Food by VICE

Why Curren$y Bought the New Orleans Burger Joint of His Childhood

"I want to make it a place you don’t want to leave. You might end up eating there twice because you got caught up."

by Rajul Punjabi
Jan 31 2019, 11:04pm

All photos by Laiken Joy

I can’t say this about all the rappers out of New Orleans that got on, but Curren$y rides for his city. So it made perfect sense when he announced his newest purchase—the old Bud’s Broiler, a 24-hour burger spot in the consistently bougie neighborhood adjacent to City Park.

Bud's is a small Louisiana-based chain, and this particular location was one of the only options outside of the Quarter to get non-fast-food after a night at the bar. The burgers were barebones but respectably seasoned and charred, and the restaurant itself was a Spitta-approved city staple where he brought his lowriders way before his collection even became a thing. It closed late last year, and come April (hopefully in time for JazzFest, where Curren$y will perform just a few blocks away), the space will be re-opened as Life Burger, remodeled and rebranded to the rapper’s every whim. Basking in the glow of his latest acquisition, Curren$y talked to MUNCHIES about why burgers and wings are going to be a way bigger power play than another Rolls Royce.

MUNCHIES: Was this just another investment or did you have a special connection to Bud’s?
Curren$y: My mom used to chaperone our field trips when I was small—and then we’d go to Bud’s Broiler. That spot’s always been near and dear to me. They made the burgers right there; the burger wasn’t sitting under a heat lamp made hours ago. There was music on, the TV was on, and people were alive. When I was in high school, the chicks I used to hang out with were in college and that’s where they would study. So we would cruise by Bud’s Broiler and meet chicks.

We have car club meetings around there every other Sunday, and one day it was just closed, abruptly, indefinitely, with no information. And it came through the newspaper that it was for sale.

Killer Mike has been extra vocal lately about investing in and creating black businesses. Was that on your mind?
I had actually just started watching “Trigger Warning” and the first episode resonated with me when it came to what I was going to do. It’s not like I didn’t already have a Rolls Royce. [Another one] was just going to look stupid outside the house. If there are two Rolls Royces, it has to be a different house. This burger spot is going to afford me great wealth—enough to pick up another Rolls Royce at another time.

Curren$y

And this is about generational wealth too, right, since you just had a baby?
Yes, that’s what this is really about. Yesterday we were in there with the contractor, looking at what we want to do as far as the remodeling, and I brought my son with me. Even though he’s only two months old, I want him to get used to feeling this place because it’s his. As comfortable as he is with the house, I want him to be that way with the burger place. When he’s old enough to work there, he’s going to work there.

He’ll recognize the value of a dollar regardless of how he’s set up. I understood the value of it because we didn’t have it. So now, no matter how much I have, I still act broke. And that’s a better way to be.

When I was younger I would just say, I wish my mom and dad were rich. From TV I knew rich kids were little brats, eating large pizzas and skateboarding down the steps when [their parents] go to work. That’s just what I wanted. But it was better the way it was because I understand [the value of money] now. So I’m not about to let him skateboard down the steps. And he’s going to be much sharper than me.

Buying the restaurant is kind of a big deal because a lot of black-owned businesses—restaurants included—didn’t survive Katrina.
People had to deal with taking care of family and being displaced. Even if they gave you X amount of dollars—everything that you had, you had to put it into survival. So as far as getting a family business back on or taking care of the actual family...we had to choose to take care of each other. We couldn’t afford to keep paying rent on this other building and make this other money.

And so it looks different out here. A lot of places that were considered hood areas are now not. There’s a Whole Foods in the spot where people used to run the red lights when they didn’t want someone to run up on their car. I understand because I’ve traveled. And I understand how safety plays into this change. I know how money changes things...But money talks, so you got to sit at the table with me if I can afford to be there. You’re going to hear what I have to say.

People are showing you a lot of love for this investment because you’re perpetuating New Orleans food culture at a time when there’s a lot of unfamiliar restaurants popping up.
Yes. A lot of little homies have come by our office just to tell me, “Good looking out for getting the burger spot,” and telling me that they can’t wait to come over there. They’re not talking to me about a mixtape or a low rider. And good news travels fast. I really got my faith in humanity restored a bit because of how fast the news about me buying the spot traveled. It was almost as fast as if I’d have gotten arrested.

“I really got my faith in humanity restored a bit because of how fast the news about me buying the spot traveled. It was almost as fast as if I’d have gotten arrested.”

So what’s the vibe at Life Burger going to be like at?
I’m going to do the charcoal burgers for people who remember Bud’s Broiler but I’m going to give it a diner feel, like Steak ‘n Shake and places like that. We’re going to have root beer floats, Coca-Cola floats, pineapple sherbet floats with Sprite. There will be a veggie burgers. I have friends who are in the chicken wing business so I’m going to try to dabble in that. I’ll leave the poultry to my friends. We’re not going to have those frozen-in-a-box patties. We’re going to pack the ground beef and throw them on the grill or roll ‘em through the charcoal fire, the right way.

There’s a separate dining area upstairs too, with tables and a balcony. I don’t think anyone really knew. I always thought you had to eat at the outside tables or inside by the counter. Upstairs will be an arcade—Street Fighter 2, and a few other games that people miss. I want to paint the characters on the wall. It’s going to be dope up there.

Curren$y

Bud’s was more like an eat-and-leave jam. This sounds like a hang.
I want to make it a place you don’t want to leave. You might end up eating there twice because you got caught up. And we got all the local brews out here so I’m going to deal with Abita and all of those.

Also, there’s going to be a Cruise meal—that’s my son’s name, Cruise—which will be a kid’s meal. I have a collection of over 5,000 Hot Wheels. Every time the bus would stop on tour, I’d go into a truck stop and spend like $100 on Hot Wheels. Any kid that comes through will leave with a Hot Wheels. I don’t have Barbies, but everyone will get a Hot Wheels.

I don’t love the message Barbies sent little girls anyway so I’m with you.
See? Thank you. Absolutely. That’s what I’m about anyway: the whole car culture. We have a few places where I display my cars throughout the city and we’re going to make this burger place another spot like that. The inside will be designed like a garage-slash-‘50s or ‘60s diner, Happy Days style. Then outside, that’ll be my opportunity to display some of my cars. I can’t wait because every morning, I’ll just bring a different one, open the hood and trunk and then just leave it there until we close so people can just check it out.

Thanks, Curren$y!