The history of hip-hop is filled with iconic duos: Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Kanye West and Jay-Z. In the words of Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, “It takes two to make a thing go right.” Protige and Eboli, a pair of rappers who perform as DAD (Dope Ass Dudes), are the latest duo making their mark on the rap game. The twist? They’re both suburban dads living in Sioux City, Iowa, who rap about the banalities of being a father.
Dad rap is often the stuff of spoofs. And while their tongue-in-cheek tracks hit on paying bills, putting together cribs, and other such minutia of suburban life, Protige and Eboli — who’d been rapping separately for a decade — aren’t messing around. Their 2016 album “Night of the Living DAD,” is tight and well-produced, showcasing the duo’s considerable mic skills and catchy hooks. Is their stuff self-serious? Not a bit — just check out their Home Depot-set video for “Go To Work.” But it’s also irony-free. These guys just want to craft quality music.
“We just really wanted to make hip-hop that appealed to people who like hip-hop,” says Eboli, otherwise known as Jason Reinert. “That’s always the direction we’ve taken on it.”
Fatherly spoke to Eboli about DAD’s formation, how he and Protige (Mark Koenigs) fuse fatherhood with hip-hop, and why dad rap is having a moment.
When people hear about two dads from Iowa making a rap album, they might think it’s supposed to be silly. Your stuff is humorous, but it’s not ironic. What did you guys do to make sure your album was taken seriously?
We both had been rapping separately for the better part of a decade, and so when we decided we were going to get together for a project, we knew we wanted it be called ‘DAD’ because we are both dads. And with that name, it sort of evolved naturally. We were making songs for fun, but it kept shifting into the dad subject because that’s what we know. That’s what we are living and doing every day. And we both like doing punchline-based, witty raps and so that was our natural style. We definitely aren’t mocking hip-hop, because we were raised with it. It’s a part of who we are.
Is it fair to say you made an effort to not be categorized with that subgenre of low quality “dad rap”?
If I’m being honest, we weren’t really aware of that as a subgenre. We aren’t really familiar with that comedic, low quality “dad rap” that’s out there. We just really wanted to make hip-hop that appealed to people who like hip-hop. That’s always the direction we’ve taken on it.
You guys had been rapping separately for a while, right?
We both had been doing stuff on our own for years. Mark had been doing solo stuff as Protige. Before DAD, I was in a group called Laser Rocket Arm which was a full band and was more of a jazz, hip-hop group. The funny thing is we actually had our first show together, but we were in separate groups at that time.
When you came together, was it with the intention of rapping about fatherhood?
I hate to say it came together on its own, but honestly, that’s how it happened. At about three songs in we realized we were both approaching our music from the ‘dad angle,’ so we followed that instinct. At first, we just wanted to get together and make good music.
You’re both husbands and fathers who have full-time jobs. How do you find the time to make music?
It comes down to priorities, and when we have that rare time when we can make music, we take advantage of that and make sure we aren’t wasting that opportunity. Family obviously comes first, and there are times where we’ve had to say no to things because we have obligations as dads. For the most part, we try to make it work and we love doing it enough where it’s not work putting it together. It’s second nature.
As hip-hop is aging, there are more dads in the genre than ever, and many of them discuss fatherhood in their music. Do you find that guys like Jay-Z, Kanye, and Chance the Rapper who talk about raising their kids influences your music or do you mainly pull from your own experience?
The biggest way they inspire me is seeing that they can have these careers and still have a life as a father. But I mainly pull from my own experience when it comes to featuring parenting in my rap.
Who are your biggest influences these days?
Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Vince Staples. I’m on a little bit of a West Coast kick right now, but overall I’ve been more into East Coast rap, especially with old school rap. I always loved Nas, Mob Deep, Lords of the Underground, and guys like that.
Now, what’s your endgame? Are you hoping to make a career out of rap or just having fun?
Ultimately, our goal is to have fun. That’s been the goal from day one. We don’t want to push it too hard, take it easy and let it happen. If we never make a dollar on it, so be it. Obviously, we would love to make a career out of music, but as long as we are having fun and maintaining our core family values that is what we’re looking for.
Finally, “dad rock” is an established genre with established artists. Do you think the same thing could happen with “dad rap”?
I think it could definitely develop, whether that’s dads getting inspiration from us or guys doing it on their own. We aren’t the first to do this. I think fatherhood has a place in hip-hop, and as guys who grew up loving and respecting hip-hop, this feels like a natural direction for a lot of guys who are now dads. Merging these two worlds together in a way that’s not manufactured.
This interview has been edited and condensed.