Local Rapper Blee Gets Cooking in the Studio and in the Kitchen
A peppery waft of aromatics seduces the palate as a mélange of vegetables is introduced with a hiss to a searingly hot, well-seasoned stir fry pan. The chef delights in the fragrance emanating from his cooking vessel and bops his head up and down in time with the hip-hop track bumping in the background, as if in approval of his edible creation.
This isn’t a demonstration by one of the city’s culinary bigwigs or a lesson on the fine art of stir-fry at a cooking class, but rather the creation from the kitchen of local rap artist, music impresario and organic food-lover, Blee.
As the artist prepares for the release of his sophomore effort on July 9, aptly titled Hotwater Cornbread, the rapper talks music, cookery and his passion for clean eating.
“I just wanted something really clean…plus it’s hot [outside] and when it’s hot, you don’t want to invest a lot of time in cooking,” Blee says. “I’m inspired by friends of mine who have really turned their lives around by eating clean.”
Putting the final flourishes to his Brussels sprouts, asparagus and flank steak creation, accompanied by a simple salad of spring greens and baby carrots and adorned with a smattering of perfumed raspberries, the self-anointed “stir-fry technician” reflects on his artistic vision.
“I get shit started,” Blee says. “I’ve done block parties, I’ve had my own radio show, I’ve done different things and I wear different belts, but I’m primarily an artist first and then a promoter.”
With a listening party slated for July 13, 2013 at Omina Laboratories, and a CD release party on deck July 20, 2013 at Capitol Garage, the rapper-cum-chef looks back on the year-long recording process proudly.
“Production was crazy,” Blee gushes. “I had Nicatyne from Fly High, NPire Da Great, the Gonzalez Brothers, and N8 the Gr8 from legendary group The Cuf…and I can’t forget Billy Hi-Life, this dude is incredible. He gave me [the track] “Black Skillet Commentary,” which is kind of an anthem where I’m talking about how I’m living…like eating clean and taking care of myself.”
Regarding the album’s direction, the rapper also took some calculated risks with his style.
“I wanted to stick with the same formula as Full Course Meal, but I wanted to implement a new sound because I know sonically right now it’s about EDM…and I wanted to implement that, too, without compromising my creative direction.”
Laid down at Omina Labs located on 16th Street, which has seen some of the area’s most talented MCs such as Chase Moore, C-Plus and countless others spit lyrical fire in its booths, Blee’s follow up to his debut, Full Course Meal, features whip-smart lyrics, frenetic beats and, of course, a heaping serving of food references.
“You can look forward to all of my concepts being cuisine-based,” Blee says. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to rap about food, but it inspires me.”
On a recent shopping trip to the farmers’ market, the Sacramento rapper (who credits his Dominican Republic roots and the matriarchs who instilled in him a love of food and cooking as the inspiration for his appetite for organic and whole foods), cruised through the maze of people, purveyors and verdant veggies like a pro.
“I think it really stems from my mom and her just making everything from scratch,” Blee says. “She would point fingers and make fun of the neighbors’ mothers who would make cornbread with Jiffy. That whole bravado and pride in your food, it just blended into me as a person.”
Head down to Capitol Garage on July 20 to help Blee celebrate the release of his new album Hotwater Cornbread. Party will go from 9 p.m. until close. DJ Epik, NPire, Peso Harlem and more will also be on hand. For more on Blee, go to Facebook.com/blee.gordon.
The Stir-Fry Technician’s ingredients for Beef and Vegetable Stir-fry
Baby Brussels sprouts
1 pound sliced lean flank or skirt steak
1 package fajita seasoning
Blee’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the ingredients during the cooking process shines through in this quick and easy stir-fry.
“I don’t measure anything. I’m using just a splash of olive oil and fajita seasoning—that’s it, no salt, no extra seasonings. I let the vegetables speak for themselves by not cooking them for too long, just about a minute each, like the baby Brussels sprouts, you want them crunchy. Then I add the beef strips—a little Ranchers Reserve, pre-cut, no fat, real lean. Then I serve it all over a bed of jasmine rice. Add a good salad and we’re good to go. It’s guilt-free cuisine. When you eat this, your body smiles.”
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add baby Brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, about one minute. Add one bunch trimmed asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally, about one minute. Add sliced summer squash and cook, tossing occasionally, about one minute. Add button mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, about one minute. Sprinkle vegetables with half of the fajita seasoning packet and cook, tossing occasionally, about one minute. Spread remaining fajita seasoning over steak then add to vegetable mixture and cook, tossing occasionally, about three to five minutes.
Cook rice according to package directions. Top about a half-cup of rice, per person, with about one cup per person of the stir-fry mixture and enjoy.
Mixed Spring Greens Salad with Raspberries
4 cups mixed baby greens
1 cup baby carrots
1 handful raspberries
Scant drizzle of Asian-inspired sesame salad dressing
Inspired by a raw-food concept restaurant in Los Angeles, Blee creates a simple salad that doesn’t come in a pre-made bag, unfettered by an army of overwrought ingredients and free from the shackles of heavy salad dressings. It only takes minutes to get from fridge to plate.
Place two large handfuls of mixed baby greens in large bowl (Blee draws a pair of surgical gloves from a box that sits within reaching distance of his cooking range, for this very process). Toss with whole baby carrots. Divide greens among two plates. Top salads with raspberries and a scant amount of the Asian-inspired sesame salad dressing.