Adult Rappers Poster

Paul Iannacchino knows rap. The self-proclaimed writer/director/creative guy used to be a rapper/producer signed to EL-P's Def Jux label (as one-third of Hangar 18), but left the world of indie hip-hop behind when he realized that it wasn't for him. Still, his exposure to the inner workings of the game and his time on the road with indie stars like Cage and Aesop Rock left him with great memories and a valuable rapper rolodex that would later come in handy.

As Paul grew up and decided to pursue a film career, he took a look around at his former contemporaries, and began to wonder about what happens to rappers when they become regular, tax-paying adults. And so, the idea for Paul's upcoming documentary Adult Rappers was born. The film, which just wrapped production, is set to premiere at film festivals later this year. A few weeks before finishing up his final cut, Iannacchino came by XXL's offices to play us the first five minutes of the film, and we were blown away. As the doc delves into the real lives of guys like R.A. The Rugged Man, Murs and J57—artists who found real success in their primes and were eventually faced with a crossroads where they could either continue their rap careers or hang up the mic—viewers are given a behind-the-scenes glance into the reality of what the remaining 23 (offstage) hours of an aging rapper's day look like.

To celebrate the upcoming release of the film, XXL has partnered with Iannacchino to premiere exclusive outtakes that didn't make the film's final cut. In our first installment, we have a clip with Boston MC Esoteric, who reminisces on recording with Wu-Tang's Inspectah Deck. Watch the clip below (and check back in coming weeks for more exclusive outtakes), alongside the first part of our interview with Iannacchino.

XXL: Tell me about your process in deciding on which adult rappers you wanted to feature in the film.

Iannacchino: Well, people always ask, "Who are the famous rappers in the movie?" None of the people in our movie are household names, but the distinction is that they're working-class rappers. They're road dogs who do 200+ days a year on the road, and that's how they make their living and pursue their passion. I think our film is like the Paid Dues to Rock The Bells. There are people who are way up there, and we don't touch on any of their stories, because they're a little less interesting than these stories. They've also been told many times before.

Most of the bigger guys, you know why they're famous and how they got there.

Yeah, it turns into an episode of MTV Cribs. Like, "You're always talking about your cars, let's see them!" But it's not glamorous to talk about touring in a 15-person van and playing shitty clubs. But that's what you do if you want to pursue your art, and there are a lot of people doing that.

Which is the norm in rock music, but in hip-hop that's a very new thing. What's interesting about the first five minutes of the film is that all of these guys talk about how they don't like telling people they're rappers. Almost like they're embarrassed about it.

There aren't a ton of people who are proud to say, "Hey, I'm a rapper." There's also a societal pressure, where it's like, if you're not this huge household name, then you must really suck. So it's easier to dance around that conversation and say you're a DJ or something than answer it honestly. But yeah, 99% of the people in the film don't tell people they're rappers. I love Evidence, who's a really successful guy, who said when he goes to the airport he tells people he's a DJ.

What do you think it is about DJ'ing that makes it a more respectable profession?

It must just be that it's easier to digest for people. Like if you tell someone you're a DJ, it's just like, "Oh, okay. That's interesting." But if you say you're a rapper, it sort of goes into the realm of… if you're talking to a 50-year-old white lady, what is her definition of rap, and do I even want to go there?

Do you think adult rappers are happy to still be rapping, or do they feel like they can't do anything else so they just keep rapping?

I think there are three buckets you could drop these guys into. There are people who are like, "Fuck, I'm in too deep and I would gladly put this down, but what the fuck else can I do at this point?" Then are people who just love it and they'll always do it because that's their thing. Those people define themselves through their art, so they'll always find a way to make a living. And then there are guys who are in the top 5% of the second group, like Slug and Murs, who have their hands in a lot of shit and consistently do well. But across the board, there's this question of "How long can I do this, and how do I stay relevant?" Like, as an MC, what do you talk about if you're not bragging and boasting? What do you rap about when you have a wife and kids and a mortgage and alimony to pay? That's been the most fascinating thing to me, and the thing I'm most proud of is that there's an honesty in these guys' interviews that you almost never see, especially from rappers.

No egos.

Yeah, and that comes with age. There's a great bit where I ask Esoteric if he would consider himself an adult rapper, and he goes, "Yeah. I'm 37, I have a wife and a kid and I'm embarrassed that my lawn's not cut. That makes me an adult, and I'm also a rapper."