The Lowdown: rappers and restaurants

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Rappers and restaurants: Sweet Chick Nas, Rick Ross Wingstop Wahlburgers Mark Wahlberg Snoop Dogg

Related tags US chain Restaurant Celebrity

US brand Sweet Chick recently made its UK debut in Fitzrovia, having built a solid foundation in the States thanks to the backing it received from hip-hop rapper Nas.

The Old Town Road guy?
No, that’s Lil Nas! Well, Lil Nas X to be specific. And to our knowledge he’s yet to throw his (presumably limited) weight behind a restaurant group; although he does have a predilection for paninis… and, apparently, Gordon Ramsay​. We’re talking about Nas, though. Nas OG, if you will; the guy known for creating one of the 90’s most iconic hip hop albums (Illmatic), and having a beef with Jay-Z.

Ok, I’m with you know. Tell us more about this restaurant…
Sweet Chick was founded by New York restaurateur John Seymour in 2013, with a focus on serving ‘rustic but modern American comfort food’ – think mac and cheese; biscuits and gravy; and shrimp and grits. Its mainstay, however, is fried chicken and waffles served with a side of syrup. The chain opened two sites – one in Brooklyn, another in Manhattan – in quick succession, and after a couple of years it caught Nas’ attention. The rapper came on board as a business partner and brand ambassador in 2015 to help expand the group and grow its profile, and as a result it now operates five US sites (four in New York and one in Los Angeles) and recently opened its first UK outpost in London’s Fitzrovia.

Musician-backed restaurants is hardly a new thing, is it…
Not at all – Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z are other notable names to be attached to their own bar or restaurant group – but Nas’ connection with Sweet Chick is certainly more interesting than most. As indie New York pop-culture magazine Paper​ wrote early last year: “Nas' involvement in Sweet Chick goes deeper, tapping into music history and hometown pride.” It appears to go beyond just the financial: in April 2018, for example, Sweet Chick opened its first site in the New York borough of Queens, just a few blocks from where Nas grew up, with the rapper saying he hoped bringing the chain – which counts A-listers including Kendrick Lamar, Cameron Diaz and Mariah Carey among its regulars – to his hometown would help encourage young people in the area to become entrepreneurs.

It certainly sounds like he’s more than just a money man, but is that always the case?
That depends. Nas is certainly not the only rapper to use their clout to promote a restaurant business they’ve invested in. Take Rick Ross, for example, who essentially put franchised US chicken wing chain Wingstop on the map with his investment. The rapper owns more than 20 Wingstop restaurants in the US, and has even rapped on stage about the lemon-pepper wings that appear on the menu. And then there’s Mark Wahlberg who is the frontman for the Wahlburgers chain that he co-owns his brothers Donnie and Paul (having previously been the lead of the mercifully short-lived​ ‘hip hop’ group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch).

Sounds like rappers and food makes for a winning combination…
Absolutely. Take Action Bronson, for example, who is both a chef and rapper, and even presents a TV food show called Fuck, That's Delicious​. And then there’s Snoop Dogg who, as well as being close friends with Martha Stewart, recently released his own recipe book entitled From Crook to Cook​.

What recipes are in the book?
Interestingly, the book actually features Snoop’s own take on chicken and waffles. But perhaps the most popular recipe in there is his take on chocolate brownies, which he encourages you to make with a dash of ‘Snoop’s herbs and spices’ to really give them a kick…

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