Rappers can make for some pretty good actors. Most recently, Ice Cube is in negotiation to join the upcoming film adaptation of late ’80s TV show “21 Jump Street.” While many rappers get accused of taking too much poetic license with their personae on the mic, actors are supposed to play make-believe. Here are some rappers turned actors who were able to not only make a successful transition to the silver screen, but avoided getting eternally typecast into the roles their hip-hop personalities on wax could have stuck them in. Sorry, we are not counting Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg.
Rap Persona: Gangsta rap pioneer with N.W.A who also gained plenty of East Coast love when he was rolling with the Bomb Squad (Public Enemy).
Acting Resume: Playing Doughboy in “Boyz N Da Hood” wasn’t exactly a stretch for Cube. But since O’Shea Jackson has gone from menacing roles to playing an unemployed Craig in “Friday,” a militant college student in “Higher Learning” an undercover cop in “All About the Benjamins,” an action hero in “XXX: State of the Union,” to family-friendly fare like “Are We There Yet?” That’s range.
Rap Persona: As the Fresh Prince, the Philadelphia rapper was the MC even your moms would have a hard time hating on. “Summertime” is a certified classic.
Acting Resume: When he’s not overseeing the career of his daughter Willow, Will Smith is box-office gold. “I Am Legend” and “Hancock” all made ridiculous bank. From fighting aliens to bulking up to play Muhammad Ali to playing a dating coach in “Hitch,” the Fresh Prince is acting royalty.
Rap Persona: Mad methods to his Shaolin rhyme style, which also includes Marley-like doses of weed smoke. Reluctant eye candy for the ladies but demands you respect his rap bars.
Acting Resume: Meth takes his acting gigs seriously. Actually prepping for his audition is how he landed the role of Cheese in HBO’s acclaimed “The Wire.” While comedic turns onscreen in “How High” have gotten the most attention, Mr. Meth has also appeared in more serious fare, like in the short-lived “Twilight Zone” reboot and a recurring role (Drops) in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
Rap Persona: The charismatic and talented MC that always manages to shine on any track he appears on. Actually got his acting props first (see: “The Cosby Mysteries”).
Acting Resume: Not only has Back Dante been in a number of critically acclaimed films, he also has the edge on his peers thanks to his work on the stage; as in theater (“Top Dog Underdog,” “A Free Man of Color”). Dante Beze has played a witness/hostage on the run in “16 Blocks,” Chuck Berry in “Cadillac Records,” pioneering surgeon Vivien Thomas in “Something the Lord Made” and space traveler Ford Prefect in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” all without having viewers wonder if he’s about to kick a verse.
Rap Persona: The Queen was a member of Native Tongue and is a female MC that always commanded respect and headed up her own crew, the Flavor Unit. Pretty damn good singer too.
Acting Resume: Latifah played thugged-out lesbian Cleo in “Set It Off” in 1996, and by 2002 was cast in the film adaptation of the musical “Chicago.” It earned Latifah an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Then there are acclaimed roles in “Hairspray”, The “Secret Life of Bees” and “Bringing Down the House” that almost make you forget about “The Cookout.”
LL Cool J
Rap Persona: LL Cool J has never lost a battle. One of the first MCs to switch between battle rhymes and rap battles with ease, never sleep on this rapper from Queens.
Acting Resume: Uncle L has come a long way from his cameo in “Krush Groove.” Like Will Smith before him he had his own sitcom (“In the House”) and currently stars in “NCIS: Los Angeles.” In film he’s nailed a myriad of rolls including a thugged-out gang leader (“In Too Deep”), an egotistical football player (“Any Given Sunday”) and a cop (“S.W.A.T.”). Not bad for the kid from Farmer’s Boulevard.