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Earlier this year, SoloSam hosted his first B-EATS events that combine hip-hop and food. The events quickly sold out.

Earlier this year, SoloSam hosted his first B-EATS events that combine hip-hop and food. The events quickly sold out.

Inside the multiverse of a Chicago hip-hop chef with sell-out parties

Food and hip-hop have always had a long, but underrated love affair. Think Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah sprinkling gastronomic rhymes like “ziti” and “strawberry kiwi” into his lyrics. Or MF DOOM releasing an entire rhyming album called Mm… Food.

In Chicago, a rapper/producer and chef named SoloSam sits at the intersection of food and hip-hop, and his new bimonthly dance party called B-EATS has become a sell-out affair, hitting max reservations within hours of each event’s announcement. On June 29, he’ll headline a free concert at Navy Pier’s Wave Stage.

SoloSam is ultimately a man on a mission. Chicago is home to world-renowned food and music cultures, and he acts as a liaison bringing the two worlds together with events that are affordable and, he hopes, accessible to as many people as possible.

“It started off as just me bringing the world of food and music together,” said the hip-hop chef, 30, whose given name is Samuel Akainyah. “ You could come party, have good food, have good drink and enjoy yourself. It’s like creating a multiverse where people are able to experience a physical space of my mind.”



SoloSam's dishes pay homage to his mixed Ghanian-Korean heritage.

SoloSam’s dishes pay homage to his mixed Ghanian-Korean heritage. His chicken katsu comes loaded with fries, cheese, mayo and Mike’s Hot Honey.

Photo by Joshua Horton / Courtesy of Samuel Akainyah

Earlier this year, SoloSam hosted his first B-EATS and named it after a radio show he hosts on Amazon’s radio hosting platform AMP. He partnered with a pop-up restaurant, Taco Sublime, which often operates out of Marz Brewing in Bridgeport, to create two limited edition signature dishes that paid homage to his mixed Ghanian-Korean heritage.

There were “Croiffles,” or croissant waffles, which are a popular Korean street food. At the second event, he served up chicken katsu two ways: in a sandwich and loaded with cheese, mayo, and Mike’s Hot Honey. (Scroll down for a recipe for his French Cristo sammich.)

Food has always been at the forefront of all of Akainyah’s musical projects. His 2018 mixtape Itis features a plethora of junk food on the cover; the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the sleepy side effects that come with eating a heavy meal. His follow-up project, Plated, came with a cookbook. For his most recent album, Principles to Die By, in 2021, he created a limited edition cooking show of the same name on his YouTube Channel.

“I think food and music are synonymous in the fact that they are both creative in nature,” he said. “The artistic journey in both is the same. When you first start making food, it’s terrible just like the music is terrible when you first start. Then you get to a point where you’re following things by the book with recipes, and it’s the same with music. Then you get to the point when you’re good enough, it’s not about following other people’s recipes, it’s about doing what things taste and feel right to you.”

As for his background, SoloSam is by no means a rapper who just so happens to know how to cook nor is he a chef with an affinity for music. He embraces both. Prior to becoming a full-time artist, he played football at the University of Valparaiso and also worked as a professional glassblower, learning experiences that he says still affect his creative direction today.

“I only have one good talent, and it’s not food or music. It’s learning,” he said. “Just being conscious of those different areas of my life at the time, they all work in different parts. When I was younger I got sent to military school in Wisconsin, but even being there taught me so much about time management and time blocking. So I feel like all of those skills really helped add to the way I think and the way I process ideas.”

SoloSam says his parents undoubtedly influenced his approach. His father, a painter and art gallery owner, taught him that art’s subjectivity is led by personal experiences. His mother, whom he describes as community-oriented, showed him the importance of hosting spaces for people to come together.

His performance on June 29 at Navy Pier is free. He envisions more free events, saying he never wants finances to be a reason why a fan can’t attend an event: “I love to perform.”

If you go: SoloSam performs June 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Navy Pier as part of the Skyline Sessions.

Alejandro Hernandez is a freelance writer based in Chicago.


SoloSam’s French Cristo

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

4 slices brioche (or bread of your choice)

4 large eggs

1/4 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)

1/2 tsp cinnamon mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch salt (if you have big hands, use a half pinch, Sam says)

1 Tbsp butter

1 tsp oil

2 slices smoked Gruyère

4 fully-cooked turkey sausages, sliced into halves

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, cinnamon, almond milk and a half pinch of salt.
  2. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat and melt the butter.
  3. Dip slices of brioche in the egg mixture. Soak each side for 1 minute. Then, add to pan and cook until each side is brown; reduce heat to low.
  4. In a second pan, add oil, then turkey sausage halves and the 2 remaining eggs, keeping them separated. Cook until sausages are browned and eggs are fried to your preference.
  5. Once cooked, layer the sausages and eggs on one slice of the brioche in the first pan. Top with slices of Gruyère.
  6. Layer the second slice of brioche bread, making a sammich. Heat through for about a minute on each side, or until the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve with syrup or berry sauce (see recipe) and, says Sam, “enjoy them thangs.”

Additional Berry Sauce

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries

1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, cook berries, water and sugar over high heat for 7 minutes or until the berries break down.
  2. Lower heat and simmer until desired consistency.
  3. Drizzle onto the sammich.
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