Local Current Blog

Behind the Scenes: Ali Elabbady’s ‘Tacos & Tastemakers’

Ali Elabbady is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a storyteller. Throughout his career, the Twin Cities native has critiqued music, written about food, DJed, produced music, hosted acclaimed radio shows, and much more. Throughout all his pursuits, Elabbady approaches the world with a passionate perspective, ready to dive deep into the subject, and finding ways to share it widely. His latest pursuit is a series called “Tacos and Tastemakers,” conversations with local creatives over a meal of tacos.

“This project combines my love for hip hop and food in general, it felt like a natural pairing,” Elabbady said. “I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown – who doesn’t get inspired by Parts Unknown? – and also Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Choosing tacos as a point to bring people around felt like a natural choice for Elabbady in creating this series.

“Tacos are a great centerpiece food for creating conversation,” Elabbady said. “Third culture foods, foods from Latino and Mexican communities end up being the most natural centerpiece for conversation, so it was a no-brainer for me.”

The guests on the pilot season of the series range from record store owners to local musicians.

“Tastemaker can mean a lot of things,” Elabbady said. “It’s come to mean something a lot like gatekeeper, but with this series, I wanted to put the power back into the hands of the Black people and people of color that have put me onto dope things my whole life.”

The first episode of the pilot season, out today, features Tim Wilson, owner of St. Paul’s Urban Lights records. Wilson has owned Urban Lights for 27 years and throughout the past decades, the store has been a community staple. In Elabbady’s interview, Wilson tells tales of the record store’s rich past and present. From being a staple in major label Black Music Coalitions and breaking artists like Naughty by Nature and Destiny’s Child. From a rap battle between Andre 3000 and Slug to a story about Redman causing antics on a city bus, Wilson’s role as a passionate pillar in the Twin Cities music community is exemplified over a plate of tacos at Tavial Grill.

Elabbady opens the episode by explaining that Urban Lights was one of the first record stores he patronized as a kid and at the beginning of his DJ career. His reverence for Wilson is evident, and the mutual familiarity and respect between the pair offers a unique look into the past and present of the local music scene.

“The main takeaway I want people to have with this series is for people to get to know more about the culture of the Twin Cities,” Elabbady said. “It’s more than just Prince, who is of course important, but the culture he helped create still reverberates throughout countless artists today and over the past few decades.”

Urban Lights has a GoFundMe to help recuperate losses due to COVID19, you can support them here.

Behind the Scenes is a biweekly, and occasionally more often, feature spotlighting Minnesota music videos. To submit your video for consideration, e-mail fridayfive [at] mpr.org.