You know, as soon as you play somebody a song and put the beat on, their head starts nodding. You know exactly if they like it or not. Same thing goes with food. As soon as somebody gets that first fork full in their mouth and they make that MMM-Oh-My-God! face then you know you got something going.
Many people spend their entire lives searching for themselves, contemplating their cosmic significance. Who am I, what are my talents, what career is best for me? They read self-help books searching for answers and those secrets to success. I couldn’t even pretend to give you answers to those questions but one thing I do know is that sustainable, long-term self-growth comes more easily when you start out on the right trajectory. When you know what you want out of life, who you are, what your passions and goals are, you’re already two steps ahead of three-quarters of the planet. If you love what you’re doing, you already know what I mean. Some innate desire (or self-cultivated) got you to your happy place. You knew what you wanted and you went for it. That’s not the case for everyone. But that is the case for today’s featured artist. He found his passions early and was able to manifest two successful life journeys on one path.
Chef Jarobi White may be more familiar to you as the fourth member in A Tribe Called Quest. For the longest time all I knew about Jarobi was that he definitely didn’t eat ham and eggs and he had the coolest name of the group (I had two pet salamanders when I was younger and I named them Q-Tip and Jarobi). And then all of a sudden he started to make noise and get noticed as a skilled MC as 1/2 of the duo known as evitaN, with Dres from Black Sheep. And all this time he was making a name for himself as a culinary artist on top of that. He only wanted to do two things in life and he has achieved at a level in both that most people never reach with only one life goal.
I sat down and had a conversation with Jarobi and talked a bit about his life in music and his life in the kitchen. He’s already had a lifetime’s experience with both and from talking to him you get the sense that he’s just getting started. This is Chef Jarobi on his instinctive travels and the path of (b)eats, rhymes and life.
(Spoiler alert: he does eat ham and eggs)
What do you think is the correlation between food and creating music?
Well, they’re both art, first of all. And second of all, there are a lot of parallels like the instant gratification part of it. You know, as soon as you play somebody a song and put the beat on, their head starts nodding. You know exactly if they like it or not. Same thing goes with food. As soon as somebody gets that first fork full in their mouth and they make that MMM-Oh-My-God! face then you know you got something going.
What do you got cooking this days?
I’m doing things with my Eats, Rhymes and Life company right now. We’re doing events under the Eats, Rhymes and Life banner. What we’re into doing right now for the summertime – we’re doing a couple things: 1. Tribe Taco Tuesday every other Tuesday and 2. the summer series, the BBQ Summer Series.
Do you specialize in anything in the kitchen?
The style I like to cook in now – it may be an antiquated term but it’s kinda like an Asian-fusion. I like to put Asian and Southern style in my cooking right now. That’s how I feel now. Maybe it’ll change later, but that’s how I feel now.
Is there anyone that you would love to prepare a meal for?
Prince would be dope. I’d love to cook for Prince so I could sit there and pick his brain. I’d like to do a couple of my favorite comedians. Like Hannibal Buress, he seems like a laugh. Dave and Patrice O’Neal – that would be crazy to have a dinner, cook and have some laughs. That would be ridiculous.
What do you think you’d like to cook for them?
C’mon, fried chicken and grape juice. [laughs] No, I don’t know. I’d have to see their vibe. But I’d definitely want a well stocked kitchen. Part of it for me, the fun part, would be cooking while they’re standing here in the kitchen having a couple of drinks, laughing. Not to have something prepared. Part of the joy is the actual cooking.
Talk about the style and vibe of evitaN. It seems like you’re really trying to stay true to that Native Tongues feel.
We weren’t trying to do anything. We speak exactly what we feel, exactly what we’re going through. So, it’s very authentic. There’s no timeframe assigned to it. We’re just trying to make good music and it’s really important to express ourselves the way we’re feeling and not go outside of that. Me and Dres have been hanging out for the past 20 plus years so whenever we’re together it’s just bang, automatic. We usually like to have some good vibrations and a proper energy when we’re going in there. The energy is maybe the thing that makes us different from other artists. It’s like a family setting all the time.
Between music and making meals, is there one that you prefer over the other? What do you feel have been your biggest accomplishments?
Music is not something that I do for me, I don’t think. It’s something that’s inside me and I just need to get out and hopefully it’ll do something for somebody else. I have the highest respect for music, doing music, the artistry of music. And cooking as well. But I don’t do it for me. So, when you ask me about my biggest accomplishments and stuff like that, it’s really hard to say. I don’t think about it from a personal aspect. I’ve only wanted to do two things in life: cooking and music. I’ve been fortunate to do them at the level that I have. They are both definitely something that I feel inside of me. Just the look of satisfaction and doing something for other people. That gives me a little extra buzz. Improving on other people’s feelings, that’s dope.
I don’t get too much into astrology but both of us being Cancers I can see a lot of similarities in our personalities.
Yeah, we’re the parents of the Zodiac. Nourishing people, taking care of them, making sure they’re cool and stuff like that. It’s a big part of my personality that I’ve always had. I think a lot of Cancers are like that. The family values, the tight-knit family situation, having consistent friends and all of these things. It’s all a Cancer thing.
It also comes across in how we approach things and how we view ourselves. We’re a lot more content.
Yeah, a lot of people’s self worth are based on external things. Mine isn’t. I’m not motivated by those type of things. My self worth is definitely from self. Some people wanna be famous or wanna be cool or wanna be well liked. And that’s not really my thing – now don’t get me wrong, I think I’m the shit! I think I’m dope and allathat. But that has nothing to do with how I treat you and how I wanna be treated.
I get the sense that you prefer to feel out a vibe before committing to a menu, what you would make in certain situations. But I’m going to ask you what you might make in specific situations anyway. I know you’re really into Star Wars so, if you were preparing a meal for the various characters in the movie, what might you come up with? Like what would you make for Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia?
Well, for any of those rebels it would probably be poison. No, I’m just kidding. [laughs] For Darth Vader, I’d make him something hot and spicy. For Leia? I don’t know why but for some reason I’m thinking lasagna. Let’s see. For Darth Maul, I’d make him some babyback ribs. [laughs] I don’t know. It’s kind of difficult.
What about your Tribe family? What might be on the menu for those guys?
Besides the music aspect of A Tribe Called Quest, these have been my buddies since I was like 12-13 years old so I’ve been cooking for these dudes all my life. At this point Tip and Phife are really, really, really good cooks. And to be honest with you, when I go to Tip’s house I let him cook. I let him cook because I enjoy eating too and I look for people to cook for me as well. When I go I tend to go in the kitchen and try and take over but its’ kinda nice to get a meal cooked for you sometimes. Especially when people can do it well. These guys, we eat a lot of fish. A lot of fish and a lot of vegetables. We eat really healthy and really well.
What other types of food do you try to gravitate towards?
Flavor profiles. I’ll think of a theme. If it’s cold outside I’m going to want some warm flavors, I’m going to want some heat, some cumin, some earthy things. Maybe lean towards a Mediterranean vibe. If it’s super hot outside, I might make a little ceviche, or some salads, avocados, something cooling. Also, you have to see what’s in season because that’s really important too.
Are you at all concerned with organics and non-GMO’s or anything like that?
Oh gosh, yeah. Whenever it’s possible try not to eat any genetically modified stuff, man. If at all possible.
So, do you frequent farmer’s markets?
Absolutely. That’s why I was specifying what’s in season. That’s very important and it’s the easy way to kind of shy away from genetically modified stuff. Because when you pick something in season and it’s locally grown, you’re environmentally responsible for a number of reasons. One, you’re only supposed to eat what’s grown in your area. Two, you’re cutting down the gas consumption because there’s not a truck driving and then refrigeration. It saves energy. And just for your body’s sake. For nature’s sake. It’s better for you to eat what’s in season now.
Is there anything that you try to avoid?
Nothing. I eat everything. Pork included. I don’t eat it everyday or every week or whatever but I don’t have those limitations. There’s isn’t anything that I really don’t like. Durian seems to be something that everybody can’t get into. It wasn’t that bad. It’s a very stinky fruit from Asia. Insects, raccoon, possums, squirrel, snake – I’ve eaten all that crap.
Dounuts and hot dogs. A doughnut in front of me…hot dogs, I love hot dogs. And black and white cookies.
No. They’re from New York. They’re like half vanilla, half chocolate. They’re like a cake cookie.
Who are the artists that you’re most excited to see new releases from? You’re buying their project the day it drops, no matter what.
J*Davey. Ghostface. He’s my favorite MC. Sean Price. J.Cole is on that list.
If I asked you to put together a 5-10 song mixtape, what would you put on it?
Wowzers. Does genre matter? Does it have to be a cohesive mixtape? Or just some songs you wanna hear? Because those are all factors.
I’d put on:
Money, Power, Respect by The Lox.
The Rockwilder by Method Man and Redman.
ItSoWeezee by De La Soul.
One Beer by MF DOOM.
I’d probably put on a thousand DOOM songs and a thousand De La songs.
I was just listening to Feelin Alright by The Jungle Brothers. I forgot how much I liked that song.
I’d put on No More by J*Davey.
Everybody Touch It by J*Davey.
Permission by J*Davey.
G.O.M.D. by J.Cole.
Anything off that Joey Bada$$ album. Anything.
Do you watch those culinary shows on TV? Would you ever want to be on one?
Absolutely not. I’ve been asked for the last two years. Like a contest show? I would never do anything like that. I would never do that. Looking how the show’s set up to me, how could any of that honestly taste good. I think that’s for somebody who’s looking to make a name for themselves. I’m not necessarily concerned with making a name for myself. That’s so against everything I believe in.
Do you have any music projects in the works?
I’m working on so much right now. One, I have a solo project. Two, working on the next evitaN album. That’s gonna be some crazy shit. And the next thing I’m going to be working on is a project with me and Dinco D of Leaders of the New School. Me and Dres just got started so we’re like three in. Me and Dinco are gonna do an EP so we’re like five or six in. We’ll probably record a few more songs and then pick.
What have been some recent musical discoveries for you?
I discovered a guy who’s one of my main producers on the internet. Cazal Organism. I discovered him on the internet and happened to find out that his dad is my homeboy. That’s crazy. I started hearing his shit and I was like who is this. And then come to find out that was his dad and I was like that’s dope because that was my brother [Mellow Man Ace] and I had no idea.But Cazal is one of my main producers.
Yeah, I’ve heard some of Mellow Man Ace’s new stuff. It’s unfortunate that it’s not really out there, you kinda gotta search for it. Because it’s really good. Cazal’s production is really good.
I mean, the goal of somebody right now making music – selling actual music, selling units, that’s not really a thing now. You make albums to develop a brand, to build a platform. You start doing shows and that’s where you’re going to make all of your money. And with the shows comes merchandizing. With the shows and merchandizing, now licensing. These are things that people should be looking for. I’m going to sell a million records. Nobody sells a million records anymore.
I gotta ask this. Just to satisfy my own curiosity. What’s your favorite Tribe album?
Well, you know what it’s a choice between right? [laughs] Those are like two perfect albums in a row. That’s crazy. It depends on the day. Well, you know what? I will say Low End Theory. Midnight improved on Low End Theory. But Low End Theory came out of left field. Sonically, if you played People’s Instinctive Travels and then played Low End Theory it’s like damn, this is the same group? The way we were able to do that but still stay with those settings. For second albums, people start talking about sophomore jinx and allathat. I don’t know. Maybe it had something to do with a chip on our shoulder. And, plus Phife’s emergence. That was a big deal. To have that next gear. So, that’s why maybe Low End Theory.
Here’s one that I can never answer: What’s your favorite De La Soul album?
Jesus Christ! Wow, you’re a bad person. Damn, man…I gotta say Stakes Is High. Stakes Is High was a masterpiece. But…De La Soul Is Dead is crazy! And one of the latest is crazy too. The one with the MF DOOM song…The Grind Date. Yeah. It’s between Grind Date and Stakes Is High. De La’s my favorite group in the world.
It’s always inspiring to talk with people that have found their life’s purpose and use the platform that they’ve created for themselves to inspire others. Jarobi’s success, I think, comes mainly from his attitude and outlook on life. He’s found enjoyment in what he does and uses that to take him to the next rung on his ladder of success. There’s a lot to be said about happiness in the work place. If you love what you do, opulence will follow, in one form or another.
Follow Jarobi on his journey through Twitter or finding him on Instagram. If you’re in the NYC area, make sure to hit up Tribe Taco Tuesdays in Bed-Stuy. Details can be found HERE. The next one is this Tuesday (7/21). Also, the BBQ Summer Series continues through September and all your questions about that can be answered HERE. I’m looking forward to his new musical projects and you should too. If you still haven’t copped that evitaN project, go stream and purchase it HERE. And for everything else you could possibly want to know, check out his website.
I put together a little audio snippet of our conversation for your listening pleasure. This is a fun one. You’re not gonna want to miss this one. I edited in my 5 year old asking Jarobi all the questions that I originally asked in our interview and…well, check it out…