Thomas ‘Juga-naut’ Higgins is a Nottingham born Hip-hop artist, producer and sound engineer who started rapping when he was twelve years old. Over the past few years he has started catering. His food is raved about as much as his music, showing that he is as equally talented in the kitchen as he is in the studio.

“Everyone asks me, “what’s your specialty?” I have to answer honestly “everything!”. As a self-taught Chef with Caribbean roots, family and friends from every culture, I can cook any cuisine authentically, from Indian to Italian and everything in between. Tell me what you like, and I’ll put it on a plate!”

Thom has used the influences that he has had growing up in such a multi-cultural city and has incorporated them into his cooking, and the same can be said for his music. Both are a product of growing up in Nottingham. I ask him a little bit about himself…

Would you say that growing up in Nottingham has influenced your music and the food that you make?

“This city is a melting pot of cultures that influenced me for as long as I can remember. I grew up eating food from all over the world, especially Caribbean, Indian and Chinese. All the flavours and different spices and herbs stuck with me and this is what has influenced my cooking, and the same with my music. Nottingham has some on the greatest Emcees in the country to ever do it in Hip-Hop: MR. 45, Scorzayzee, Cappo, Lee Ramsey etc. and they came before me and were a major influence, so I knew I could do it too. I started producing from an early age which is the same as cooking, I take a sample here, mix in some drums, grab a bass. That’s hip-hop, and it also food, all one melting pot.”

What links the two for you?

“What links them is passion! They are two parts of life that I could not live without, and I don’t take them for granted in any way. You have to respect the two crafts. Everyone has to cook so it’s easier to dip your toe in, music is harder because you have to be naturally talented, and you also have to respect the people that have come before and know your craft, then learn it and become a master. Otherwise it’s disrespectful to just come in and say 'hey I can do this too, watch me' and then just fall off.”

If you go to a traditional cuisine restaurant e.g. Chinese/Indian you usually will hear traditional music playing in the back ground. If you had a restaurant would it be your music that reflects the food that you cook?

“It would be a mix of what I was raised on and what I love, also depending on the dishes that I’m serving, soul food + soul music. Rare Grooves, Funk and Hip-hop.”

Why are food and music so important?

“They are the elixir of life.”

Gangsta Wraps are a home-grown production company that provide both food and hip-hop in abundance. The menu is a plethora of puns with items such as ‘Notorious BLT’, ‘Pharoah Munch’ and ‘Vanilla Ice Cream (Fat Man Scoop) and Foxy Brownie’ which combine the names of famous hip-hop artists with food. The menu is comical but the mission behind this movement is serious. Nottingham rapper Scorzayzee and his crew the GM Unit have vowed to take down fast food chains with their money-making ethos’ and want to provide nutritious food as an alternative. The Gangsta Wraps movement was promoted in Nottingham’s Rough Trade with the release of Scorzayzee’s newest track ‘Gangsta Wraps (Take The Throne)

This is a real example of how food and music come together as part of a new movement that is being created by a union of other cultures. A movement where health, happiness and unity come before business.

In many ways food and music go hand in hand, Gangsta Wraps have pointed out that it is a lot to do with sampling different cultures and creating something that works to represent what you’re trying to portray. With so much negativity and emphasis on cultural difference in the media at the minute, it seems that the more liberally minded are clinging to the things that bring us together. Music and food are definitely two things that can break through cultural barriers. No matter where you are born or what you believe, you need to eat, and the food may as well be good; and no matter what colour your skin might be, you will recognise the beat of a drum. The food and music that are coming out of Nottingham are a celebration of cultures mixing and influencing people into creating something wonderful.

All words by Chai Larden