Here at Allegations we like food, but we also appreciate a good tune, and we pay special attention when the worlds of food and music converge. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we sit up and take notice. Occasionally, it happens in the world of Hip Hop – many rap artists have written songs in praise of their favorite foodstuffs. A Tribe Called Quest famously sang about “Ham & Eggs” (and other foods). MF Doom devoted a whole album to the subject of food (“Mm…Food”). There is, however, one Hip Hop group that predates all these efforts. This group didn’t just write a song about their favorite foods, they adopted food as their identity- fully embraced it as an expression of who they were. And so, we present a tribute to The Fat Boys, one of Hip Hop’s pioneering ensembles.
Now, by way of full disclosure – The Fat Boys will always be dear to me because their eponymous album (pictured above) was the third album I ever purchased, at the tender age of 8 (it was preceded by “Pac-Man Fever,” and Men At Work’s “Business As Usual”). This album came two years after Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” and came out the same year as Run D.M.C.’s debut album, just to give an idea of its place in the old-school chronology.
The Fat Boys were (from the right), Prince Markie Dee, Kool-Rock-Ski, and The Human Beat Box. A particular distinguishing feature of The Fat Boys was the percussive verbal stylings of “The Human Beat Box.” He wasn’t the first to bust a beat with his mouth, or necessarily the best, but he had a distinctive style and was more than capable of carrying a song when the drum machine dropped out. Importantly, The Fat Boys were not all gimmicks – they were decent rappers as well, they loved food, and they weighed in at a combined 750 pounds. For a brief period they were movie stars as well. Although they may be remembered for their star vehicle “Disorderlies,” they had also chewed up the scenery (literally) in a scene from the old school Hip Hop classic “Krush Groove.” Here, the Fat Boys are enticed by the all-you-can-eat Italian buffet at the Sbarro on 49th St. and Broadway, which inspires them to burst into song. The Sbarro is still there, I walk by it every day on my way to work (although the buffet, to the best of my knowledge, is gone) – an unassuming piece of musical history in Times Square.
Now, the “reflections from jail” song is a tried-and-true Hip Hop archetype, where the narrator reflects on what got him into jail, how tough it is in there, and how he has changed as a result. Rappers have been recording these songs since the dawn of Hip Hop (for historians, see Slick Rick – “Behind Bars,” Ice-T – “The Tower,” and, of course, Public Enemy – “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.”) The Fat Boys recorded their own “reflections from jail” song, with their own unique spin. For those with lots of time on their hands (the song clocks in at over six minutes, including an extended instrumental break and piano solo), the video for “Jailhouse Rap” is below:
The Fat Boys have sadly passed into history, but for some, their legacy remains – a testament to an earlier and more innocent time when rap artists could be severely overweight, could beatbox throughout their records, could poke fun at themselves, could stuff their faces at Sbarro onscreen and rap about how they got sent upstate for breaking into a pizza place and eating every pizza in sight. Never again will there be a commercially successful hip hop act like The Fat Boys – but for a brief moment in the mid-1980s, they were the coolest cats on the block. So, we present this tribute to the Fat Boys. You will never see them in the Rock-n-Roll, or even the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed), but they are an important piece of early hip hop history and, most importantly, they were not afraid to stuff their faces, film themselves doing it and sing about it.