The rap genre has accumulated some of the most talented artists in the music industry, and the most successful of these are also some of the wealthiest – and, often, the most comfortable with flaunting their wealth! And interestingly, several celebrities who started out as rappers have successfully made the transition into the acting world: whether it’s television or film, there are more rappers out there in Hollywood than you’d imagine. Many are exceptionally talented actors who have been nominated for awards and continue to get work and while being a rapper may have gotten their foot in the door, they have secured their spots in the acting world.
Of course, the rap and hip-hop genre isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and when these rappers try their hand at acting, they may inadvertently bring with them the preconceptions attached to their music genres. But when a rapper truly breaks through into the acting world, they’re disrobed of their music industry guise and can establish themselves as a silver screen talent to be reckoned with. Then again, there are rappers – such as Mos Def and DMX – who have made a mark in the acting world while continuing their career in rap.
Of all those who’ve made the treacherous journey from cool rapper to respected thespian, this is a list of the top ten richest rappers-turned-actors. Some on this list may be a big surprise, while for some you may judge they’d have been better to stick with the music. Love them or hate them, the following rappers have made their mark not only in music but in the acting industry. For the purposes of consistency, we’re going to stick to the rapper’s stage names.
10. Common – $35 Million
The rapper Common hails from Chicago, Illinois and came onto the rap scene in 1992 with numerous hits and a fan following to support it. Common first broke into the acting world with small spots in shows such as “Girlfriends” and “One on One”, both on UPN. His first breakout role into film was that of a mob enforcer in the movie “Smokin’ Aces” (2007) which starred Jeremy Piven, Alicia Keys, and Ryan Reynolds. 2007 proved to be a good year for Common’s acting career as this was also when he starred alongside Denzel Washington in the movie, “American Gangster”.
9. Ice T – $35 Million
Ice T really broke out some serious acting chops with his role as Detective Fin in the television series, “Law & Order: SVU” where he plays a bad cop with a soft heart. But he first started establishing himself in the acting world with small roles in movies such as the 1984 film, “Breakin’” as well as the sequel that followed the year after. In the early nineties, he had a starring role in the movie, “New Jack City” that also included Denzel Washington and John Lithgow in the cast.
8. Queen Latifah – $50 Million
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Queen Latifah made her way into the entertainment business as a rapper and then a singer. Since 2008, she has made a return to hip-hop music – but many people only know Queen Latifah as an actress and singer, with a career spanning over two decades. This rapper is one of the music industry moguls on our list whose transition to Hollywood has been so smooth she’s almost equally well known and respected in both realms. She’s let her musical skills shine through occasionally in Hollywood, too – as in the movie, “Hairspray” and in her Oscar-nominated turn in 2002’s “Chicago”.
7. Ludacris – $70 Million
Ludacris has made several appearances in films such as “Fast & Furious 6”, “The Wash”, “Hustle & Flow”, and “Crash”. He caught the attention of fans, Hollywood and even cynics when he made his appearance in two “Law & Order: SVU” episodes known as “Venom” and “Screwed” in 2006 and 2007. In the show, he played the psychotic killer Darius Parker who played the role with such vision and direction, it was hard to know whether you’d want to hug him or run away from him. Ludacris’ turn in the 6th Fast and Furious movie has proved so successful he’s due to reappear in the 7th movie, reprising his role as Tej Parker.
6. LL Cool J – $100 Million
LL Cool J is currently playing the role of Sam Hanna as a series regular in the show, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and has been working on the NCIS spin-off since 2009. His first breakout role was in the 1998 film, “Halloween: H20” and then in 1999 he had a role as the wise cracking cook in the film, “Deep Blue Sea”. Along with a successful music career, LL Cool J has had a successful acting career and is still getting consistent work as an actor. He played Queen Latifah’s love interest in the 2006 film, “Last Holiday” and has also been seen in other films like “Rollerball”.
5. Snoop Lion – $120 Million
Many of us still know him as Snoop Dogg or if you have his funk album then maybe you know about the Snoopzilla name change. However you know him in the music industry, Snoop Lion has made several appearances in film including a starring role in “The Wash” alongside Dr. Dre as well as the movie “Bones”, and “Mac and Devin Go to High School”. He has had supporting roles and has made cameo appearances in movies like “Bruno”, “Training Day”, “Half Baked”, and “Starsky and Hutch”. Snoop Lion has also made television appearances and worked on comedy sketches. You may even remember hearing his voice from the snail Smoove Move in the movie, “Turbo”.
4. Ice Cube – $120 Million
Born in 1969 and growing up in Los Angeles, Ice Cube rose to fame in the 80’s as a rapper in a group called N.W.A. After he went solo in 1989, Ice Cube started breaking into the world of acting with a role in the 1995 film, “Friday”. In 2002, he had a role in the film “Barbershop”, and then in 2005, he had a major role in the children-friendly film, “Are We There Yet” – the latter was panned by critics. His most recent turn is in 2014 movie “Ride Along”, where he plays a cop whose sister is engaged and takes her fiancé (played by Kevin Hart) on a ride-along in an attempt to scare the guy away.
3. Eminem – $140 Million
In 2001, Eminem got a small part in the film, “The Wash”, but his breakout role was playing the lead in the 2002 movie, “8 Mile”. The film and Eminem’s performance garnered positive reviews as well as the film’s song “Lose Yourself” becoming an instant hit. But 8 Mile wasn’t the last time we saw Eminem on the silver screen. He made an appearance on the show “Entourage” and he will be playing a boxer in the upcoming film, “Southpaw”. Along with acting, Eminem has done a number of voice acting roles too – but the bulk of his wealth still comes from his impressive music career.
2. Marky Mark – $150 Million
And by Marky Mark, we mean Mark Wahlberg. Those who aren’t fans of this actor may not even know that he got his start in the business as a rapper, who recorded as ‘Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch’. But when Marky Mark got picked up for an infamous Calvin Klein modelling deal, he shot to the sort of fame his rap career never allowed – and the entertainment world opened up to him. Eventually, rapping and modelling segued into acting and in 1993 he dropped the ‘Marky’, added the ‘Wahlberg’, and the the Hollywood legend we know today was born. His started out in Hollywood in the early 90s with a role in Renaissance Man opposite Danny DeVito and started gathering more widespread attention with his lead role in the 1996 thriller Fear alongside Reese Witherspoon.
1. Diddy – $580 Million
Sean Combs, also known as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, and now Diddy, is rap royalty. But perhaps you weren’t aware that he has a small acting resume that’s quickly growing. In 2008, he starred in the ABC telecast of “Raisin in the Sun”. Even though his performance got mixed reviews, his name still carried him through and he landed a role in the comedy movie “Get Him to the Greek” starring Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. Diddy got great reviews on his short appearance in the movie and it showed that he had comedic timing and the acting chops to support it. His next role will be in the film “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner, to be released in April 2014.