There are some rappers out there who take acting jobs just because someone asked them to, or someone gave them a check. On the other hand, there are a select few who actually take time to hone their craft and become competent, effective and professional actors. Here is a list of 10 rappers who have been able to make the successful transition from the rhyming booth to the movie set.
Chicago rapper Common has been an important player in the Hip-Hop game since the early 90’s. He’s known for his deep and conscious lyrics, and for a while, he was also affiliated with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. music label. He made the transition to acting in the early aughts and since then he has appeared in memorable movies like Smokin’ Aces, American Gangsta and Wanted. Since 2011, he has been part of the lauded Western-inspired series Hell On Wheels on AMC. Even though he continues to put out quality music, he has been able to hone his acting skills and take his craft to the next level.
The rapper T.I. whose real name is Clifford Harris is undoubtedly one of the major movers and shakers in the realm of rap. He has a new album dropping later this year, and his label Grand Hustle houses talented acts like Trae the Truth, Iggy Azalea, B.O.B. and Young Dro. He also has a stellar acting career to add to his accolades. From the time he made his major motion picture debut in the 2006 movie ATL, his acting skills have really bloomed. He has played roles in respected television shows like Boss (alongside Kelsey Grammer) and House of Lies (alongside Don Cheadle), and he’s held his own like a true professional. Mr. T.I. is currently filming the next Marvel movie Ant Man which should come out sometime next year.
50 Cent is many of many talents, skills, moods and abilities. He’s already considered a titan in the rap industry, but he constantly continues to spread his wings into the other areas of entertainment, business and philanthropy. He made his entrance into movies with the biopic of his own life Get Rich or Die Trying, and he showed how serious he was about acting when he lost over 50lb for the 2011 movie Things Fall Apart. He has had great success with various films, his latest success in the movie/television lane was actually as executive producer for the edgy street drama Power that just finished its first season on the Starz cable channel. The show got very good ratings and it has already been given the green light for Season 2.
Donald Glover has a story that’s a little different from the other rappers turned actors on this list. The difference is that he actually established himself as a respected actor before taking the deep plunge into fulfilling his rapping dream. Glover graduated from NYU and then served as a writer on the hilarious NBC comedy 30 Rock. He then went on to star in the funny sitcom Community and then had a recurring role in Girls on HBO. With regards to his rapping career, he has released two critically received albums: Camp in 2011 and Because The Internet in 2013. His newest musical project is scheduled to drop before the end of the year.
Never underestimate the brilliant mind of The Rza. After all, he’s the genius who came up with the idea of forming the Wu-Tang Clan and he assembled a battalion of deadly lyricists that went on to become one of the biggest rap groups on earth. In the world of film, he has proved that he has superior acting chops time and time again. Most recently you would probably have caught him in the FOX show Gang Related and the action flick Brick Mansions starring the late Paul Walker. He’s also a talented director – the last movie he directed was the martial arts extravaganza, The Man With The Iron Fists.
If there’s any alley in the field of music and entertainment where money is to be made, Sean “Diddy” Combs will likely find a way to squeeze himself in. He has appeared on Broadway (A Raisin In The Sun) and has had major roles in critically praised and commercially successful movies like Monster’s Ball and Get Him To The Greek. Now that he has his own fully-fledged cable television channel named Revolt, you can expect to see him making even more major moves in the realm of television and film.
The rambunctious and energetic rapper Ludacris has been active in the rap game for almost 15 years. During that time, he has had so many hits including “Southern Hospitality”, “Move Bi*ch”, ‘Roll Out”, “Yeah” (with Usher), “Number One Spot” and so many more. In the Hollywood realm, he really made a heavy splash with his impressive performance in the award-winning movie Crash. He capitalized on that momentum and he has been a main fixture in the blockbuster Fast & Furious movies. You can see him next in Fast & Furious 7 (yes – Part 7) which should be hitting theaters sometime in 2015.
Harlem rapper Cam’ron is one of the elder statesmen of the Hip-Hop game. He’s been able to keep up his relevance and street credibility for well over a decade – and that takes skill, creativity and tons of talent. His powers of reinvention have helped him well in acting too. His breakthrough performance was in the gritty, street-themed 2002 flick Paid In Full. In 2005, he also wrote, starred and produced a straight to DVD movie called Killa Season that was an underground cult hit. Presently, Cam’ron has a deal with Queen Latifah and her Flavor Unit production company to produce new film projects for Netflix.
Andre 3000 is an amazing rapper, a talented musician and an extremely competent actor. You can’t hold Andre in a box because he’s so creative, courageous and willing to try new things with his art. In the music industry, he already broke down doors with songs like “Hey Ya”, “Sorry Ms. Jackson” and “Bombs over Baghdad.” In movies, he was extremely impressive in the movie Four Brothers, and the word amongst critics is that he illuminated the screen in the recent Jimi Hendrix biopic he starred in. The name of the movie is “All Is By My Side” and it’s highly recommended viewing for all lovers of true rock n’ roll.
When you talk about rappers who really made a mark on the West Coast rap scene in the late 90s and early aughts, Xzibit’s name must be mentioned. He was part of a popular crew that included The Alkoholiks, King Tee and Defari. From 2003 to 2007, he also enjoyed massive visibility with his popular gig as host of the MTV show Pimp My Ride. He parlayed that career boost into acting in movies like X-Files: I Want To Believe and Derailed, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He occasionally pops up on popular network shows like Hawaii 5-0 and The Good Wife, and he still finds time to put out new music too.