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In Tampa, a hot new spot for hip-hop
The first HipHopSodaShop earns a little street cred from local artists.
By Dalia Wheatt, Times Staff Writer
Published January 21, 2008
K-Leigh, from left, Sick, Big Cheese, G-86, Cory and Young Jonah try out HipHopSodaShop.
[Photo by Dalia Wheatt]
When the HipHopSodaShop opened on E Fowler Avenue in December, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and other industry bigwigs walked the red carpet outside the restaurant.
Now that the supastars have gone home, it's up to the local hip-hop community to determine whether this shop - the first in the franchise - thrives or fails. We enlisted some local hip-hop artists to give their take on the restaurant's food, decor and in-house recording studio. Serving as our critics: Katrina "K-Leigh" Fleming, 24, of St. Petersburg; Jakeem "Big Cheese" Johnson, 22, of Brandon; Mike "Sick" Smith, 24, of Brandon; Gary "G-86" Naegel, 30, of Tampa; Cory Ward, 20, of Tampa; and Travis "Young Jonah" Nunn, 21, of Tampa.
Young Jonah: To tell the truth, when I first came in, the first thing I was impressed with was the fact that I don't have to worry about a billion people looking at me funny about the way I'm dressed. Everybody's pretty much in comfortable gear. It made me feel comfortable.
Some people think violence will go down here because it's the HipHopSodaShop. What do you make of that?
Sick: There's other things, movies and stuff, but they like to associate everything bad with hip-hop.
Big Cheese: When they stereotype it, you think, Nah, let them do that, 'cause they're gonna bring negativity, but the positive people around here know. They can bring negativity, but as we can see, it's peaceful. Ain't no beef going on.
K-Leigh:Bad things can happen at Red Lobster, at McDonald's, at Ruby Tuesday.
Big Cheese:Hip-hop is like an infinite-page book. All they do is look at the front of it and judge it. . . . Just sit down and talk to me, you know? Learn my name. I'm like, "Hey, how you doing?" I'm not going, "Hey, whassup? Gimme your wallet."
What would you add?
K-Leigh: They have the studio, but I don't see any CDs for sale.
G-86:I feel you on that - local promotion of artists, products. . . . It might be a chain, but this is still local for us. It'd be nice that they would support a lot of local talent, also.
Is the recording studio a big draw for you?
K-Leigh:Not really. To come here and eat - the whole concept of the place is bangin', but it wouldn't draw me here just to - don't get me all full and ready to go to bed and think I'm gonna lay a song down. They got a full bar. We won't get no work done.
Young Jonah: I would never come to record here. The music I do is more than just a show, for somebody to be looking at me outside a window. "Oh, man, he rappin'. Wow." Nah.
Cory:You want to be in a place where the creative juices can flow.
G-86:Sometimes what you're working on is very personal. You don't want a lot of people to hear or anything like that.
How's the food?
Young Jonah:The fries are really good. It's a couple points off Checkers fries.
K-Leigh:The salmon's bangin'.
Young Jonah: The fried shrimp might be a little bit too crunchy.
Cory:The burger is good.
K-Leigh:Dang, it's big. It is a big burger.
G-86: I like the toasted bun.
What's missing from the menu?
K-Leigh: They need some soul food up in the SodaShop.
G-86:They're missing macaroni and cheese.
K-Leigh:There's no fried chicken.
Sick:We ain't got no oxtail.
Big Cheese: Ain't got no neck bones.
K-Leigh: There should be a special Sunday menu for HipHopSodaShop.
G-86: There you go. . . . That's tight.
What about the video games?
Big Cheese:How they do it, they give you 30 minutes to play. Five bucks, sit here and play for 30 minutes? I can do that! That's like being in the arcade for 30 minutes.
Sick:It's the whole environment and vibe, you know? You'd probably see somebody sitting over there and you'd be like, "Hey, let me play against you." You might not know that person, but you could go up and say, "Hey, let me play." That's a good way to meet people, too.