Total Recall: Rappers on the Big Screen

We celebrate hip hop's most prolific and successful thespians.

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LL Cool J

Unlike some of his fellow rapper-turned-actors, LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) found consistent success with mainstream films while churning out hit records left and right; you'll find nary a direct-to-video clunker in his filmography (with the exception of 2006's Edison, which gets a pass for co-starring Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Justin Timberlake). It all started in 1985, when the enigmatic LL appeared as himself in the hip-hop film Krush Groove at the tender age of 17; another stint rapping in the Goldie Hawn film Wildcats followed before he began taking actual acting gigs instead of mere cameos. After scoring his best-performing record to date (1990's "Mama Said Knock You Out"), LL Cool J took on his first major film roles, appearing as a detective in 1991's The Hard Way and as Robin Williams' militaristic cousin in 1992's Toys. As LL continued to find commercial success with albums like "Mr. Smith" (1995) and "Phenomenon" (1997), his acting career also took off; memorable roles in major films like Woo, Halloween: H20, Deep Blue Sea and Any Given Sunday followed, and the MC even starred in his own sitcom, In The House, which ran for five seasons and earned two Emmy nominations. More recently, LL Cool J starred opposite fellow rapper-turned-actor Queen Latifah in Last Holiday and the Sundance indie The Deal.


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Ludacris

Chris "Ludacris" Bridges may not have many film credits to his name, but he has quickly emerged as a promising screen presence. The King of the South's hilariously ribald rhymes may have drawn the ire of Bill O'Reilly, but it's his personality and charisma that have gotten him in the door in Hollywood. Ludacris played a key role as a politically savvy, thoughtful hood in the Acadamy Award-winning Crash, and in Hustle & Flow he had an electric turn as a rap star who'd grown too big for his britches. Lately, he's been featured in action flicks like Max Payne and Guy Ritchie's RockNRolla, but he also narrated the critically-acclaimed The Heart of the Game, a documentary about a girls' high school basketball team in Washington State.

Warning: Clip is NSFW -- language.

Comments

Random_Jake

Joshua Mills

Get famous and you can do whatever you want. Hollywood is pathetic.

Dec 3 - 04:52 PM

Jen Yamato

Jen Yamato

I don't know about that, Jake - some of these rappers are legitimately talented actors, too. Many even started acting before they began rapping.

Dec 3 - 05:26 PM

halose7en

Peter Kaplan

Nice list. As far as LL Cool J is concerned, I'm still waiting to see which will ULTIMATELY be the bigger hit - Krush Groove or E.T. ;)

Dec 3 - 05:35 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I agree with Jen, some are talented. SOME! Will Smith, Ludacris, (at least he was in "Crash"), Ice T, and, and, AND,... that's it. Yeah, I don't like Mr. Happening Max Payne Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch perfect storm Wahlberg. Plus, he made the "video game" "Marky Mark: Make My Video", one of the worst video games ever. And Ice Cube did "Are We There/Done Yet". I'm want them to make a last film called "Are We Dead Yet?" Not yet, most likely there will be a third to the horrible horrible series.

Dec 3 - 06:27 PM

PhonicMonkey

scot k

Man..you're right about some, but wrong about Marky Mark. Have you never seen Boogie Nights? or Basketball Diaries, or even Rock Star. The guy is by far a better actor than rapper.

Dec 4 - 10:24 AM

supermanofsteel

Fgear hrsert

Glad to see that Ice-T is getting some recognition. I love him as Fin on Law and Order:SVU

But where's Mos Def in all this? While he may not be as prolific as the others, his talents arguably put him among the top four.

Dec 3 - 06:34 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

Of the actors mentioned, Latifah, Smith, Cube, Pac, Common, Wahlberg, and even Cool J have shown some acting talent throughout their careers. Luda was pretty good in Crash, but I haven't seen him in Max Payne yet. Cube was definitely good in Boys N the Hood, Higher Learning, Barber Shop, and Friday, so we'll forgive him for XXX: State of the Union and whatever that monster movie he did was called. Smith, of course, leads the pack. I'm surprised Mos Def wasn't mentioned on this list. He's good in virtually everything he's done; 16 Blocks, Lackawanna Blues, The Italian Job, Brown Sugar, Monsters Ball, Bamboozled, and especially Something the Lord Made.

Dec 3 - 06:57 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Common is amazing in Street kings!

Dec 3 - 07:28 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

I just saw Salo the other day,

nothing is more pathetic than that. . .

I JUST POOPED ON MY FACE
-Salo

Dec 3 - 07:30 PM

Random_Jake

Joshua Mills

Some have talent. Most musician turned actors aren't.

Dec 3 - 08:01 PM

Random_Jake

Joshua Mills

Don't.

Dec 3 - 08:02 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

The reason Mos Def wasn't included was because this list was basically in reference to Cadillac Records, which comes out this week and features Mos Def in a role as Chuck Berry. I suppose we could have included him, but we felt the intro to the article already alluded to the fact that he does have a prolific acting career.

Dec 3 - 08:11 PM

C S.

C S

I will not ever forgive Mos Def for what he did to Ford Prefect. Travesty is an understatement. A larger travesty mind you is what Sam Rockwell did to Zaphod Beeblebrox in the same movie.

LL Cool J, has been in lame a$$ movies, though he was ok acting...well... like himself, in Any Given Sunday.

Ice Cube UGH. That guy just needs to stop. Along with Marky Mark.

And now for something completely different, the positive side. Will Smith is one of the best we have ever had. Yup I said it. Common hasn't had much to work with yet but let's see more!

Dec 3 - 08:20 PM

Tyler D.

Young Turk

Why does Mark Wahlberg need to stop?

Dec 3 - 10:02 PM

misterkyle1901

kyle T

No offense to you, but Mos Def played Ford very well. And Sam Rockwell played Zaphod nearly pitch perfect. In fact, everyone in that movie played their parts very well. The movie just wasn't that good because it was too short, and too kiddy, and, well, the book wasn't particularly great. Buuuuut(and a big but) the rest of the series is brilliant.

Dec 3 - 10:19 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

". I suppose we could have included him, but we felt the intro to the article already alluded to the fact that he does have a prolific acting career. "

Oh, and Will Smith doesn't? just admit you made a mistake. . .

Dec 3 - 08:29 PM

Comment

Craig Smith

YEA YEA ma boi ice cube is numba 1 up in dis hood

Dec 3 - 08:57 PM

King Thor

Chris Kalmin


R.I.P. Tupac

Dec 3 - 09:30 PM

Tyler D.

Young Turk

Why does Mark Wahlberg need to stop?

Dec 3 - 10:02 PM

misterkyle1901

kyle T

No offense to you, but Mos Def played Ford very well. And Sam Rockwell played Zaphod nearly pitch perfect. In fact, everyone in that movie played their parts very well. The movie just wasn't that good because it was too short, and too kiddy, and, well, the book wasn't particularly great. Buuuuut(and a big but) the rest of the series is brilliant.

Dec 3 - 10:19 PM

u1sart

johann hart

For Real i think there are 3 Rapper turn actors that has graced the big screen and i still can applaud them for some real fantastic work in the acting area is;
Will Smith, Mos Def and Queen Latifa... hands down

Dec 3 - 10:58 PM

LakersFan-BostonSucks

Matt St. John

Hey Jen you're pretty hot! Got a boyfriend?

Dec 3 - 11:37 PM

Bulletproof_Animal

Martin Errington

In general, rappers make better actors than rock stars do.

Dec 4 - 12:09 AM

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