Eddie Huang : What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito The best-selling author of Fresh Off The Boat and host of Huang's World sits down with Stretch and Bobbito to talk sneakers, hip-hop and the American dream.

Eddie Huang

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What's good? Just a heads up, this episode's got some strong language. Enjoy the show.

EDDIE HUANG: I had teachers that would say, why can't you just be like the other Asian kids that are quiet and good at math and do their homework, like, my junior year of high school. And...


Where is she now? (Laughter).

HUANG: Yeah. Yeah, where you at now?


HUANG: You know, but...

GARCIA: How you like me now? (Laughter).


BARTOS: Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo...

GARCIA: Hey. Hey. Hey.

BARTOS: ...You, you, you, and you and yo. Everyone - yes - out there listening, this is Stretch Armstrong. And to my right...

GARCIA: What up? My name is Bobbito Garcia, AKA Kool Bob Love.

BARTOS: Word up.


BARTOS: Your source for untold stories and uncovered truth from movers and shakers around the world.

GARCIA: Doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo (ph). Today's guest is Eddie Huang.

BARTOS: Eddie is an author, chef, TV personality, fashion designer and attorney.

GARCIA: (Singing) And the beat goes on. We'll talk to him about how cooking helps him hold onto his Chinese ancestry.



BARTOS: What is the best meal you've ever had?

GARCIA: Well, I would love to say Eddie Huang, but I've never been to his restaurant (laughter).

BARTOS: Eddie Huang is not a meal (laughter).

GARCIA: I would say the best meal I've ever had perhaps would be coming back from Paris on a long trip. And the woman who became my wife and mother to my child had prepared a phenomenal plate that was decorated as if it was coming from a, you know, five-star restaurant with chicken and rice and...

BARTOS: And the accoutrement.

GARCIA: Yeah. And asparagus. Now - but the crazy thing was that she had never cooked for me. We had been, you know, hanging out for, like, almost, like, six, seven months. So I'm like, yo, where is this coming from? But what happened was while I was in Paris, I told her that I loved her and we became boyfriend-girlfriend. So when I came back...

BARTOS: (Laughter) You became boyfriend and girlfriend long-distance.

GARCIA: (Laughter) Yeah (laughter).

BARTOS: Will you be my girlfriend? Oui. That's very sweet.

GARCIA: Yeah, and so that's the best one I ever had.

BARTOS: Beautiful.

GARCIA: She'll be happy to hear this.


GARCIA: Now, the real story...

BARTOS: You might get another one of those. How long has it been?


GARCIA: Eddie Huang is up next.


BARTOS: And we're back. Joining us now is the multi-talented Eddie Huang.

HUANG: What's up?

BARTOS: What up?

GARCIA: It's hard to put a finger on a single title for Mr. Eddie Huang. He's opened up restaurants around New York, host of a TV show, "Huang's World," on Viceland, and that is just a small fraction of the projects he's involved in. Eddie, peace. Welcome to the show.

HUANG: Thank you, man. Thank you for having me. This feels like a rite of passage.

GARCIA: So, Eddie, you're passionate about food, your peoples, writing, also your cat. That's - and to sneakers, right? I have a keen eye for that as well. I'm wondering how you got into the sneaker game as a youth.

HUANG: Yeah. Well, my thing with sneakers was sneakers, to me, was, like, the illest symbol of the American dream. You know what I mean? Like, the thing that got me into sneakers was when the Jordan 5 came out, right? And I still remember this kid. This kid - it was third grade...


HUANG: ...And this kid, Chaz Kofer (ph) - all right? - blond hair, blue eye, all-white everything. And he walked across the lawn at recess the day the Jordan 5 Fire Red Whites came out. And I just saw the 3M dancing, right? You know, the sun hit the 3M and it's just like...


HUANG: ...It's like disco on your foot.

BARTOS: You're like, ah.


HUANG: And I was like, damn. This is money.


HUANG: Like, 'cause my mom is not going to get me that pair of shoes.

GARCIA: Right.

HUANG: And so for, like, a couple weeks, I would - just kept taking the garbage out, helping my mom cook, whatever. I was doing anything to be like, yo, Mom, you know - like, you know the 5s came out, right?


HUANG: You know the 5s came out? And she's like, I don't know. Like, my mom's an immigrant. She came here when she was 7. She don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. And she didn't know how much they cost.


HUANG: So she's like, all right. You know what? You've been, like, really good for two weeks. Your grades are good. You've been taking out the trash. Let me - like, let's go see these shoes. I need to see these shoes you've been talking about. We go. They were in the display case, right? You just saw them from the parking lot. And even my brothers were like, damn, that is a - that is a pretty-ass shoe, you know?


HUANG: My mom was like, this is beautiful. We see the price. Then she's like, you funny, man.


HUANG: Like, you a comedian out here. You brought your whole family to see this pair of sneakers. And, like, it was like a museum. It was like going to a museum.


HUANG: You know?


HUANG: And that was, like, my entry into, like, untouchable American culture that I could not have, you know? And my pops was like, you more a Charles Barkley dude, you know what I mean?


HUANG: So he got me the Forces. My dad was just like, I think these shoes are for fat kids.


HUANG: And he got me the fat kid Charles Barkley sneaker. And I hated - I hated Jordan ever since that. I always hated Jordan...

GARCIA: Oh, word?

HUANG: ...Because I was like, you put out these fly shoes. I can't touch them. I can't have them. I'm - you know, so I rode for Barkley, wearing his ugly-ass sneakers.

BARTOS: (Laughter) So we touched on sneakers. That, of course, is not your only interest. You're a writer, chef and - I didn't know until recently that you were actually an attorney.

HUANG: Yeah, I was an attorney for about six months.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: But - right. But you passed the bar.

HUANG: Yeah, I did pass the bar. I passed the bar. I know a little bit.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: And of course, you're now a TV personality, hosting your own show, "Huang's World," on Viceland, where you sample cuisines from cultures around the world.


HUANG: This is the Taiwan section of the food court. This one specializes in giant pieces of pork and bamboo shoots. (Laughter) Oh, we got to peep this. This is the curry area.

BARTOS: In your estimation, how important is food and the details within food when it comes to defining cultural identity?

HUANG: Food was the vehicle that in a lot of ways, because of my race, I was allowed to play in. People expected Asian, East Asian people to be just nice with the cooking game. You know what I mean?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HUANG: Everybody likes Chinese food. Everybody likes - everybody likes sushi. And then when Korean food came on the scene, it was like, oh, shit, all y'all can do this, you know?


HUANG: Everybody got work on the east side of the continent. And...


HUANG: I saw it as a opportunity. So I was like, all right. I've been writing in hip-hop but not really getting that much burn. I remember writing for XXL. And they'd say to me, you have a great voice, but it's not our voice. You need to write in the XXL voice. And I was like, I - well, I don't want to fake the funk.

GARCIA: Right.

HUANG: You know? Like, I'm a Taiwanese-Chinese kid from Orlando, grew up listening to radio shows like yours. This is just how I sound, you know? I also - when I was writing screenplays, there was a professor that was like, you should switch all the Asian characters to Jewish characters because then you could sell it. No one's buying anything with Asian people. And I was like, no, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to keep it 100. And I want to write, like, the raw real.

But then food was the place that I was able to be myself. I did not have to change because people were like, y'all are supposed to be good at this. Show me how it's done. Tell me your story. So that's where I planted my flag and, in the words of Booker T. Washington, I guess, like, cast down my bucket. I was like, fine. Fuck it. If I got to do it in a restaurant and I got to do it the same way my dad did in a restaurant, so be it. But I'm going to tell you my story.

GARCIA: And were you - were you whack at one point? (Laughter).

HUANG: (Laughter) No. No, I was always nice.

GARCIA: You were nice from jump.


BARTOS: Listen, he had to - he had to help his mom in the kitchen to get the Jordans.

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: So he was - he got his skills up.

HUANG: Yep. Yep. I was born into it.

BARTOS: So your mom - your mom was the cook in your household?

HUANG: Yeah, my mom was the cook. My dad was the bootlegger. My dad bootlegged concepts.


HUANG: Yeah, my dad worked at a Steak and Ale, Ellen and Seafood (ph). And then he, like, opened Cattleman's Steakhouse and Atlantic Bay Seafood. And literally, the menus - like, it was the same. He got sued by Outback Steakhouse because he opened a Aussie steakhouse with the kangaroo facing the other way.


HUANG: So my mom was the cook. My dad was the bootlegger.

GARCIA: So, Eddie, you authored a book.

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: "Fresh Off The Boat," New York Times best-seller. And within the pages, marvelously, you know, cite your relationship to hip-hop, growing up in Orlando, growing up in Florida in a predominately white community and allowing the multiculturalism, the multinationalism, the universality of hip-hop to kind of allow you to prosper and grasp a place. In that striving, you crossed through some painful paths. Where are you at with hip-hop at this point? Because it's evolved a lot. You've evolved a lot. Take us through - a little bit through that journey.

HUANG: I was born in '82. But I remember hip-hop early '90s. If you were a kid that was into it - I've been into it since I was about 6, 7 years old, you know? And it was not something that was that mainstream. It was not something that - it was acceptable. Like, I really got shamed for being into hip-hop. It was like a deviant culture to be part of. And especially because I was Asian, it was like, what are you doing listening to this music? You have nothing in common with this music. And I was like, no, actually, I do. I got everything in common with this music because I felt like an alien in Orlando, like, growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, but then going to a very multicultural school where everybody got bussed in, 4,000 kids.

I was like - I really started to see how I was segregated in thought and identity from other people of color. The music is what really brought me together and helped me find myself, you know, because I had teachers that would say, why can't you just be like the other Asian kids that are quiet and good at math and do their homework, like my junior year of high school. And...

BARTOS: Where is she now?

HUANG: Yeah. Yeah. Where you at now?


HUANG: You know?

GARCIA: How you like me now?

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: You should send her a Kool Moe Dee 12-inch.


HUANG: Yeah. You know, everyone shit on me as a kid. People didn't like me listening to the music. But, you know, hip-hop, it's - I would not be who I am without it. And I think it is the culture that actually represents me and I identify with the most, even more than the traditional Chinese culture that I grew up with in the house. This is the one thing I found that spoke to me and I felt like was real.

GARCIA: So in 2017 - right? - because we've all kind of evolved, the culture has evolved, the music has evolved, what does it mean to you now?

HUANG: It's still in my heart. You know what I mean? It always is. And I'm not a purist or someone who tries to hang on to one era, right? Obviously, I think y'all represent the golden era everybody knows, '92 to about, like, '95, right? No, '92-'97, something like that.

GARCIA: Depends on who you ask.

HUANG: Yeah, depends on who you ask.

GARCIA: Stretch and I are, like, '86 to '89.

BARTOS: '86 to '88.

HUANG: Oh, really? You - oh, you '86 to '89?

GARCIA: Yeah. I mean, we're older than - we're older than '87.

HUANG: OK. I mean, but the (unintelligible), you know what I mean? So like...

GARCIA: It just depends on, I think, like, what - what your entry point into hip-hop music was. If you were in high school and, like, wide open, then that's generally going to be your golden era. It's assigned to each generation.

HUANG: Obviously, I mean, we were freestyling in the crib or whatever.


BARTOS: Uh-oh. Uh-oh. What's up? What's up? What's up? What's up?

HUANG: No, no, no...

BARTOS: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

HUANG: I would never - I would never shame the game like this. No. No, I would never disrespect the game like that. Never. No.

BARTOS: It's just fun, man. It's just fun.

GARCIA: Give him a beat, Stretch. Give him a beat. Give him a beat.

HUANG: No. I'd rather, like, pull my pants down or something.


HUANG: No, no. Stop playing. Stop playing, Stretch.

BARTOS: (Laughter) He was blushing.


HUANG: Not doing it. Not doing it. Not doing it.

BARTOS: So "Fresh Off The Boat," as we know, was turned into a sitcom on ABC. And you've been pretty vocal about the issues you've had with it. Hollywood, of course, is extremely bureaucratic. And I imagine you had to really fight to be your own advocate in the process of getting that show on air in the first place. In terms of being an advocate for your own voice, was that something that you've had to fight for elsewhere in your career?

HUANG: Yeah. The thing is that, you know, I feel like I've been chosen because there are certain things about my story that Hollywood or the man can make money on, right? Like, a chubby Asian kid that likes hip-hop, that's funny to people, right? You put that kid on 8, 8:30, weekday nights, middle-America families come home, that's very easy to laugh at and eat a TV dinner to, you know, especially if you can resolve all of his issues in 22 minutes, right? But when it was sold, I did not sign up for that. I was like, I'm selling you my story. You're getting the real, uninhibited - like, this is raw power, right? If you want it, here it is. That's what you bought.

But I started to see them chop it up. It definitely was sterilized. And they were, like, every episode needs to be solved in 22 minutes, bro. We cannot introduce a problem that cannot be solved in 22 minutes. And that really upset me because I was aiming for "Wonder Years." I was like, that show had problems that went unsolved for multiple, multiple seasons, right? And so it was a battle. It is kind of - I think ended in a really good place.

That show has touched a lot of people. People that I respect run up on me all the time and say, yo, man, like, I know you had an issue with that show, but, like, my son, my daughter watches it, and you have enabled a reflection of them to be on television. And so I'm really proud of that. I'm proud of the people that work on the show. And I would just tell immigrants, anybody - anybody of any color out there, any creed, whatever, like, tell your story, man. Tell your story. Shoot the fair one. Do it as big as you can.


BARTOS: So we're talking a lot about cultural identity. And you've got a new book, "Double Cup Love." In the book, you reveal how you traveled to China to ask the question, how Chinese am I? What does it mean to be Chinese? And how important is that to you?

HUANG: So much of my work has been about untangling this idea of race and my American understanding of race. But the more I travel, the more people I meet, the older I get, the more I realize that race is a social construct. It does not exist. It is not a thing, you know? Culture exists. Your experiences exist. The way that we treat each other as human beings says more about our existence than the color of your skin. And while we continue to attach these attributes and these experiences to race in America, I think it's very incorrect. Race is something that I have let go. And I don't know if it's complete, but I'm continuing to work on, like, my definition, unpacking it, you know?

BARTOS: Do you think some of that has to do with the fact that you're famous, though? I saw Aziz Ansari at The Cellar. He was just a surprise guest and, of course, the place was ecstatic to see him. This bit was hey, you know, like, I know what it's like to be a brown person in America. He's, like, but, you know, now that I'm famous, the same guys that may have told me to go back to where I came from now want to get autographs (laughter).

HUANG: Yes, absolutely.

BARTOS: Your perspective changes when you're - when you get famous.

HUANG: Yeah. I think it's a very, very important point to note. There's new challenges, right? I find racism and I face racism in way different and much more insidious ways in boardrooms, conference rooms, between the lines on a contract, you know? That's real racism, right? At least that's the racism I'm facing in my real life now today. But I never forget the struggles that I faced. I continue to speak on those experiences. But I think you, Aziz - it's absolutely right that as you continue to move up Maslow's pyramid, you navigate race in a different way.

To a lot of people, I'm no longer an Asian person. I'm a celebrity. And I don't know how I feel about that yet. That's something I'm still unpacking and I'm figuring out. But my consciousness about race and its kind of, like, artificiality, that is an understanding and epiphany that I came to on my own. And absolutely, Stretch, it's because, like, I made it, in a way, in society. Society no longer can hold me down because of that string. They can't pull that string on me. Well, I think they will, but in a - it'll be different string.

GARCIA: So I want to talk to you about something that was written in a New York Times opinion piece. It was in reference to comments that Steve Harvey made about Asian-American men. He joked about how black women may not be interested in Asian men. And you wrote that it perpetuates the emasculation of Asian men. You're now an underwear model for MeUndies.

HUANG: (Laughter) Yeah.

GARCIA: What does that mean to you regarding dominant stereotypes around Asian men and sexuality?

HUANG: It was wild because I saw Steve Harvey's comments. And I didn't see them live. I didn't - I don't watch his show. But a lot of Asian cats were hitting me on Twitter, sending me DMs like, yo, you got to see this Steve Harvey thing. We need you, dog.


STEVE HARVEY: How to date a black woman - a practical guide to Asian men. You like Asian men? I don't even like Chinese food, boy.


HUANG: It really upset me to my core. I was like, this is something I remember people saying since the '80s, since I was a little kid. Everybody had chinky-eye (ph) ching-chong (ph) jokes. Everyone always pulled their eyes back at me. I remember when I played baseball, man, these kids - they would run around me in a circle going, ching-chong, Eddie Huang sitting on a jumbo gong, and they'd throw food at me. And I was, like, in fourth grade. And, you know...

BARTOS: Where are they now?

HUANG: Yeah, yeah (laughter). Well, I know where they at now. I found them on Instagram. I never forget...


HUANG: ...My mom always said about me - she was like, you never forget and you barely forgive. You know what I mean? Like, I remember everything, you know? But I see where those kids are. They ain't doing shit.

BARTOS: We need to order a few more Kool Moe Dee 12-inches.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: How you like me now?

HUANG: But no, like, you know, I just - I swallowed it as a kid. I was like, I can't - I can't fight six, seven kids at baseball in fourth grade. Like, I just took it. They threw sunflower seeds, whatever at me all the time. And it was a thing where as an Asian-American, people didn't believe you that you got discriminated against. People were like, what challenges do you face, you know? Your parents are middle-class. You're middle-class. You're fine. And I was like, I'm getting shit on, people fighting me every day. And so it was very hard because no one would listen.

When Steve Harvey said it, it took me all the way back. And it upset me to the core. And that's why I hit up The New York Times - I hit my man Sam Sifton. I was just like, Sam, who do I talk to? And he put me in touch with this guy that runs the op-ed section, very graciously allowed me to write the article. I submitted it. And I felt really good. And personally, I feel like I exorcised a lot of demons and there was a gorilla off my back because I was able to publicly and honestly speak about how I have been insecure about my body and my physical stuff for a minute.

And even though I'm fine - like, I've never had a shorty complain. You know, and that's not - that's not picking up myself. I'm just saying, like, there was nothing wrong. But I always thought my machinery was broken or busted, you know, because other kids would make fun of me from day one. So the Steve Harvey thing really upset me. And after we wrote it, about two weeks later, MeUndies was like, yo, we want you as an underwear model. And I was like, stop playing, stop playing.

BARTOS: That's lemons to lemonade.

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: So there was one paragraph in the article that was really interesting to me. So you said, quote, "I realized that people on the margins aren't afforded the privilege of being complicated, whole human beings in America. We have to create that existence ourselves. And it's that experience that I feel fundamentally binds us. Over time, I began to find solidarity with my singularity and difference."

When did you first feel like you weren't allowed to be a complicated human being?

HUANG: This is a dark one (laughter).


HUANG: This is a dark one.

GARCIA: We could skip it.

HUANG: No, no, no, no, no, no.

GARCIA: I was happy to talk about underwear.

HUANG: We - no.


HUANG: No. We hear - no, no.

GARCIA: I wear boxers, by the way (laughter).

HUANG: I never pass. I never plead the Fifth. You know what I mean?

GARCIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

HUANG: Like, I mean, unless, you know, I'm really pleading the Fifth. I don't - I don't snitch. But if you're asking me, I will tell you. It's funny 'cause I thought I was going to tell you a story about race. But it's actually, I think, a story about family. I grew up in a home with a consistent presence of violence. There was a lot of violence in my home not inflicted by me, inflicted upon me and others in my family.

And even though a lot of my challenges have been about race, like, for me, I think my first test was, like, violence in the home - watching other people in my family get hit, me being hit myself. And really, the first time I talk about it publicly at all is when "Fresh Off The Boat" came out. But I felt like I wasn't able to be a full, complicated, deep human being because I had to hide all that. Like, I had to hold - I'd go to school - what happened? Oh, I fell. You know what I mean?

And so that's my first experience with, like, not being able to express myself, not being able to, like, find help - never called the cops. And it was not lifted until "Fresh Off The Boat" came out. I remember the first day it came out. Like, that was when I felt like I had exorcised that. And I remember telling my brother, I was like, yo, man, like, I finally feel, like, free. And I feel like this sounds morbid, but I was like, yo, if I - if something happened to me and I died today, I would be OK because I told that story, man. I told our story. And it's out there. And I don't have to carry this shit anymore.

BARTOS: What was your mom's reaction to the book when she read it?

HUANG: She still hasn't read it. She can't read it. She's really scared of the book.

BARTOS: Mm-hm.

HUANG: And my dad read it, loved it and was very funny. My dad apologized. My dad called me. He's like, yo, I apologize. And I thought he was going to apologize for, you know - he said, no, no, no, no. I made you a man. Like, that's how I made you a man. I'm not going to apologize for that. And I don't hold it against my dad. We're good.

And it's too long of a radio show to go into, like, how I have done that. But he said, no, I apologize because I had no idea what it was like to grow up Asian in America. He's like, I can't believe I brought you to this country. I'm sorry. I was like, no, dad.


HUANG: You did the right thing. We made it.

BARTOS: I love this country.

HUANG: We literally...

BARTOS: You got it all wrong.

HUANG: I love it. I'm living a multicultural - I love it. Like, I wouldn't be who I am without coming here. He's like, no. The thing I overlooked as a father and I will apologize to you for is - he was like, I came here as an adult. And he was like, I knew who I was. I was able to grow up in a country with other faces and voices like mine. I knew I was Chinese-Taiwanese.

He's like, I took that for granted because you never got to see other people like you. You never got to be a part of, like, your native culture. You had to keep this alive within yourself, just within the five of us in this home. And he's like, I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry because, like, that is a real struggle. And so I was like, that's cool my dad recognized that struggle.


HUANG: ...But yeah. So - yeah.

GARCIA: Thanks for sharing that.

HUANG: Yeah.


HUANG: No, thanks for asking, man. It's an important one.

BARTOS: Up next, it's time for the Impression Session.


BARTOS: Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the Stretch and Bobbito Impression Session.

GARCIA: Word up. Eddie, this is how it works. We're going to play you music. Now, you can digest it however you want. It's not a guessing game. It can be if you want, if you recognize who we're playing. It's really about you listening. And whatever emotion that the song evokes, share it. Wherever the song takes you.


PELIROJA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUANG: I like that.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HUANG: I like that. Who is that, though?

GARCIA: It's a group called Peliroja. And the song is "Ciudad De Nadie." It's on Chulo Records/Peace & Rhythm music. It's a band out of New York.

HUANG: It's fly. My - I mean, my initial impressions - I don't know if it's because it's lunchtime, but I went straight sofrito, Adobo Sazon.


HUANG: I was, like, thinking about rum on the rocks, squeeze a lime, sugar rim, Latin Quarter. I was just like, I'm hungry.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HUANG: So that's where my mind went first because it's spicy.

GARCIA: Yeah, it's very spicy.

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: The reason why I played this record for you - first of all, my understanding of Orlando - right? - is that it is a pillar city in the diaspora of boricuas, right? Like, there are over 100,000 Puerto Ricans, reportedly, in that city. And it may be top three, top five...

HUANG: It's the second most Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico behind New York.

GARCIA: There it is. So I wanted to play this - is get your perspective on the Asian-Latino experience. The second-highest population of Japanese people is in Brazil.

HUANG: Yeah. Peru, also.

GARCIA: There's mad Cuban-Chinese - there's mad Chinese in Puerto Rico (laughter).

HUANG: Yup. (Laughter) My dad used to bring us to the Dominican Republic. My dad actually got his teeth fixed in the D.R. last year...


HUANG: ...Because he has so many friends from Taiwan there, right?


HUANG: And there's Taiwanese people in Argentina, mad Chinese people in Jamaica...

BARTOS: That's right.

HUANG: ...Puerto Rico, Cuba. But yeah, growing up in Orlando, Puerto Rican culture was definitely something that I was aware of. Like, hip-hop came through the Puerto Ricans in Orlando. It came through Tony Touch tapes. And the Puerto Ricans from New York in Orlando were the ones that put most of us on first. I mean, I definitely grew up with it. And even though it wasn't, like, an exact reflection of myself, I related to it a lot. And there was more Puerto Ricans and Asians. And it was something that, like, really helped me feel less alone.


HUANG: Yeah.


HUANG: Absolutely.


HUANG: Yeah.

BARTOS: That was slick, Bob. I see what you did.

HUANG: I like it.

GARCIA: Yeah, you like that? All right.

BARTOS: Yeah, yeah.

GARCIA: So Stretchy, you got a song for Eddie?


GARCIA: All right.

BARTOS: I do, I do, I do, I do.


RAKIM: (Rapping) Planet Earth was my place of birth, born to be the soul controller of the universe. Besides the part of the map I hit first, any environment, I can adapt when it gets worst. The rough gets going, the going gets rough. When I start flowing, the mic might bust. The next state'll shake from the power I generate. People in Cali used to think it was earthquakes.


GARCIA: (Laughter).

HUANG: Honestly, he's the god, you know? Like, I - really, any time I hear The R, it really feels like the original cave man that created the wheel. Do you what I mean?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HUANG: Like, every emcee came after, like, he created the wheel. So you build the body on to it - he'd do all these things. But, like, R is the one that came through, was like, here's the wheel. You fuck with it, you know?

BARTOS: Right. It's great to hear someone that was born in '82 have that sentiment.

HUANG: Yeah.

BARTOS: You know? The R that you're referring to is, of course, Rakim, formerly of Eric B. & Rakim. But Rakim, who - yeah, he just remains, for, me the ultimate. I mean, he's top of the pyramid.

HUANG: Yeah.

GARCIA: And he didn't create the wheel, but he kind of, like - he crafted the wheel so that it could go a lot smoother.


HUANG: Yeah. Yeah, I guess - yeah, well, who would you say...

GARCIA: Like, the wheel was kind of, like, square and maybe, like, a octagon at one point. But then, like...

HUANG: Yeah (laughter).

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: I - well, I think the - obviously, you had a lot of fantastic contemporaries of Rakim. But when he came out, the distance that he raised the bar was perhaps...

GARCIA: Oh, yeah.

HUANG: Yeah. Yes.

BARTOS: ...The greatest - that was the greatest step forward ever in hip-hop. I don't think anyone has taken something...


BARTOS: ...And raised it that much in one swift motion.

HUANG: You know, there's a lot of other people that have innovated, especially in a business, entrepreneurial sense. But I don't think anyone has innovated for the benefit of the culture as much as Rakim did, either, you know? A lot of it has become self-promotion, self-benefit. He raised the whole culture and the way, like, people communicate.

GARCIA: All right, Eddie. I think you've been a phenomenal guest.

HUANG: I tried, yeah.


GARCIA: You did good there, Eddie.

HUANG: Yeah.

BARTOS: Yes, indeed. That's Eddie Huang, host of "Huang's World" on Viceland. His book, "Double Cup Love," is out now. Eddie, thank you, really. Seriously.

HUANG: Thank you, man. I appreciate it.

BARTOS: Sincerely.


HUANG: Thanks for having me, man. Word, really. Respect.

BARTOS: That's it for us. We're about to sign off. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, edited by Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton, and executive produced by our homegirl Abby O'Neill.

GARCIA: Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

BARTOS: This episode features music by DJ Eli Escobar.

GARCIA: If you like the show, you can hear more at npr.org.

BARTOS: Or wherever you like to listen. Boom.

GARCIA: Why don't we just get into this, yo, because we already...

BARTOS: We're getting into it. We're recording.

HUANG: Oh, we into it, Bob (laughter).

GARCIA: No, I don't want - I know. I don't want to be eating and talking at the same time.

HUANG: It sounds good on the mic, man (laughter).

BARTOS: No, you've got to...


HUANG: That Pret A - they never heard Pret A Manger just being chewed up on the mic before.


BARTOS: Yo, can we get Pret A Manger to sponsor this show?

HUANG: Mm (ph), the sounds of...

BARTOS: Can we get some sponsorship from Pret A Manger?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: Pret a Mang-er (ph).


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