Finding tea where one least expects it is a simple pleasure. Except in this case, I’m not talking about finding a kung fu tea ceremony in a hotel that you randomly select on a vacation, but rather finding references to tea in hip-hop lyrics.
While there are lots of references to “hot as a tea kettle” or similar metaphors, in this post I’m sticking to some of the more interesting ones, the ones that actually discuss the act of drinking tea.
(A quick warning for the language-sensitive: though this article doesn’t contain any profanity, if you hunt down any of the songs therein, you may stumble upon some.)
First up is Sage Francis’ “Cup of Tea” from his Personal Journals album, where Sage writes about a nightly routine of facing his anxieties and problems over a cup of tea:
Every night it’s that same damn routine
One green cup of tea
And me stuck all by myself once its empty
And then I’m off to bed with plenty of caffeine to keep me up and thinking
An MC named Psyonik has an odd track titled “Green Tea Swag” where he not only references drinking green tea and incorporates it into the song’s hook, he makes a pretty obscure reference (for hip-hop, at least):
Sip cups like I meditate in Heian-kyō
So I could sit back and regulate the aeon-flow
Heian-kyō, now Kyōto, is certainly a place one might find a good cup of green tea.
Though this one is kind of cheating, I have to include “Weird Al”‘s “White & Nerdy,” which proclaims:
M.C. Escher – that’s my favorite “M.C.”
Keep your 40, I’ll just have an Earl Grey tea
Action Bronson, who is a self-professed foodie, mentions green tea a number of times as well as oolong: “Strictly Oolong on the tea, the shirt straight from ’93.”
Busdriver also enjoys the partially oxidated teas:
They wanted a Moulin Rouge and some bullion cubes
But we jettisoned all that by the megaton
Now they’ve got their Oolong brews and their futon stools
And a reticent sun
In addition, a number of other rappers have made passing references, including Community actor Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino (“You wanna criticize me / Just so you can drink green tea / With Lykke Li at a speakeasy”), Mos Def (“Sometimes that’s just how it be, / Partner, wash you down with green tea and some lime”), Murs (“This is for all of us, lovers and the free thinkers / Rosay sippers and the green tea drinkers”), Detroit’s Elzhi (“You say you love me but is it really real / Would you, fix me green tea if I’m feeling ill”), Asher Roth (“Wake up around 12 and I go back to sleep / Wake up around 3 and I make some green tea”), and Sage (not Francis) (“Green tea, man that’s what real G’s brew / Paper airplanes, that’s what real G’s flew”), and even yours truly (“You’ll never find me tired, strictly wired off of green tea”).
While hip-hop and tea may not historically have much connection and we have yet to see anything rhymed with “Camellia sinensis,” tea references seem to be on the rise. Who knows … maybe some day, there will be a Hip-Hop Tea Shop.
This post first appeared on T Ching 10 May 2013.