The rapper-turned-actor is an exotic creature. When not in its natural habitat of the recording studio it can be found lingering around the set of typically low budget ‘films’, for lack of a better word. The only instance in which they are able to overcome this straight-to-DVD hell is through playing a token role in a big budget epic.
The phenomenon began, like most epidemics, innocently enough. In its formative days hip-hop, believe it or not, had a unique mysterious aura. Little was known about it and it proved to be fertile terrain for filmmakers to explore, resulting in undisputed classics such as Style Wars and Wildstyle. Things started to pick up steam however when Def Jam became the first powerhouse rap label and decided to wield its power by producing a charming little flick called Krush Groove. Featuring a mostly-rapper cast including Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, it succeeded because its pseudo documentary style didn’t demand much real acting. This opened the door for hip hop-oriented films like House Party and helped give birth to the ‘hood movie’, a genre that includes legit efforts like Boyz N Tha Hood but mostly steaming garbage being passed off as films.
“Movies have killed more rap careers than bullets,” Chris Rock said in a recent radio interview. The wiry comedian went on to raise a bigger point. If you have any aspirations of being a successful rapper naturally you would need to dedicate a large portion of your time to developing your craft, as pointed out by the efforts of rapping celebrities, featured in last week’s Hit & Miss. The same applies to acting. As much as Ludacris and his counterparts probably stand in the mirror and practice their scowl, something tells me their acting development doesn’t go beyond that. Back in 2002 Samuel L. Jackson, a man who’s never met a film script he didn’t like, made himself the most prominent opponent of rapper thespians. ”It’s not my job to lend credibility to so-and-so rapper who’s just coming into the business,” the Go The Fuck To Sleep narrator exclaimed. Mr. Snakes On A Plane has a reason to gripe, having worked with seemingly every rapper-turned-actor including Ice Cube (xXx: State of the Union), Queen Latifah (Sphere) and LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea).
To play devil’s advocate a bulk of these roles are specially created and wouldn’t benefit the career of a legit actor. It is the entertainment industry after all and these rappers deserve their chance to half-arse themselves through as many ventures as they want. It may actually be in the U.S. Constitution. As has been proven rapper appearances in movies only work in small doses, except in the case of Cool As Ice, which is a work of art. MC Eiht played his role of a gangbanger to perfection in Menace II Society because he was playing himself. For every Eminem in 8 Mile there is Silkk The Shocker in 1999’s Corrupt. Here we look at those acting rappers that have succeeded and those that failed. Miss anybody? Let us know!