‘Tis The Season: 6 Artists Share Favorite Dishes And Holiday Memories

For most people, the holiday season is a joyous one, yet it’s an even bigger deal for recording artists. It’s that time of the year when the entertainment industry stops; tour dates are seemingly put on hold (unless the price is right, of course) and everyone heads home to celebrate with family. Traditions change over the years, as artists relocate and build their own families in different parts of the country from where they were raised. No matter the ritual, one seems to remain a constant: spending some much needed down time with people they love.

Vibe spoke with six musicians about their holiday eats and traditions from the past and present. From deep-frying turkeys to recounting childhood memories, these artists all had poignant moments to share.

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Questlove (of the Roots)

From: I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I moved to Out Of Suitcase, USA. Now I take extended naps in NYC.

What are your typical holiday traditions?

As far as traditions go, when I was younger we traditionally had Christmas Eve feast at my Aunt Mable’s and My Uncle Bud’s. I must say, people frown on traditional Southern “Antebellum Cuisine,” but I wasn’t mad at NONE of her pork dishes. And she went deep: hog maws, chitterlings, pigs feet. As time moved on, my family started passing away and so did our traditional feasts. Nowadays, my guitarist Kirk brings to our dressing room the traditional Bun and Cheese with Fruit Cake—that’s when you take sharp cheddar and make a sandwich using two pieces of brown suit fruit bread. Most of The Roots…have Jamaican roots.

Now that you’re a bona fide celebrity foodie, does it change how you approach certain traditional holiday meals?

Well since I’m in the Chef Mafia—Bourdain’s words not mine—my Food Salons have some of the most innovative minds this side of yum. But for Thanksgiving, I tend to gather orphan pals/bandmates/co-workers of mine that don’t wanna go home (especially THIS political cycle), rent a spot and do the weekend right. I should also note sometimes [on Thanksgiving] I’ll just run to Black Thought’s and throw down; he will beat you emceeing and DESTROY your grandmother’s cooking. As for Christmas, usually I’m on the road or I’m doing an all-day movie viewing.

Will you be having a holiday Food Salon?

I have two Food Salons planned for December in Los Angeles!

Does holiday music delight or annoy you?

Holiday music annoys me, because I’m the one that makes around eight different playlists for various people with way different varied tastes. And since a proper playlist should be 3-4 hours, you have to make sure it’s festive sounding. Because of royalty rates, a lot of acts are trying to get over by re-recording their hits so they can make better profits than the more superior version on their albums. So I also have to fish through 13 versions of Alexander O’Neal’s “Sleigh Ride” to get his 1988 version (not his re-recording). The Alvin & The Chipmunks version of the song should be avoided at all costs.

How many holidays have been spent home since forming The Roots?

*clicks Yeezy’s three times*

There’s no place like Four Seasons…
There’s no place like Starwood…
There’s no place like W…
There’s no place like Ritz Carlton…
There’s no place like Hilton…
There’s no place like Marriott…

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Bun B (of UGK)

From: Port Arthur, Texas

What’s your favorite holiday dish?

Deep-fried turkey. It’s a Houston tradition, on the Southside. There’s a place that’s been doing it for years for every holiday season. His name is Paul Miller. 

What are your typical holiday traditions?

For Christmas, we tend to have the grandkids come over now. It’s a little different with the grandchildren. We’ve been doing “Elf On the Shelf.” We started that with my granddaughter, probably about three years ago, and now we’re starting it with my grandson.

What are some of the dishes your wife makes?

Lately, she’s been cooking a sausage/lobster mac and cheese. We’ll get the fried turkey, and she’ll bake either a roast or a ham. Usually if someone is here from out of town, they’ll stop by. The last person we had over was Big K.R.I.T. He was here on tour so we had him and his guys come over. We had enough food for all of them.

Is there a holiday tradition that you’ve passed on to your children and grandchildren?

Just the importance of all being together. My wife has been turning Christmas into kind of a pajama party, but it’s really just about being with the kids and being with the grandkids on the holidays.

Does holiday music delight or annoy you?

I’m the DJ! I play the holiday music. I’m partial to all of the Motown Christmas stuff. My wife likes to hear the Jackson Five stuff and “Silent Night” by The Temptations. 

Was there any time where you and the late Pimp C (of UGK) had to miss holidays due to traveling or performing or did you make it a point to be home?

In the earlier years and our younger, days we would book shows, but as we got older we kind of steered away from working on holidays, which is hard because people tend to offer you considerably more money to play during the holidays because they know they’re taking you away from your family. You just have to make a conscious effort to say, “Family is more important than the money. It’s not worth it.”

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Rapsody 

From: North Carolina 

Do you have a specialty holiday dish?

I make my banana pudding. There are two kinds of banana pudding: the hot baked banana pudding, but I’m not on that. I’m on that cold banana pudding life. Mine consists of: Jell-O Instant Pudding (vanilla flavored one and banana flavored one). I like bananas, but not a lot of bananas in my banana pudding because they turn brown and don’t look right to me. So I’ll get the banana-flavored pudding in there, and I’ll put a few bananas in there, just to give it a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’. You’ve gotta have your vanilla wafers. You’ve gotta have your Cool Whip. So once you get your instant puddings together, you mix those, add the Cool Whip. Bam! Bam! Then you start to layer the jam [with vanilla wafers] and make it look pretty. Then it’s go time once it sits in the refrigerator for like 6-8 hours. The cookies gotta get soft; don’t come here bringing no banana pudding with hard cookies. If the cookies aren’t soft, then we can’t talk. 

What are your typical holiday traditions?

I don’t celebrate Christmas and we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, but best believe there ain’t nothing else to do but cook those days. So we make them family days. On Thanksgiving, my mom is like the mom where all of the family comes to her house to eat. So it’s a huge spread, and we live in North Carolina, so it’s Southern Soul Food to the core. She’ll start making collard greens the day before. She’ll cook cabbages, she’ll cook rutabaga for me, she’ll make baked macaroni and cheese—that’s a must. There has to be some baked mac and cheese on the table or it’s a problem. She makes turkey and stuffing; we always have barbecue so she’ll make chopped pork barbecue—and I don’t eat pork so she’ll make chopped turkey barbecue. There has to be some barbecue, because North Carolina is a barbecue state. There’s always a small bowl of ham hocks to go with your collards, if you so choose to add them to your greens. There’s always string beans. Those are like the must haves, and she might sprinkle other things like corn in there, some rice and gravy. For desserts, my mom will usually call us and be like, “Alright, whatch’all want for desserts?” There are three main ones: you have to have Sweet Potato Pie (I don’t eat that, but you have to have that), then there’s a Carrot Cake or Coconut Cake, and my banana pudding. But you have to have three kinds of desserts. With the Thanksgiving leftovers, you have to make breakfast with those the next day. That’s a thing. So she’ll get up in the morning, make the eggs, the cheese eggs, the bacon, the biscuits, but with whatever turkey we have leftover, she’ll put that in some gravy and make rice. So you’ll have your breakfast food with rice and turkey gravy. She’ll cut some apples, put some cinnamon on them, put them on the stove and put the cooked apples on buttered toast. It’s so bangin’; it’s like a simplified apple pie! My mom is really big on Soul Food, so for the most part the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals kind of mirror each other. There’s probably not as much food on Christmas, but we watch A Christmas Story all day. Everybody’s off work for several days, so people can fly in. It just works. 

Does holiday music delight or annoy you?

Honestly, I tune it out. But when I do hear it, it automatically triggers some rest time. Being an artist in the music industry and traveling and always going all year, once you see Thanksgiving and start hearing Christmas carols you know the rest period is coming where you can spend time with your family.   

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DJ Paul (of Three 6 Mafia) 

From: Born and glazes in Memphis, Tennessee (now living in Los Angeles, CA)

What are your typical holiday traditions?

In the South, they probably do it how we do it. Thanksgiving dinner—like the kind you get at a restaurant like Marie Callender’s— is basic turkey and stuffing, all of the vegetables on the side. The turkey is like the centerpiece of the dinner. Shit, with my family, the turkey is one of the sides. We crack a joke about how most people say you got the meat with vegetables on the side. We’ll say we got meat, with meat on the side. We have more meat than we got sides. It ain’t no one meat with sides all around. We’ll have some turkey, some chicken, some ham, some ribs, some hamburger patties. All meats. Vegetables are some collard greens, some green beans, some corn, some potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce. It’s not a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; it’s kind of like all of the dinners put together. Everybody brings something, so whoever’s house it is will have the main stuff, but then people will bring stuff on the side so everybody will come in with a big ol’ aluminum pan or something. It ends up being a lot. I love turkey, I eat it everyday, so on Thanksgiving sometimes I won’t even eat the turkey. I’m more there for the gravy and the stuffing. Man, I could eat stuffing all day. Christmas is usually the same thing, but I don’t really do the big Christmas thing. Christmas is smaller, probably just me and my girl or my son. Christmas involves buying people stuff, so you can’t have too many people around. If you love someone, everyday is a holiday.

How do you celebrate the holidays living away from family?

I’ll either hang with the homies out here or fly some family out here. This year, I’m flying out to Tennessee because I’m single this time. When they fly out to me, I cook too so I’ll cook a lot of the stuff ahead of time. I’ll appoint one other person to help and then everybody else will just help clean up. Just the women, because no men ever want to help. They’ll be in the backyard drinking beer.

Do you have a specialty holiday dish?

Deep-fried turkey. I won’t cook it these days, unless I’m cooking it for some other people. I make it real good too because I put my DJ Paul’s BBQ Rub all on the outside of it so it forms into a crust. You think you’re eating fried chicken. I know how to deep-fry, but it’s safety first. You’ve gotta be real careful with it. It’s so good. The crust shells it. I don’t eat fried food, but if I’m in the mood, I’ll wait for that one time of year to eat it.

Does holiday music delight or annoy you?

I love holiday music. “This Christmas” is one of my favorite songs in the world. I look forward to Christmas just to hear some of the songs. I’ve got surround sound so it goes all throughout the house and outside. And I like the lights. But I don’t get too crazy with it; hell, I still work. I’ll be working up until the night during Christmas, because during the day you’d just be walking around the house with a Christmas sweater on.   

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Dre (of Cool & Dre)

From: I tell people I was born in New York, but I lived in Miami, FL most of my life.

What are your typical holiday traditions?

I have a pretty small family; my family is Jamaican and for the holidays we keep it really simple. It’s just me, my mom, and my pops (I’m an only child). Once in a blue moon, it’ll be me, my mom, my pops, two of my aunts, and a couple of my cousins. I’ve got a lot of family in Jamaica still. I haven’t been to Jamaica since I was a little kid. They beat me up about it.

Do you have a specialty holiday dish?

On Thanksgiving, my mother will do a traditional American Thanksgiving. She’ll do the turkey, and then she’ll throw in some Jamaican food too. So we’ll have the turkey with the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the potato salad. Then she’ll throw in the curry chicken, the rice and peas, some Jamaican patties. We get a little mix of both—an American Thanksgiving with a dab of Jamaican. It’s the bomb. Christmas is the same thing, no variation, but a typical Jamaican type vibe. The only real difference is the Christmas cookies.

With such a hectic travel schedule, do you make it a point to stay local to Miami during the holidays?

I try my hardest. When I’m not with my family, I’ll be with my friends. Me and [DJ] Khaled, if he’s doing something in Vegas for New Year’s Eve or on Christmas. Or with Cool. Nothing too crazy; we’ll do dinner. Cool is an amazing chef. He gets down. He knows how to make pasta from scratch—his pops is Italian. His expertise is sauces, so what he does is he’ll have the pasta, the meatballs with the gravy, the salad. I gain a couple of pounds.

Does holiday music delight you or annoy you?

I love holiday music! There are three Christmas songs that I really, really love. I love The Temptations’ “Silent Night” because I had to sing that in high school when I was in the choir. My other two favorites are “Last Christmas” by George Michael. I love that song. I taught myself how to sing as a kid by singing WHAM! I also love Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” As a kid I would go crazy over that.

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Jim Jones  

From: Harlem, New York City

What are your typical holiday traditions?

Everybody brings a plate over—somebody might bring over the potato salad or the greens. There’s a joint effort goin’ on. One thing my moms always does is she cooks these sweet potato pies that are so good. The whole family tries to steal them. That’s a holiday tradition in my house: try to get a pie before they’re all gone. On Christmas, you’ve got gifts with the food. Moms will make her pies for Christmas and a couple for New Year’s Eve, too. 

When you toured with Dipset, was there ever a time when you couldn’t be home for the holidays?

No, being home during the holidays was a must. We would fly out and always be home for the holidays. Me and Cam[‘Ron] were stuck in the Aspens one year on Christmas Eve at Mariah [Carey’s] house. She was trying to get us to stay there for Christmas. We escaped and hopped on the first plane smokin’ back to New York. We still made it for Christmas.

You tend to give back a lot during the holiday season, like turkey drives in Harlem and now in Miami where you currently live.

I try to. I didn’t have much coming up and I’ve been fortunate enough to do good for myself, so naturally the right thing to do is to give back to those who don’t have what you have and give them some inspiration. There’s always something I’m involved in, but I don’t really count my philanthropic efforts as things people should know all about. It’s who I am; if I give, I give from my heart. It’s not for me to put on Instagram to look cool.

Does holiday music delight you or annoy you?

I like holiday music. I made a couple of Dipset Christmas albums, so I’m a pretty festive person myself.

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