I Think I’m Turning Japanese: Rap’s Infatuation With Benihana

Chris Farley as Hibachi Chef

Rap ♥’s unabashed extravagance: Bugattis, Armand de Brignac Champagne, Swiss Watches, Goyard bags, Rothschild wine, $1,000,000 Jewelry, etc. However, one prosaic theme has been commonplace throughout rap for almost two decades: Benihana.

Benihana was founded in 1964 by Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, father of electro house musician Steve Aoki (Shouts to Dim Mak Records). Rocky “worked seven days a week selling ice cream in New York City and studied restaurant management at night.”¹ He wanted to give American diners something different and believed seating them at communal tables, cooking the food in the Teppanyaki (hibachi) style with highly entertaining chefs would be the way to go.

There are certainly more expensive, more famous and more exclusive restaurants and eateries out there. Why is this everyday Japanese restaurant chain such a fixture in rap? Is it the fact they serve only the finest of crab meats? Is it their Express Lunch starting at $7? Is it their reverence for Sake etiquette? One thing we can say for certain, the onion volcano almost certainly plays a prominent role in this love affair. Hit the jump and let us explore why rap has such a lady boner for Beni Han Han.

Good For Punchlines

Benihana Chef
The earliest known reference to Benihana is as hotly a debated topic as “Who shot Tupac?” and “Why didn’t Soulja Boy win a Grammy for Zan With That Lean?” Though Lord Finesse technically first mentions Benihana in his 1995 song “No Gimmicks,” DJ Quik refers to Benihana in his 1998 song that is all about a time period in 1991. Mindfuckery, I know. However, with Benihana becoming ubiquitous due to franchising and chefs wielding knives, there is plenty for rappers to reference.

Lord Finesse – No Gimmicks ft. KRS-ONE (1995)
I cut that ass like the chef at Benihana’s

DJ Quik & AMG – Used To Know Her (1991/1998)
Now who gon do the honors
I hit the liquor next to Benihana’s

Gang Starr – Make Em Pay (1998)
Drop you for your spot with the blazer then I blast you
Slice precise like Benihana’s when I come to bring the dramas

Beastie Boys – Putting Shame In Your Game
I’m the Benihana chef on the SP12
I chop the fuck out the beats left on the shelf

Four highly respected, Golden Era of Hip Hop icons name drop the restaurant; what great marketing. It should be noted that up until this point no one has explicitly stated that they have eaten at Benihana. This trend would continue. Where as the first punchlines involving Benihana were about a cutting/chopping and doing bodily harm, later uses of its name would draw on the obvious steak/beef and cooking/manufacturing drug aspects. Who better than Mr. Cam’ron and Mr. Snowman to do the honors?

Cam’ron – Can’t Hurt My Style
Been into plenty drama, Flame it like Benihana

Young Jeezy – The Real Is Back
Same dramas on my momma I served em like Benihana’s

Young Jeezy – Thug Motivation 101
Kitchen’s fumed up, niggas jamming 2pac
Get my Benihana’s on, working 2 pots

Herbal T (the identical twin of YouTube Star/Def Jam artists Wax) drops one of the best multi-syllabic punchlines with:

Herbal T – Long Time Coming
Me and Wax on that raw Carpacchio
Fire Department beats stay kicking like Ralph Macchio
Hot Hibachi flow on some Benihana Chef Shit
Legendary crew not many want to mess with

Great for Nefarious Meetings

Benihana Terrorism Meeting

Much like in Beverly Hills Ninja, Benihana is a perfect place to meet with your gang to discuss illicit activities and nefarious plans of actions. It gets loud at peak times with the clashing of Chef utensils, fires (and the subsequent screams of frightened toddlers) and conversation so outsiders/snitches can’t eavesdrop but it’s also unlikely for there to be inconspicuous surveillance and bugs.

50 Cent – Ghetto Qu’ran (Please Forgive Me)
In a conversation over shrimp and lobster
At Benihana’s, heard Chico stopped boxing, and started robbing diners

Obie Trice – Snitch
We started out as a crew, when one speak, it’s all honest
Private conferences when we eat, Benihana’s

Signifier of Wealth

Benihana Yuppies
Urban poets often flaunt the fact they eat regularly at Benihana. With prices ranging for dinner from $15 to $50… it doesn’t really make too much sense. But, time and time again, rappers juxtapose Benihana with claims of wealth.

Mac Dre – Grown Shit
Dre rock rhymes from here to New York
Only smoke rope no coke or New Ports
Hibachi Benihana pork on my fork
Rapping is a sport and this is my court

Young Buck – Feel Good
She calls me daddy, carries my Louis Vutton luggage
Frank Miller’s my wrist and she’s usin your money
These round-trip flights, dinners at Benihana’s

Perhaps the most puzzling Benihana reference belongs to The Gooch. Anyone know what he is even saying? I think “monotoly backe” is code for “I skeet diamond dust,” but I may be wrong.

Gucci Mane – Stuntin
Bitches in the lobby, we kickin just like socce
Benihana sake sake monotoly backe
Gucci Gucci Gucci mane or call me Gucci race

Skyzoo – The Necessary Evils
And you the next contestant
Your life could go from Mickie D’s to Benihana’s, Tameka to Rihanna

Tyga – G Shit
Kiss dada Momma love em about ma dolla
Space comma bills up in Bennihana
Ice water cash make my dick larger

Dom Kennedy – Grindin
Eating, I ain’t talking vegan
We at Benihana like twice on every weekend

Chip Tha Ripper – Fat Raps
Cut the AC back up, gettin’ kinda hot in here, Benihana leftover
But we smokin’ I’m in here

Chip Tha Ripper goes so far as to say that in a perfect world where he has everything he would require superfluous amounts of Hibachi gourmet be accessible at all times.

Chip Tha Ripper – Mansion
Back to all the beautiful bitches attacking me
Sippin’ them daquiri’s, couple of hoes fannin’ me
And two bitches laid out butt naked up on the canopy
Back to them Lamborghinis and the Bugattis
And enough of that Benihana’s bet I can do karate
And, back to my mansion like you promised me
I’mma see my grandma, and she proud me
Im on the streets of gold, you can’t stop me
Please doctor, don’t shock me

Perfect for Dates

Benihana Date
Benihana is also the perfect location to take a side chick, main squeeze, wifey, heaux, skip-skop skank, scallywag or respectable lady for several reasons:

  1. The prices are moderate (unless that bitch gets Surf & Turf).
  2. If it isn’t going well you can strike up convo with the people at your table.
  3. Not too upscale to send the wrong message or just upscale enough to impress.
  4. Heauxs find Japanese food exotic.
  5. If you know how to use chopsticks, it’s guaranteed you’ll get them drawlz.
  6. If she isn’t sure about sushi, assure her she’ll like it then order crazy stuff, save on bill.

Devin The Dude – Broccoli and Cheese
We pulled up in front of the restaurant-a
Ah yea Benihana’s
Chose a table by the window
So we can look at the stars and shit
He made our plate, We ate,
Got back in the car and dipped

E-40 – Cootie Cootie Coo
Stress free without no rubbers or no condoms
That’s the real, treatin each other to crustaceans, at Mr. Chow’s, Ken K’s or Benihana’s

Yung Berg – Sexy Lady
She a good look that’s why we always dinin in
Chi, in L.A. we at Katana
Or in Chi-Town, we straight to Benihanas

Here, Theodore Pain not only takes his bitches to Benihana, but tells us that he has so much money it doesn’t even matter.
T-Pain – I’m Sprung 2
I told my homeboys I’ll holla
I got plans for a date, my girl want steaks
And she prefer Benihana’s
We can go from Monday to Sunday, don’t even matter ’bout the money

Kendrick Lamar – She Needs Me
Paparazzi spot ‘em out shopping, Tuesday morning brunch, Benihana’s

Hoodie Allen – Can’t Hold Me Down
Sittin’ in my 97 Honda,
Yolanda, be cool, she just want to go to Benihana

AMG – Soak Me Baby
And I’m glad you ain’t nobody’s baby mama
Cause a nigga don’t want the drama
Sittin’ lookin’ pretty in my silk pajamas
Blowin’ me kisses, eatin’ left-over Benihana’s

Nipsey Hu$$le – Keys to the City
Eatin Benihana’s daily, drive my baby, momma crazy

Immortal Technique – Parole (Evil Genius Remix)
But now I’m free, hit the block, eatin Entenmann’s
Benihana in and out, flow to eat to enter in

Chet Haze – West Side LA
It’s a bet, Blackjack
Me play it at Merango,Pechanga
Indian casinos, then Benihana


Lying Ass Rappers

It should be noted that not only did I scour the menu one item at a time, but I also called the two Benihana restaurants closest to me (Dulles & Bethesda, Virginia) and the one in Beverly Hills, CA to confirm that the restaurant in no way, shape or form has wontons. Big Sean is a lying rhyme opportunist who deserved to be served by The Lame.

Big Sean – My Last
Up in Benny Han Han eating all the Wonton

The Game – Otis
But forgot to tell him Beni Han-han, don’t sell no fuckin wontons

YOU GOT SERVED!... NO OMARION

Moo Goo Gai Pan is an American-ized version of a Cantonese/Chinese dish. Mac Dre, you do know that although all Orientals look alike their cuisine is distinct? Oh, you didn’t? Wow. You are so racist. I also doubt the validity of your claim that you are capable of “speaking Japan.”

Mac Dre – Something You Should Know
I said the hell if we are I’d rather Benihana’s
She said what’s that for I said for any drama
Now look little mama it’s a quarter to ten
Can’t be out all night I got to stop when the song ends
At the restaurant I am feelin like the man
Spoke Japan give me moo goo gai pan
Ate drank got too full and burped

So… Why Beni?

Benihana Chef Cheesing
I can’t think of another restaurant with as many name drops and references. Nobu? No, boo. Sue’s Rendezvous? Uh uh. Delmonico’s? Nah. Mr. Chow’s? Nope. Morton’s Steakhouse? Not even close (though I did have a co-worker run into Young Jeezy there in Atlanta.) If you notice who name drops Benihana, and where they are in their career, you’ll notice a motif: Middle-Class Luxury.

None of these rappers are at a Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z level of wealth, which means that amongst their low-income level peers Benihana is like a 5-Star restaurant. Though not necessarily stunting, these rappers are letting us know that they now have enough money to pay $100 or more for a meal… everyday if they so choose. However, it goes way beyond that. For many of them, Benihana holds a place in their heart that equates to a simpler, more pleasant time in their life:

TI – Big Things Poppin
Ain’t nothing changed but the name on the mail
Still kicking doors with them things in the air
Up in Benihanna’s, see me slang in them chair

That time where their grind was starting to pay off, and, all of a sudden, they have the financial means to start buying/getting the things they want, where they can take care of the people in their circle. Imagine being able to take your man’s and them to Benihana, getting your own table and acting a fool. Or a nice evening void of paparazzi with no disturbances:

Childish Gambino – So Much Better
Most rappers want the drama, but I don’t want the drama
I just want a quiet night down at Benihana

Benihana is not highfalutin, though rappers treat it as such. In reality, the restaurant acts as the training wheels on a rapper’s boastful bars bicycle. It is many rappers’ first interaction with “elegance.” Since a majority of artists stay in the middle of the pack instead of achieving Janye status, Benihana serves as their go-to recognizable name drop. Benihana has that faux luxury swag: Impressive to those of little means, while low-class to those with even a modicum of affluence.

What’s the verdict from you guys? Is Benihana worth the praise? Ever taken a breezy there? Is it your favorite Japanese Steakhouse? Ever tried to do an Onion Volcano at home? If you could only have one restaurant’s food for the rest of your life what would it be? Leave many comments below.


  • Anonymous

    Bauce, you crazy for this one. I’d like to say something witty but I’m too overwhelmed by how great this turned out.

  • http://twitter.com/foxxyjewell Teena’s Daughter.

    This is fucking incredible. I don’t know how you do this, man.

  • http://twitter.com/foxxyjewell Teena’s Daughter.

    This is fucking incredible. I don’t know how you do this, man.

  • De La Trolls

    As much as I’ve hated on some of your lamer selections (of which I am still convinced you get paid for), this was a good read. Strong work, breaux.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, mayne, I appreciate that. And might I say you have one of the best anon user names? Trust me, I wish I got paid for posting stuff then my bank account wouldn’t be so measly.

  • De La Trolls

    As much as I’ve hated on some of your lamer selections (of which I am still convinced you get paid for), this was a good read. Strong work, breaux.

  • http://mostlyjunkfood.com marc (mostlyjunkfood.com)

    speechless.  even got the rainbow font in….datsmydog

  • CzarinaBianca

    Amazing. I like the social context behind it, plus tidbits of information, like Aoki being heir to this!! Now I’m craving me some Benihana. Damn, how influential.

  • http://www.GeriDFyniz.com Geri D’Fyniz

    The craziest thing about this is the food isn’t even all that great. I mean it’s ok, but they closed the Benihanna where I’m from in Chicago and I’d pretty much prefer Ron of Japan any day. Not to mention you wouldn’t hear me make a song about what I eat unless I did it Dale Firebird style and went hunting for it. S/O to Wax.

  • http://twitter.com/DJBAHLER DJ Bahler

    Wow this is one extremely hilarious and thorough post. You even included a picture of me and cousins at our nefarious meetings.

  • Anonymous

    Real Talk, I appreciate all of you reading this. I know it’s not the most interesting topic or anything, but I hope I entertained you guys. I really am grateful you spent the 5-10 minutes reading this, I know that’s an eternity to stay on one page on the Internet now a days. Thanks from the bottom of my ♥.

  • Kasgre01

    Great article! A personal favorite: “No more 7-11 turf burrito chimmy-chonga’s /
    Now we some Timers, regular customers at Benihana’s” E-40

  • picaro

    More “signifier of wealth”: Mac Dre, Genie of the Lamp:
    My voice is an instrument, I’m kind of like a trumpet

    They try to figure out, my estimated wealth

    I’m a hot item, they can’t keep me on the shelf

    Stores restock me – man, whores be jock-ing

    Benihana waitresses, they pour me sake”

  • Steven

    “It’s a Shame” by Kool G rap (1993) is an earlier reference than Lord Finesse’s reference.

    • BauceSauce

      4, 5, 6 album was 1995 though. Same time frame. I’ll add the lyric though. Thanks!

  • johnblacksad

    EXTRA GARLIC BUTTER!!!!

  • Guest

    you missed 2 CHAAINZ – ‘EXTRA GARLIC BUTTER I GOT BENIHANA ISSUES’

    • BauceSauce

      This was written way before that.
      Sent from my mobile device; please excuse the brevity.

  • reggae809

    haha really funny topic never noticed that before about hiphop shouting out benihanas so much, I guess whats so cool about that restaurant is its just an interesting experience to watch the chef throwing around knives and cook in front of you, most Asian culture really takes eating food seriously, Chinese people read restaurant menus like we read porn mags and spend like 20 minutes asking the waiter about every dish its mad annoying I want to eat now not wait for my Chinese friends to finish “studying” a damn menu, and Japanese people good lord its some kind of adult picky eating syndrome its like OCD, they can literally taste the difference if the meat was cut horizontally or vertically, for us Americans with the exception of some fat kids food is just something you stuff down your throat 3 times a day without giving it a lot of thought or entertainment value, I think what makes benihana so special is its the only restaurant we have where its actually interesting to watch the food being made and be a part of the process of actually enjoying food and food culture

  • Kelsey Hart

    I love everything about this article. I have often noticed how many shout outs to Benihana have been in rap. Finally, I have a catalog of all the famous Benihana lines. I’m going to go eat at Benihana tomorrow. Thank you :)