouldn’t say I’m done with [pizza] necessarily. It’s definitely part of my art, and I may take breaks now and then, it may come back in some different form or way, but I think it’ll always be around.