The longtime rapper talks family, food and a Southern Italian version of “The Wire”

Tony Envelope is an old-dog-Columbus-hip-hop-vet rapper. Over the last two decades, Envelope has worked with local favorites such as DJ Detox, Blueprint and Jacoti Sommes. If you haven't encountered his rapping-ass around town, you might've come across his legendary “Official Envelope Calendar,” which he haphazardly scatters across town each year.

You can catch Envelope live on Friday, May 18 at the Hip-Hop Craft Beer Festival: Brews Over Beats (visit BrewsOverBeats.com for more info). Here are a few things he loves.

Time with Iva

Iva is my 6-month-old daughter. She is the cutest, prettiest, smartest, funniest, best baby ever (taking after Mom!). Through sheer good luck, her birthday, my school schedule, my line of work, my wife's good job and my mother's generous baby-sitting, the stars aligned and I was able to spend the vast majority of her first six months with her. I'm lucky as hell! I'd rather be with her than anything in the world. I recognize how lucky I was to be in her life so much in the beginning, and we'd be doing society a big help by learning from other countries who take maternal/paternal leave seriously.

Harissa

One of the few bright sides to the Columbian Exchange, this North African chili paste has become one of my ultimate go-tos for a couple of years now. Since my first taste of Frank's Red Hot in the Dominion Middle School cafeteria, nary a day goes by without me using copious amounts of hot sauce. There are some tasty versions out there, but I prefer to make my own: toast some whole seeds of cumin, coriander and caraway; grind in a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder); rehydrate and deseed your chilies (I typically go more on the mild side); throw in a food processor with a couple of fresh garlic cloves, and voila. I throw it in a mason jar with tons of olive oil and it only gets better after a few days. I'll also occasionally toss in some tomato paste, lemon zest/juice, parsley, agave nectar, brown sugar or honey. Play around with it, man!

Books

I try to avoid the scroll hole at night, and I end every day with a good book. I can't sleep without it! I mainly read nonfiction. Here's a taste of what I love filling my head with as I drift off into the night: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith by Mark E. Smith, Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain and every book by Jon Ronson or Mary Roach. Plus like a thousand other books sitting unread on my night stand.

Gommorah (book, film, TV series)

Man… So it all started with a book by Italian journalist Roberto Saviano in 2006. The book is a fascinating look into the Camorra, the organized crime system with a long-held stranglehold on Naples, Italy. The unblinking account has left the author under police protection for the last decade. I thought this was just a lucky find at the library and that was that, until they made an amazing movie out of it in 2008! I suggest reading the book first or else the film might lose ya a bit, but man, that's a visually LUSH movie (bonus suggestion: 2013's “La Grande Bellezza”)! Then, to my sheer joy, 2014 saw the release of the best dang television show ever! If the movie is a Neapolitan “Belly,” then the series is a Southern Italian “The Wire.” Like the latter, the Italian production (shot in Naples with a local cast) strays from cliche glorification and demonstrates the brutality of a corrupt system where all participants are dehumanized.

Flatiron's Cheeseburger

Order it animal-style! It's so dang juicy and delicious! I love this place. As Columbus' culinary gaze is easily averted whenever some out-of-or-in-town-pseudo-chain prices another gallery out of the “arts district,” it's easy to forget the restaurants that have been killing it for years. The historic building, which has been a site for spirits and food for almost a century, is a perfect backdrop for an after-work hang with an old friend. However, it's Flatiron's legendary staff that keeps me coming back.