The music business has always seemed to eye Hollywood as a second home. From singers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. (aka the Rat Pack) in the original Ocean’s Eleven, to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit, many in the music business found themselves on the big screen. More recently entertainers like Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight) and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) have been able to successfully make the transition from stage to screen.
Hip-Hop was no different and saw names like LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Mark Wahlberg (is this really rapping), and the king of the box office, Will Smith, all move to the big screen. With the release of Lionsgate’s Set Up, starring Bruce Willis and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, we decided to look at the best rappers in film.
Ice-T – Currently known for his 13 seasons on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Tracy Marrow had small parts in movies like Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2 before getting a starring role as an undercover cop in Mario Van Peebles’s crime drama, New Jack City. With roles in the action drama, Surviving the Game and the cult classic, Mean Guns, Ice always brings intensity and realism to his roles.
DMX – When he’s not in a recording studio, Earl Simmons is acting and doing a good job of it. The Dark Man of the Unknown first made his mark starring in Hype Williams’ Belly. DMX then moved to action films like Romeo Must Die (with Jet Li), Exit Wounds (with Steven Segal), Cradle 2 the Grave (also with Li) and later appearing as the lead in Ernest R. Dickerson’s (Juice, The Walking Dead) Never Die Alone.
Ludacris – Former radio DJ Chris Bridges first hit the big screen with a cameo in The Wash, and two years later he had a co-starring role in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Bridges then had back to back roles in Crash (2005’s Best picture winner) and Hustle & Flow, which were small but really allowed him to shine. Luda has a natural style and can play comedy as well as drama.
Ice Cube – Inglewood, California’s O’Shea Jackson has gone from rapper to media mogul. Ice Cube had just started his solo career after leaving NWA and was cast as Doughboy in John Singleton’s debut film, Boyz n the Hood. Four years later, he would star in, co-write and executive produce the classic comedy, Friday. Cube is often cast as the tough guy with a heart, but his roles in David O. Russell’s Three Kings, and Tim Story’s Barbershop showed that he had range.
Mos Def – Dante Smith has been acting (initially on TV) about as long as he has been rapping. Mos Def’s first movie role was in Spike Lee’s 2000 drama, Bamboozled. Mos followed the role up with appearances in films like Monster’s Ball, Brown Sugar and The Italian Job. In 2004, Mos was nominated for an Emmy award for his role in the HBO historical drama, Something the Lord Made. Easily switching from comedies like Be Kind Rewind, to dramas like Cadillac Records, Mos Def is one of the most versatile and talented actors in Hip-Hop.