Rappin’ With Walasia

Walasia_Headshot

You probably don’t know Walasia. She’s not a Hip Hop artist (in a musical sense). But your favorite Hip Hop artists probably do know her. She came highly recommended from people that we’ve talked to. Adam Mansbach, who we recently spoke with told me, “Yo, not for nothing, this woman can cook.” He quipped that his next book should be called “If Walasia Offers To Cook You Dinner, Go The Fuck To Her House.” Later, Kitchen Mix favorite, Sunspot Jonz chimed in, “This is real life. Wa got them recipes on deck. I’m sure she is cookin’ right now!” So yeah, it was basically a must that we sit down and have a little conversation with her.

This woman has made her rounds within the Hip Hop community. Her resume reads like a resource section in some unwritten Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Underground Hip Hop piece. Peep her bio:

Walasia Noor EL Shabazz, nee Miranda Jane, was responsible for A&R work on the MF DOOM/Madlib “Mad Villain” LP from Stonesthrow Records, one of the most successful & critically-acclaimed independent Hip Hop albums in history. Former west-coast editor of STRESS – NY’s Illest Magazine, senior editor & founding member of Complex Magazine, and associate editor of The Source Magazine. Her freelance writing has been featured in the L.A. Weekly, RIME Magazine, Elemental Magazine, Mass Appeal, TRACE; as well as being translated for many foreign-language publications. One of the co-founders of the first-ever all-elements celebration of women in Hip Hop – B-Girl Be. Walasia is the former general manager of Angeles Records, owned by DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, Chace Infinite (Self Scientific), and Grammy-award winning producer DJ Khalil. She is the current general manager of Clear Label Media Group and Clear Label Records, an Oakland-based music and media corporation owned by Tajai Massey (Souls of Mischief). In her spare time she is a vegetarian/vegan holistic cook & pastry chef with a cookbook, Golden Nutrients, in the works. She has offered flavorful creations as a private chef and/or on-set/green-room caterer for a slew of Hip Hop artists including Thirstin Howl 3rd, The Beatnuts, Kurious Jorge, MF Grimm, Graffiti artist KEO TOP, DJ Muggs, MF DOOM, C-Rayz Walz, Dana Dane, GZA, Planet Asia, DJ Quik, Hieroglyphics, Freestlye Fellowship, the Likwit Crew, Equipto, Sunspot Jonz and BOAC, author Adam Mansbach, Dedan of dead prez, Self Scientific, and many more. Her pies, cakes, cookies & candies, both traditional and medicinal, are also renown in the Hip Hop community with clientele such as Chino XL and Immortal Technique. She is noted as the creator of the Vegan Bean Pie, and is known for making global cuisines healthy. Her recipes have appeared in the Supreme Design Publishing books The Hood Health Handbook, Vols. 1 & 2. Her Hip Hop-themed cookbook is in progress.

W: I think for me, my life is half Hip Hop and half food.

TKM: Yeah, that’s us. You’re like both of us combined into one.

W: I know a lot about indigenous herbs, teas and tinctures and things that are used for healing. So, it’s not only food and nutrition that I deal with but also preventative and curative. Basically anywhere in the Southwest I know what to pick – if you’re sick, I can go get what you need, grab it, make it into a tea, I can make it into a poultice. I’ve fixed snake bites. On the urban tip, I’ve taken a bullet out of a brother’s arm, and healed it myself with some peroxide, tea tree oil and that sorta thing. I cure most illnesses with my herbs and teas. And around Oakland I pick rosemary and lavender, whatever I need and see growing. And then I have a little community garden out in front of my apartment.

“Food helped me infiltrate the music business”

TKM: Dope. Yeah, we’re all about the herbal remedies, tinctures for sure, gardens, self-medicating and healing at home. Keeping it real.

W: I think if you go back and do the research of what aspirin is or when they first started inventing synthetic-man-made painkillers, that was just basically based off of things like marshmallow and things that were grown. They just took it and studied the elements and compounds and made it synthetic.

I try to always apply the ethics I grew up with, which is – humble living, sharing, trading and bartering, taking what you make or have and using that to get what you need from someone else. In that way, I’ve been able to really live on very little, without accounts and “the system of economics.” I think if we all took that into consideration, and didn’t spend so much money or kept the money within our own…on a music tip, I mean, if you like Rick Ross, if you like that music, take that music off the internet, feel it, listen to that for free. But if you like Equipto, if you like any underground or independent music get it on Bandcamp or iTunes. Nowadays, if you hit’em up on Facebook or Twitter, they have a way that they’re selling. If you’re in big cities and you go to shows – buy it directly, give them the cash in your hand any time you can. Rather than spending it on some mainstream shit, spend it with your folks and the underground independent community.

TKM: Yeah, we’re all about that. You’re talking about spending money on food, music and health in a very organic way.

W: Yeah, as much as possible. A couple of different artists I’ve worked with – Phil da Agony, I think he was the first to talk to me about this concept and actually execute it. He did an organic green press up of a CD. He mentioned it to me and I kicked him back with a few vendors who used recycled packaging. So, if you are going to do something within the traditional music business, there are ways to do it right. Yeah, you may spend a little more but for people who are in the music business, or want to get into it I’d recommend digital. That’s very green, everything’s online. If you are doing physical copies, try going the recycled route if you can. And don’t press as much. It’s easy to just start with 100 or 250 pieces and then you can double up or triple up if you’re selling a lot of them. Even when I worked with Hieroglyphics. When they put out that last Souls album, they didn’t want to over press and were very mindful about the number of pieces they pressed up (they settled on 10,000 pieces). Just be of mind to not be wasteful. And if you’re going on tour maybe get a smaller van or a Hybrid. Maybe think about couch hopping instead of paying for a hotel, stay with the homies in different cities or put the word out for fans that may have the space to accomodate 10 people, or whatever.

TKM: Yeah, that’s part of what we like to do – feed the artists a good home cooked meal when they’re in town and save them from the inevitable fast food.

W: Exactly. That’s why I even started to think about having a food based business. A lot of the time when I’d be working with artists, I’d already be cooking for them anyway. Wherever I’m living, Oakland, L.A., New York, Atlanta – I’ll give you an example. Planet Asia and TriState were on their way up to Oakland. They called and said they were 30 minutes away. They wanted fish, beans and rice, salad. By the time they drove up to the house I had a full meal ready and that was my first time meeting TriState. He came in, looked around and said, “Oh my god. Asia told me where we were coming and told me where we were eating but I just thought it was a restaurant.” I said, “Yeah, I am a restaurant.”

TKM: So, what came first, the work within the music industry or the food? Did you have any formal training?

W: Actually, ways that I got into different aspects of the music industry – like with the journalism and editing and writing, I was working at Fox Family and I came across this record. I had been doing some stuff for Stress Magazine out of New York, they had me as the West Coast Editor and they wanted me keep my ears to the street and I came across this record called Love Allah by this group called Self Scientific. It had the phone number of the label on the vinyl. I called and told the man that I loved the record and I’d love to interview these guys – Chace Infinite and DJ Khalil. So I had them over for dinner and I knew that Khalil was Muslim and I knew that Chace was in the 5% Nation and I was told that Khalil had food allergies so I’d have to be careful with certain things. I made falafel, roasted eggplant, chicken kabobs, baba ganoush, couscous, a huge spread. So from that interview I ended up writing their bio, and ended up as director of public relations when they put out a record on Landspeed. And later I ended up general managing Angeles Records with Chace when Khalill hired me, and DJ Muggs was the other partner of that label. I would chef up while I was there. Food helped me infiltrate the music business, by feeding everybody. I taught myself a lot. I was kind of raised in an all natural way, going to the health food stores and the co-op. My mother was a hippie and didn’t really allow us to watch much television but when I could I’d watch cooking shows or watch my granny cook. And while most kids would read comic books I’d pick up a cookbook and read it end to end like a novel.

TKM: That’s interesting how that all played out. I mean, even at the point where we are with the site, you know, it’s evolved into an ongoing dialogue. We talk to all these people, get these great recipes, share and continue that process. And now all these avenues have opened up and it’s like – where do we go from here?

W: I think that what you’re doing is opening up a door that’s kinda been closed. I mean, obviously everyone eats but when you talk to these people, like when you talked to Queezy – I have cooked more food for Queezy than anyone I know. His studio and office and laboratory happen to not have a big kitchen – like when I worked at Hiero Imperium, there’s a massive kitchen and it’s nothing to throw together a meal. At Queezy’s it’s challenging, there’s no real sink, you know. I started to bring things from home and bring things from the farmer’s market and put together meals and feed everyone over there. But he never told me all those things he told you in the interview. I had no idea about that. I know he likes to eat but I didn’t know he had all these favorite chefs and even like Sunspot, I’ve know him since I was 18. I’ve cooked for him and BOAC. All these people have all of these things and unless you bring it up at an interview you’d never find it out. Food is such a big part of our lives, we need it to survive. I know you do home cooked meals for people that are traveling, I do that and I also take it on the road sometimes. And when I package and book tours I try and use those extended stay hotels because they have kitchens. Like, many times when Tajai is out on tour he’ll be like, “the food’s all bad, please help me find something to eat.” I’ll get online and help him find something. So, it’s helpful to know those things.

TKM: Yeah, that comes up a lot in interviews. We can all agree that what they’re having to eat, what they’re having to put up with on tour – it’s hard to deal with, and it’s hard to do your job when you’re eating that kind of food. I don’t think people realize what these guys put themselves through.

W: I’ll tell you this. I was up working late one night when my phone started to blow up to the point where I knew someone had died. And it was Nate Dogg that had passed away. I didn’t know him super well, we’d met and one of my clients, Bad Azz from the Dogg Pound, and I know Sir Jinx really well, so I knew him in passing. And I’m a huge Nate Dogg fan. And the reason he died is because all those years – almost 20 years of eating Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried, three meals a day, killed the man. And it’s killed a lot of people in our community. It’s scary. But people don’t think about that. When the guys are out on the road they sometimes don’t have a choice really. It has damaged so many people’s health, has even killed people and that to me is very, very scary.

TKM: Yeah, one of the stories that really hit me was Saafir’s story. That was one that really stuck with me.

W: You know, there used to be this place in Oakland called Your Black Muslim Bakery that provided some of the most healthful food in the whole Bay Area. It was a source of healthy food for the East Bay. When it went away, so did a lot of the access to that kind of healthy food. Eating clean can be difficult, overwhelming, time consuming and a lot people think it can be expensive. If you don’t know how to do the shopping at places like Whole Foods – like I only buy bulk things there and supplement it with foraging and farmer’s markets. I think that Saafir, his family is well aware of how to do that but even if he does know how to eat clean, sometimes it’s hard to find if you’re eating time is 2 a.m. when you’re coming out of the studio. And a lot of times it’s hidden and a lot of times there’s poverty shaming. I always tell people, I’m proud to use my EBT or food stamps at Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Markets. If I’m buying my $40 bottle of olive oil and the cashier is looking at me crazy, I’m like “bitch, just charge my olive oil.” It’s my choice what I take home to feed my family and my folks. You can do it. There’s a farmer’s market out here called Phat Beets, they match EBT. If you come with $50 on your EBT, they’re matching $50. $100 at the farmer’s market is balling out of control. There’s always something close by, no matter where you’re at. It’s just about learning the basics.

TKM: Each one, teach one. Right?

W: Right. I have a group on Facebook called the Golden Nutrients and everyday people are sharing information. I’ve been involved with these books called Hood Health Vol. 1 and 2. I never charge money for information about health or cooking. I just try to tell as many people as possible. There’s so much information out there but people don’t always know how to access it so I’m always constantly trying to share on social media. It’s just about learning where to get the stuff.

“Yo, not for nothing, this woman can cook.” – Adam Mansbach

TKM: That’s true. Do you have a recipe you want to share with us?

W: Well, I was DOOM’s business manager for year’s and he would come and stay at my pad in Brooklyn and I used to cook for him. He’s kind of a picky eater. He would eat a lot of meat and I was a vegetarian, I was never trying to make him go all the way vegetarian but one time we were having a discussion about mushrooms and he was telling me about this giant mushroom that he had eaten that was kinda meaty and reminded him of a steak. I told him it was a portobello mushroom and said that I make these mean stuffed mushrooms. It’s kinda like my stuffing that I make for Thanksgiving with a couple add ons stuffed inside this mushroom. And then I made a salad with some vegetables on the side. And he said it was one of the best meals he ever ate.

Zev Love X’s Favorite Stuffed Mushroom:

Ingredients:
Four large portobello mushroom caps washed and stems reserved
Half pound shiitake mushrooms washed stems discarded
Half pound Cremeni or brown mushrooms washed stems reserved
Day old sourdough bread, cornbread, or 2 cups brown rice cooked or quinoa for gluten free
Butter or EVOO
Shallot or red onion
Flat leaf parsley
Garlic cloves crushed
Tamari or soy sauce
Heavy cream or coconut milk
Parmigiana reggiano grated or nutritional yeast for vegan

Method:
Wash all mushrooms. Discard stems from shiitake and reserve stems from others. Preheat oven to 425.
In a skillet add finely chopped onion or shallot to hot butter or EVOO.
Sauté until translucent and add all mushroom stems chopped very fine.
Cook on high and add chopped shiitake and Cremeni after water evaporates.
Crumble bread or add rice or quinoa to skillet cook until hot.
Stir in parsley chopped fine
Take the skillet off the heat then add tamari, cream and cheese or if vegan add coco milk and nutritional yeast.
Stuff the caps and bake them 20 to 30 mins until golden brown.

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And that would probably go well with these Honey Carrot Mango Pies that she baked at Hieroglyphics HQ for the Hieroglyphics crew as a tour send-off dessert.

hiero_pies

Well, Sunspot wasn’t just bullshittin’ when he said Walasia “got them recipes on deck.” This woman comes with a wealth of experience in both the Hip Hop world and the food and nutrition realm. She also has another calling, connecting people and helping to spread positive messages. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her posts on The Golden Nutrients page. She’s quite active on the social media tip and still has her ear to the street so you know you’ll get hipped to something new.

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