Total Recall: Rappers on the Big Screen

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

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Ice Cube

There was a time when Ice Cube was considered one of America's most dangerous pop stars. Brutally honest, fiercely intelligent, politically contradictory, and lyrically scatological, Cube's works, from N.W.A.'s landmark debut to his early-1990s solo albums, were among the most controversial of their time. Flash forward to 2008, and the man who was once steady mobbin' is now one of Hollywood's most bankable stars -- in family comedies like Are We Done Yet?, no less. The former O'Shea Jackson made an audacious debut as a conflicted ex-con in Boyz N the Hood, and showed a warmhearted side in the stoner classic Friday (which he co-scripted). He held his own alongside George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in the critically acclaimed Gulf War drama Three Kings, and drew big laughs with the ribald ensemble piece Barbershop. He even manned the director's chair for The Player's Club, and has a number of production credits to his name. Next up for the Predator? The title role in the big-screen adaptation of Welcome Back Kotter.


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Mark Wahlberg

Delinquent, rapper, underwear model, actor, Oscar nominee -- the artist formerly known as Marky Mark (AKA Mark Wahlberg) has done it all. First came the hip-hop hit "Good Vibrations," a 1991 dance single that went platinum thanks to Wahlberg's semi-clothed gyrations and lyrics like "Yo! It's about that time/To bring forth the rhythm and the rhyme" -- an early success that led to his exclusive contract modeling in nothing but boxer briefs for Calvin Klein. But once Wahlberg's Funky era ran its course, he turned to acting, putting his streetwise persona to good use in films like Renaissance Man (1994), The Basketball Diaries (1995), and Fear (1996). In only his fifth feature film, Wahlberg found his star-making role: high school drop-out Eddie Adams (AKA Dirk Diggler) in Paul Thomas Anderson's 1970s porn opus, Boogie Nights. A little over a decade later, Wahlberg has become one of Hollywood's most reliable A-listers, with films like Three Kings, A Perfect Storm, Invincible, and most recently, Max Payne under his belt; he even received an Oscar nomination for his role in Martin Scorsese's The Departed and somewhere along the way found time to executive produce HBO's hit inside-Hollywood series Entourage, based on his own life -- not bad for the little brother of a New Kid on the Block. In the immortal words of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, "Feel it, feel it!"

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

RT-Ryan .

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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