Did Joaquin Phoenix Really Quit Acting to Become a Rapper?

From the Silver Screen to the Music Scene

Snedegar said some of the raps' lyrics were about Phoenix leaving acting to become a rapper and growing up in San Francisco, but, for the most part, he had trouble understanding them.

"When he first got on, there was a small sound adjustment -- you had to wait 20 seconds before you could hear him," he said. "Then he started talking, the playback went in and he kept on rhythm. But you couldn't really understand what he was saying. I think he was holding the microphone too far away."

Stunt or not, Phoenix certainly appears serious about his new career. About to go on stage in October for a play benefiting Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Camps, he told "Extra": "I want to take this opportunity ... also to give you the exclusive and just talk a little bit about the fact that this will be my last performance as an actor. I'm not doing films anymore. … I'm working on my music. I'm done. I've been through that."

The surprises did not end there. Next came Phoenix's bearded, bloated appearance at a party in December.

And now the former A-list actor has revealed that the music he's been working on is none other than hip-hop.

Hip-hop may seem like an odd fit for Phoenix, who, three years ago, received an Oscar nod for his portrayal of singer Johnny Cash. Not so, he explained to People magazine: "When I was young I liked punk rock music but then I discovered rap. I love the storytelling aspect of hip-hop."

"After all the years of reading scripts and reading lines, this is my chance to do something straight from the heart and put it out there," he told People. "This is me saying this is who I am. This is my story."

But will people want to hear what he has to say?

Snedegar thinks people will tune in, at least initially. About 500 people -- some fans, some skeptics -- turned out for his first performance, Snedegar said.

"He's definitely going to make waves with his performance because people are curious," he said. "It just depends on how people accept him."

That includes his shaggy new look. "I was surprised by his appearance," Snedegar said, referring to Phoenix's bushy beard, dark shades, baggy sweater and torn gray knit cap. "Everybody was. He was dressed very laid back, a beachy vibe with loose pants, a big sweater and a cap on most of the time. He looked like he had gained a little weight."

Phoenix's dramatically different appearance, coupled with reports of erratic behavior, have some worried that the former leading man is headed for the same self-destructive path as his older brother, the late actor River Phoenix.

"Given his actions, he [Joaquin] is starting to look a lot like his brother," Ian Drew, editor at large at US Weekly, told ABCNews.com. "It does make you question how his story is going to end -- or continue."

River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in October 1993 after collapsing outside the Johnny Depp-owned Viper Room nightclub in Los Angeles.

The then-19-year-old Joaquin, who was at the club along with their sister Summer, made the 911 call to try to save his 23-year-old brother's life.

"Joaquin is definitely on a course right now," E! Online gossip columnist Ted Casablanca told ABCNews.com. "I don't know if it's self-destruction or self-derailing. But he's obviously going through some sort of tortured episode in his life. It's a cry for help."

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