Looking through a stranger's refrigerator feels a bit like reading his diary. Moments after meeting Grammy-winning rapper and producer Ishmael Butler of Sub Pop's Shabazz Palaces, I was pulling open his fridge doors, digging through his drawers, and asking for a taste of his homemade tahini. Luckily, the sweet-faced, mild-mannered Seattle hiphop artist didn't seem to mind. His fridge contained a selection of carefully curated, über-healthful items—including a dozen herbal tinctures—although a wooden bowl on the counter was stacked with knobby, freakishly large russet potatoes ready to be sliced into the french fries Butler says he craves at least once a week. What is he going to do with that coconut? Let's find out.
You don't have a lot going on in here! Tell me what's in your fridge.
Kombucha, some walnuts, some yogurt, a lemon that's been sliced in half, a coconut and coconut oil, coconut butter, a bunch of tinctures, some [coconut] chocolate, and a few other things. Vegenaise.
Do you cook much?
Every day. Lately I've just been making a lot of roasted squash, roasted yams. I usually go buy my food every day, right up the street. I eat a lot of vegetables.
What are you going to do with that coconut?
I'm going to drink the water and then scrape out as much of the coconut meat as I can.
Everything in here is so, so healthy. Do you have a secret late-night snack that you wouldn't want anyone to know about?
No, I would eat it out in front of everyone; it's apples with almond butter.
Oh, you're bad. You're wild.
So can we talk about all these tinctures? There are dozens of them in the fridge and on the counter.
My friend is starting this company of elixirs, so she's always giving me different things: chamomile tincture, wild rose elixir, Clear Mind because I need to clear my mind sometimes. This is Light-Hearted, and this is willow bark, and Resilient to keep your immune system good. This is violet, it says it's mood-uplifting. Goldenrod for allergies. Nettles, nettles is good, I'm going to have some now. [He chugs some out of the tiny bottle.] It's supposed to ease the tension when you're in a tense situation.
Are you in a tense situation?
[Laughs] No, no.
What's in that jar full of green leaves over there?
Oh, that one? It's, uh, it's nettle. You make a tea out of it—let it steep for eight hours and then drink it. It's really good for you.
Can we take a look in the freezer? What's in that bag?
This is elderberry; I make tinctures and tea. I also have my ice-cream maker thing and nettle pesto in there.
You've got a hunger for nettle that just won't quit.
You go on tour for six months out of the year. When you're away, what home-cooked foods do you miss?
French fries. And tahini. This is my tahini [sauce] right here that I make myself. That's actually the crown jewel of the refrigerator right there. I put that on everything, and it's really delicious. It's lemon, tahini, garlic, a little oil, salt, sometimes I put a little cilantro in it. I make it in that Cuisinart right there. [Butler draws out the word "Cuisinart," slow and sexy, like it's a lyric in an R&B song.]
What do you put your tahini sauce on?
It's best on french fries with rosemary, salad, and tomatoes, and if the situation is right, I put it on myself. [He looks me in the eye, deadpan, then laughs.] Nah, I'm just playin'.
What do you cook if you're trying to impress someone?
Slow-roasted chicken, eggplant Parm. Have I mentioned french fries? French fries and Thai food. I can get busy in the kitchen, that's something I can do.
Are french fries your vice?
My vice? [Laughs]
What's your vice?
Probably just community service, that's what I get off on.