*Rapping to acting certainly seems to be a natural progression, despite what Samuel L. Jackson might think.
There certainly have been a lot of bad rappers-turned-actors – the less said about 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Snoop’s Bones or DMX’s Cradle 2 the Grave, the better – but there have been plenty of good ones, too. So which ones are the best? Here’s our list of the five best rappers – turned – actors. Don’t like it? Disagree? Let us know.
#5) Eminem – Em makes this list specifically for his dynamite performance in the autobiographical 2002 film 8 Mile, a film that still holds up a decade later. It’s only too bad his personal problems derailed his promising acting career; one hopes that he’ll appear on screen for more than cameos in Apatow movies.
#4) Ice Cube – Forget about the jokey action or family movies – like the XXX sequel, Are We There Yet?, Torque or the surprisingly entertaining Anaconda – and you can absolutely see a very solid movie career. His portrayal of the violent “Doughboy” Baker in Boyz N the Hood remains one of the more powerful performances in the entire film, Friday is an absolute classic, and he had a meaty supporting role in David O. Russell’s excellent Three Kings. Over the last year, he’s had two opportunities to shine in the scarily intense L.A. drama Rampart and the hilarious 21 Jump Street – ironically, playing cops both times.
#3) Mos Def – He hasn’t had the big-franchise opportunities like Ice Cube has had, but Def has made up for it with great work in some prestigious films. His best work came next to Alan Rickman in the excellent HBO telefilm Something the Lord Made, playing pioneering surgical technician Vivien Thomas, but Def has also scored in good pictures like The Woodsman, Cadillac Records (playing Chuck Berry), The Italian Job and the underrated Be Kind Rewind.
#2) Queen Latifah – Starting off on the excellent FOX sitcom Living Single, Latifah’s been a powerhouse presence on screen for almost two decades – peaking with her Academy Award-nominated performance in the big-screen adaptation of Chicago and the box-office hit Bringing Down the House. Next up? Lifetime’s all-African American adaptation of Steel Magnolias.
#1) Will Smith – No real debate here; after all, Smith might be the only real movie star left. Just his presence in a movie practically guarantees a $100-million dollar opening; if he does a “prestige” movie (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness) he’ll get an Oscar nomination. Men in Black III will be another hit and his upcoming collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan might save the director’s career.