Pop stars trying their chops at acting can be a sordid affair—just think of Britney Spears' Crossroads embarrassment or Madonna's prolonged struggles in front of the camera. But comparatively speaking, the history of rappers turned actors is a lot more impressive. Not only are there MCs who became legitimate on-camera megastars (Will Smith and Queen Latifah) but there are rappers who have successfully become respected TV mainstays (Ice-T and LL Cool J).
Even Snoop has had hilarious turns on film (Starsky & Hutch, Soul Plane FTW) and Mos Def has proved adept at losing himself in a variety of roles. Not to mention that Tyrese & Ludacris have been killin' it in the Fast & Furious franchise since 2003. So from Ice Cube's turn in the heartbreaking Boyz n the Hood to Tupac's starring role in Juice, here are our 5 favorite roles for rappers on film.
Plus, don't miss 50's knockout cinematic debut in Get Rich or Die Tryin' on Fuse, Saturday, July 27, 6:00p/5:00c, and again at 8:30p/7:30c.
50 Cent's film debut is a semi-autobiographical crime drama about a young boy who grows up to be a drug dealer after his mother is brutally murdered. But like many a kid from the hood, he dreams of becoming a rapper as a means of escaping his violent existence. Curtis Jackson nailed his subdued, honest portrayal of a complicated character and kicked off a film career that's still going strong today. Below, watch the film's NSFW final confrontation, but be warned—if you haven't seen the movie, there are spoilers.
Watch 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' on Fuse, Saturday, July 27, 6:00p/5:00c, and again at 8:30p/7:30c.
Much like the 50 Cent pseudo-biopic it helped inspire, Eminem's jump to the big screen as Rabbit was loosely based on his hood rags-to-rap riches story. But while 50's flick focuses on action and plot, 8 Mile focuses on bringing you into the gritty, oppressively dead-end atmosphere of inner-city Detroit. Playing himself but never veering into self-aggrandizing territory, Marshall Mathers proved he's an expert of more than just the mic with this acclaimed performance. Plus, "Lose Yourself" scored an Oscar, which is pretty awesome. Below, watch a collection of Rabbit's hits and misses during the film's kick-ass rap battles.
Okay, you're probably wondering why these roles deserve a spot on this list. After all, Fast & Furious flicks emphasize autos over acting. But consider this: Ludacris and Tyrese are the first rapper-actors to score recurring roles in a blockbuster action movie series. And given that this franchise is pretty much the biggest summer movie series on earth for the last five years, this is a big deal. Even more impressive, you don't regard their appearances as cameos: You know and accept them as their movie characters. No small feat, especially for a star of 'Cris' caliber. Plus, the movies rule.
Better known for scaring stiff-shirts in the FBI at the time, former N.W.A rapper Ice Cube shocked with his assured, complicated portrayal of a gang member whose brother is a bright young kid that just might have a chance of escaping the hood's cycle of poverty and violence. There are a lot of great scenes featuring Cube in John Singleton's masterpiece, but his confused, tearful speech at the end definitely goes down in history as a classic: "I was watching TV and they had this sh-t on about living in a violent world and showed all these foreign places. And I started thinking, either they don't know, don't show or don't care about what's going on in the hood." Don't hold later Ice Cube flicks like Are We There Yet? against him—he earned his place in movie history with Boyz n the Hood.
Tupac's proper film debut was an explosive performance that few rapper-actors have equaled. The late MC played Bishop, a kid from Harlem who gets hooked on the thrill of violence. Bishop's Machiavellian scheming and overtly masculine ego turn him against his friends, and Tupac portrays that descent into power-madness perfectly. Although he appeared in a few more films with less impressive results, it's safe to say the world lost a brilliant rapper and great actor when he died.
Catch Tupac in Juice on Fuse, Friday July 20 at 3p/2c and again at 7p/6c.