This past Sunday morning, when you were busy sleeping off St. Patrick’s Day, The Daily Beast was buzzing bright and early, posting a penetrating piece about Adrien Brody. Over the course of Marlow Stern’s interview with the Queens-bred actor who earned an Oscar for The Pianist and portrays Salvador Dali in Woody Allen’s latest movie, Midnight in Paris, so many tasty tidbits were unearthed that one of the most intriguing illuminations was nearly lost in the rush, namely Brody’s hip-hop sideline. To wit: “I’ve been making hip-hop beats for many years … I think people just can’t comprehend that the guy who does The Pianist also makes dope hip-hop.” Naturally, this information led us to a frantic fit of spelunking through the archives (okay, Googling) to start sorting out the backstory behind Brody’s beat bombshell. Apparently, evidence of his hip-hop alter ego has been floating around out there for quite a while, but somehow we hadn’t put all the pieces together till now. Here’s the five moments of Brody’s past that suggest we could, someday, be in for a mixtape or two.
1. A boy and his beats
In 1998, just before his breakout role in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, a 25-year-old Brody stars in an indie film called Restaurant, apparently working his way onto the movie’s soundtrack. The album closes with a cut ironically entitled “This Ain’t a Movie” by a New York-based pair of Dominican-American rappers called Rawcotiks. The producer for the track bears the mysterious moniker A. Ranger – yep, you guessed it, our boy Brody. Flash forward five years later — even before the Oscar nod, The Pianist has made Brody enough of an A-lister that he’s bringing out his beats under his own name, and according to a New York Times piece from January of that year, busting them out for none other than P. Diddy, who fills the actor’s sails with the inspirational appraisal, “You an ill cat.”
2. Coke is it
In the wake of his ascension into the hallowed hall of Oscar winners, newly minted household name Brody lends his starpower to a 2004 TV spot for Diet Coke. There are two subtexts to the commercial: one is the implied message that you too can lose nearly 30 pounds by drinking diet cola, just like the already lanky Brody did for his part in The Pianist. The other is that Brody’s no boring classical ivory-tickler, but a streetwise hip-hop dude who plays street hoops and hops into hard-bouncing rides while “Calling Out” by Lyrics Born plays in the background. Call it a crazy hunch, but we’re guessing the star himself had at least some input into the latter notion.
3. Fame bites back
Fame can be a cruel mistress, especially if you’re a Hollywood hero trying to shore up your street cred. By the end of 2005, Brody’s star was rising even further upward with his role as the romantic lead in Peter Jackson’s blockbuster King Kong remake. Unfortunately, an interview he gave at the time suggested that the aspiring hip-hop producer had trouble reconciling his day job with his beatmaking avocation. “I do have aspirations but I haven’t been able to apply it because it’s complicated,” he confessed, “all of a sudden, being Adrien Brody, the famous actor guy making the urban music.” Contact Music put somewhat more of a point on that observation by titling their story “Brody’s success wrecks his hip-hop career.” Around the same time, he also appeared in this Tori Amos video:
4. Rap doppelgangers and Hawaiian hip-hop
Okay, so Brody didn’t get to make the major hip-hop statement he may have been hoping for, but that didn’t stop him from keeping his hand in the game here and there, even unintentionally. A 2009 profile in New York noted that after wrapping work on the under-the-radar caper flick The Brothers Bloom, in between putting blue streaks in his hair and driving in “the Long Beach celebrity grand prix,” Brody unwound by heading to Oahu “to make music with a Polynesian hip-hop artist.” (Hell, in Hawaii he probably seemed like Nas by comparison just for being from Queens). Meanwhile, back on the homefront, the career of up-and-coming rapper NSR wasn’t exactly being hurt by the media’s constant observation of his dead-ringer status for a certain fellow New Yorker. In fact, the former even went so far as to pen a song about it, helpfully titled “Adrien Brody.”
5. Giving Biggie his due
That vindication train was a long time coming, but it finally arrived in 2011, when Brody was saluted by The Source for his contribution to hip-hop culture. And it occurred without the aid of any high-powered conspirators like Diddy, or even the creation of a single beat. Brody had the guts to get up in front of the Academy of American Poets at a New York event and declare the Notorious B.I.G one of the most important poets of his era, going on to recite – sans music – Biggie’s “10 Crack Commandments” for the crowd. Surely that act alone requires the same amount of cojones it takes to turn out a batch of hip-hop tracks. The Source could have handily made Brody out as an easy mark and lambasted him seven ways from Sunday, but instead they called the incident “affirming,” praising him for taking “the initiative to school the poetry elite on what our culture has to offer.”