Ben Gore pays tribute to one of his favourite rappers in MF Doom-themed cookbook

Folkestone-based illustrator Ben Gore has paid fitting tribute to the late, great rapper MF Doom in his upcoming cookbook titled Doom’s Bistro. Packed with 60 recipes inspired by the masked musician’s discography, it includes dozens of fun illustrations.

The greatly missed British-American rapper MF Doom has left a huge mark on the world of hip hop thanks to his raps that boast intricate wordplay and his supervillain stage persona. As a fitting mark of respect, Ben Gore is set to release an unofficial cookbook inspired by his music.

Published by Blue Monday Press, the book will show readers how to make meals mentioned in Doom’s songs, including Nice Verse Pie, Fillet-O-Rapper, Rapp Snitch Knishes, and Deep Fried Frenz. There’s even a selection of Doom-inspired cocktails to wet your whistle while cooking up a storm.

The cookery angle is a clever hook for a book about MF Doom, especially considering that food references and symbolism run through his back catalogue. Take his cult classic album Mm.. Food, in which every track is named after dishes or drinks.

“I’ve been a huge DOOM fan for decades, and I wanted to put this cookbook together to pay tribute to an icon of hip hop while adding a delicious dimension to his back catalogue,” Ben tells Creative Boom. “While the Mm.. Food album was the starting point for the book, it can’t be overstated how richly spiced MF Doom’s discography is with food references.

“For starters, his multi-volume instrumental album series, Special Herbs, features tracks that are solely titled after foods or spices, and the tracklist reads like a shopping list featuring everything from coriander to monosodium glutamate.

“Food is not only used to title tracks throughout Mm.. Food, but it’s used as a valuable metaphor linking the symbol of food with life around the rap industry. The opening track on the album, Beef Rapp, ties together the dangers of an unhealthy diet and the risks of rap beef or disputes. Doom even placed himself in the chef role when he included a recipe for his Villainous Mac N Cheeze on the Mm.. Leftovers EP, a project featuring remixes of the tracks on Mm.. Food.”

As well as creating a fitting tribute to MF Doom, Ben wanted to make something that offered an interactive way to enjoy the rapper’s music. “The original seed of the idea came after I wrote and illustrated The Pop Culture Cookbook, a cookbook featuring recipes for foods from film, TV, and music,” he explains.

“I included a recipe for [MF Doom song] Rapp Snitch Knishes in the book and, after further researching all the foods referenced within Doom’s music, it felt like a no-brainer to expand the project into its own Doom-focused book.”

For the illustrations, Ben took a few different approaches to avoid the cliche of MF Doom simply eating or cooking. Instead, he chose to illustrate depending on how fun he thought he could make the dish or ingredients look. And if there was room for it, he’d even sneak in a reference to the visuals of the rapper’s past albums.

“The only rule I gave myself was that in every illustration, there has to be a Doom mask alongside the dish or an ingredient,” he adds. “There are two guest dishes too, which both feature Doom collaborators who also referenced food in their work, and I illustrated those as well just to give a wide variety of subjects and pay tribute to some other Hip Hop icons. Those guest dishes are a J Dilla doughnut, inspired by his Donuts album, and Raekwon’s butter pecan ice cream, inspired by his track Ice Cream.”

Given that he considers the rapper to be a “magical figure”, the depth of Ben’s love and appreciation for MF Doom is clear to see in this book. And while the masked musician sadly passed away in 2020, Ben intends for Doom’s Bistro to celebrate his life and work.

“I hope I’m honouring Doom by expanding a major theme of his art into another medium,” he says. “All the tracks are referenced in the book, so you can see which tracks have directly inspired each recipe. And hopefully, the book might even introduce folks to some lesser-heard Doom songs or projects and the foods he used as symbols throughout his back catalogue.”

Ben’s favourite of all the book’s illustrations is the Gingerbread Doom drawing. “I’d consider MF Doom to be a patron saint of rap music, and I wanted to honour him in that way by creating an illustration inspired by the saints in stained glass windows,” he adds. “It was a fun one to draw and figure out, and I’m pleased with how it came out.”

Seeing as this was a project borne out of love, it’s no surprise that Ben’s biggest challenge was getting everything to a standard he was happy with. “I wrote, illustrated, proofed and designed the whole thing, so it was tough to manage the time it took me to get everything done well,” he reveals.

“The book is launching at an exhibition too, so I wanted to make sure that the illustrations were strong enough to hang on the wall, as well as within the book’s pages. It is the first book I’ve fully illustrated myself, and it was also a challenge to think of various ways to create illustrations without them all becoming too samey or stale.”

Ben can rest assured that he’s done MF Doom proud, as the book is brimming with stunning illustrations and amazing recipes that pay appropriate homage. And if you want to see the illustrations in person, they will be on display at the Photobook Cafe in London on 9 November from 6-9pm to mark the launch of Doom’s Bistro.

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