Rappers have wanted to be jumped into the acting game ever since they rocked a mic. Some bring the pain and depth, others not so much. We decided to take a look at a few rappers-turned-actors and put them head-to-head to see who’s got mad skills, and who gets schooled.
Movies of Note: 8 Mile, uncredited role in The Wash
Marshall Mathers made the leap into feature films in 2002 essentially playing a version of himself. Whether he was acting or just being Eminem, he received pretty great reviews and Hollywood was branding him the next great thesp…or at least a rapper who had the acting chops to stay in the game. He had performed sketch-y comedy before, but Slim Shady isn’t going to attract any attention from uppity movie reviewer types.
Closing Line: As B Rabbit (from 8 Mile): “I’m gonna turn around with a great smile, and walk my white ass back across 8 Mile!”
Movies of Note: Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Home of the Brave, Righteous Kill, Streets of Blood, Twelve
Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Eminem’s protegé, was a great story from the start. Seriously, any guy that can take nine bullets and shrug it off is a great story in the making. He had a couple of hits, but when it was announced he was following in Eminem’s footsteps and playing a based-on version of himself, people groaned. I certainly did. But he’s kept at it and improved (slightly) with every cinematic outing.
Closing Line: As Marcus (from Get Rich or Die Tryin’): “Show no love. Love will get you killed.”
New Material: Eminem has two movies in unknown stages of development and they have been there for a while. 50 Cent has several films in the works, including the one where he dropped around 50 pounds to play a dying football player, which was a shocking before-and-after photo to see. He is also writing and producing some of his projects.
Winner: 50 Cent. Eminem may be a better actor, but he hasn’t shown us enough to prove it. Plus, 50 Cent can take nine bullets. The student becomes the teacher.
Movies of Note: Bad Boys I & II, iRobot, Hancock, The Pursuit of Happyness, Independence Day, Men in Black I & II, Hitch, Ali, etc.
He’s pretty much the biggest box office draw in the world, so the Fresh Prince with his semi-clean rhymes has done okay for himself. No one would have predicted that he would go on to do a successful sitcom like he did. Then no one who saw that sitcom would have ever predicted he would go on to become one of the most successful movie stars of all time. Magnetic personally, yes, but good actor? He has certainly developed into one.
Closing Line: As Agent J (from Men in Black II): “Am I supposed to take advice on love from a dude that chases his own ass?”
Movies of Note: Halloween: Resurrection, Narc, Higher Learning, Shaft, Finding Forrester
Busta actually showed some early promise and turned his rap personality into some decent roles. And he wasn’t pounded too much by the critics. Then it appears movie bosses got wise and realized that he was playing the same character most of the time and Busta had pretty much lost his semi-mass appeal — and thus, there went his ace in the hole. The roles dried up, quickly squashing his acting career.
Closing Line: As Freddie Harris (from Halloween: Resurrection): “Let the dangertainment begin! Up in this motherf*cker!”
New Material: Will Smith has 30 projects in development — yes, 30 — including Men in Black III, which is finally coming together, and Independence Day II & III. Busta has one in which he plays a character named "Lick." So…not the same.
Winner: Do I even need to say who wins this matchup? Will Smith by a monster landslide.
Movies of Note: Juice, Poetic Justice, Bullet, Gridlock’d, Gang Related
Tupac Shakur is one of those artists who kept getting movies and music released well after his death in 1996. He was popular and well-known before he was killed, but become wildly popular after. Tupac was quite a good actor and was really hitting his stride when tragedy struck. He would have certainly been in the running for some prime roles, and would likely be one of the top rappers-turned-actors working today.
Closing Line: As Det. Rodriguez (from Gang Related): “I can make your life miserable, that’s what I can do.”
Movies of Note: Belly, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, Never Die Alone, Death Toll, Romeo Must Die
Belly wasn’t a particularly good movie, but it had some cool music video cinematography and DMX was menacing enough to make people think he was going to develop into a good actor. Instead, he just continued growling his way through Jet Li and Steven Seagal movies. Oh, and trying his best to self-destruct. The arrests and drugs will get you there…but so will semi-retiring from rap in order to become a minister. While in-and-out of prison.
Closing Line: As Fait (from Cradle 2 the Grave): “What are you, some kind of kung fu James Bond?”
New Material: Tupac wrote a screenplay well before he died that is rumored to be in preproduction. DMX is slated to do nothing in the near future. Except maybe jail time.
Winner: Tupac. DMX can bark better, but Tupac can act better.
LL Cool J
Movies of Note: Any Given Sunday, S.W.A.T., Caught Up, Deep Blue Sea, Halloween H2O, Deliver Us From Eva, Last Holiday
It’s hard not to like Ladies Love Cool James. He seems like a nice dude and despite being physically superior to 98% of us, he’s still one of the dudes. And he’s done a few movies that are guilty pleasures. Is he a good actor? Well, if having a wide range of emotion that you can tap into means you are a good actor, then LL Cool J might not be one. Just yet.
Closing Line: As Preacher (from Deep Blue Sea): “Like black men don’t have enough ways to get killed without climbing up some stupid ass mountain in the middle of God’s nowhere! You leave that to the white folks! Brother!”
Movies of Note: 2 Fast 2 Furious, Crash, Hustle & Flow, Fred Claus, RocknRolla, Max Payne, Gamer
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges was awful in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but he was just playing along with everyone else. Then Crash came along, followed by Hustle & Flow. The guy could actually turn in a performance worth watching on screen. Who knew?! He’s started working on some bigger budget stuff now, and all of them will certainly turn out better than the second installment of Vin Diesel’s car racing franchise. Most things do.
Closing Line: As Mickey (from RocknRolla): “My hat is deep and full of magic. I got rabbits, handkerchiefs, and ladies of the pole drinking Black Label. I got smoke machines, bubble machines, I even got love marines, and still the hat goes deeper. All right? But there AIN’T no mothaf*ckin’ dry ice!”
New Material: LL Cool J has been busy on his show “NCIS: Los Angeles” for the past two seasons and Ludacris doesn’t have anything pressing right now.
Winner: This one was a tight battle, but Ludacris could beat most anyone with his line from RocknRolla. I have no idea WTF he’s talking about, but I’m intrigued.
Movies of Note: The Friday movies, The Glass Shield, Anaconda, Three Kings, Barbershop, Are We There Yet?, XXX: State of the Union
Ice Cube has built a nice little empire for himself over the years. He has three film franchises under his belt and was in a fourth when he filled in for Vin Diesel in XXX: State of the Union. His Friday franchise has some funny moments, but no one would ever claim Ice Cube is a very versatile comedian. And he’s not known for his dramatic roles…so that doesn’t give him much ammo.
Closing Line: As Craig (from Next Friday): “Look, we cousins and everything, but don’t be hooking me up with the little sister that’s bigger than the big sister!”
Movies of Note: Trespass, New Jack City, Ricochet, Surviving the Game, Tank Girl, Mean Guns, Leprechaun in the Hood, TV Series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
Ice-T has a long list of movies spanning three decades and also spent ten seasons on one of the “Law & Order” spin-offs. He’s probably known better to some people as that guy who did the “Cop Killer” song a long time ago because his movie projects haven’t exactly kept him in the limelight. That’s maybe because a lot of his films fly under the B-movie radar. He always portrays his characters as tough street talking dudes — regardless if they are cops, gangsters, or doctors.
Closing Line: As Jack Mason (from Surviving the Game): “Bang. Game over.”
New Material: Ice Cube has seven films in the works and two TV series he’s producing. Ice-T has two movies he produced due out soon. Or say the Internet says…
Winner: Ice Cube, because I had to choose one.
Movies of Note: Fear, Boogie Nights, The Departed, Shooter, The Italian Job, We Own the Night, The Yards, Invincible, Planet of the Apes, The Perfect Storm
Mark Wahlberg always seems to hate his Funky Bunch roots when asked about it in interviews, but that is what put him on the map so he should embrace it. His first few film roles only showcased him as a whispery-voiced dude with ripped abs, but he’s found some range since then and even got nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Departed. The guy is a top star these days, but it would still be hilarious to hear a new album from him. Maybe that’s why he won’t do it.
Closing Line: As Dirk Diggler (from Boogie Nights): “I know f*cking karate.”
Movies of Note: I Got the Hook Up, Hot Boyz, Foolish, Dark Blue, Hollywood Homicide, Uncle P, The Mail Man
He’s worth like a trillion dollars from producing, owning a clothing line, basketball, and who knows what else. He also released some successful rap albums and then decided to start financing his own movies…in which he wrote and directed some of them and starred in all of them. So obviously the quality is stellar.
Closing Line: As Black (from I Got the Hook Up): “You know, you can’t get it up like you used to.”
New Material: Mark Wahlberg has a bunch of projects he’s either producing or starring in soon, including The Other Guys alongside Will Ferrell. Master P is busy writing his next gem. Spare us.
Winner: Marky Mark. He’s got one more Oscar nomination than Master P.
Movies of Note: The Italian Job, Something the Lord Made, Monster’s Ball, Brown Sugar, The Woodsman, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Be Kind Rewind, Cadillac Records
Mos Def is an interesting artist. He has never chosen any typical rap direction and delves into poetry, sidewalk paintings, and other eclectic projects. The films he has picked are also not typical fare for a rapper trying to make his mark in the film game. He has already worked with acclaimed filmmakers and in award-winning projects, so whatever plan he has devised seems to be working. He’s not afraid of smaller supporting roles and when he chooses a big budget film, I’m almost positive I’m going to enjoy it.
Closing Line: As Left Ear (from The Italian Job): “We’re in Italy. Speak English.”
Movies of Note: Caught Up, Hot Boyz, Whiteboyz, The Eastsidaz, Baby Boy, Training Day, Bones, Starsky & Hutch, Soul Plane, The Tenants, Down for Life
It was just a few years ago that we all knew Snoop was going to start working his way into acting after a few successful tracks. Well, ‘working’ might be an exaggeration. He sort of just ‘did’ the acting thing. It’s not that I want him to fail at it, but his low-key raps that lack any sort of charisma don’t give me strong hope that he would turn it up on the screen. And he hasn’t. He does a lot of sneering and can be a little too laid back when performing in a comedy. That adds up to…would "boring" be the industry term?
Closing Line: As Huggy Bear (from Starsky & Hutch): “There used to be a time around here when you peed on the wall, you did it outside.”
Winner: Mos Def. The guy is truly a great actor, and rapper.