Radio Craves

Roy Choi Drops Science on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project

Choi Photo: KCRW

We’re always curious what Roy Choi is listening to, even if yesterday he had us vastly more curious where his dispensary is located. Today, the adept chef drops five songs for KCRW’s “Guest DJ Project” and, fittingly for L.A.’s culinary equivalent of K-Day, all he plays is pure old-school hip-hop. As in true, back-in-the-day Eric B. & Rakim and Run-DMC hip-hop. The “deep rude boy” skips the King Tubby and Burro Banton to note that his first listen to Run-DMC’s “It’s Like That” was a life-changer after an “up and down life growing up,” calling his primary song pick “the first time where I felt like someone just gave me a pound.” Choi then takes it back to Kali roots, busting out N.W.A.’s seminal rock-slanging ode “Dopeman,” while dropping memories of attending World Class Wrecking Crew shows where Ice Cube killed it in parking lot cyphers. “There was nobody rapping like Cube,” Choi notes.

The chef goes on to tell Anthony Valadez that Public Enemy also changed his life and “took it up to the next level,” shortly before breaking down Rakim’s verses in “It Ain’t No Joke” as another major influence. “For me, that really spoke to me. I’m older now but sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, I ain’t no joke,” Choi says. Stuck on another West Coast classic, Choi takes his final dip into “I Get Around” by Tupac, who he saw first at a Queen Latifah and Naughty by Nature concert at The Palladium.

The chef ultimately sums up hip-hop’s influence on his life before singing off, explaining that both his food and the music form “a deep thread in the soul of my life and the people around me and our communities and what we went through in L.A. I call our food L.A. food.”

Choi finishes the set on a strong note about his cooking: “It was like my placa, it was like my bomb on the wall of what I went through in L.A. It was my mural, but instead of paint, my mural had green onions and ginger.”

Listen to Choi’s full podcast on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.

And look here to see what chefs like Alice Waters, Cat Cora, Eric Greenspan, Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless, Kerry Simon, and Jose Andres also had to play.

Roy Choi Drops Science on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project