Total Recall: Rappers on the Big Screen

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

This week Cadillac Records, starring Beyonce Knowles, Adrien Brody, and Mos Def, hits theaters. It's a music-driven period piece about the great Chess Records label which recorded some of the finest blues and R&B ever captured on vinyl in the 1950s and 1960s. Hip-hop musician and actor Mos Def plays legendary rock 'n roller Chuck Berry, which inspired us to take a look at other rappers who have successfully made the leap to the big screen.

Pop stars in the movies are nothing new; for a long time, it came with the territory. However, since the early 1990s, a number of hip hop artists have seamlessly made the transition from wax to celluloid, often delivering more compelling performances than their classically-trained co-stars. Without further ado, we run down some of the finest thespians in the hip hop game.

More info...

Xzibit

West Coast rapper "X to the Z" Xzibit (born Alvin Joiner) released his first record in 1996, but got his real breakthrough a few years later when he joined producer Dr. Dre's cadre of up-and-comers. Rhyming alongside the likes of Snoop Dogg and Eminem, Xzibit followed their lead with small roles in Snoop films The Eastsidaz (2000) and The Wash (2001), and made a memorable cameo as a free-styling factory worker in Eminem's 8 Mile (2002). But another breakthrough was in order: a hosting gig on a new MTV show called Pimp My Ride. The auto makeover show became so successful it spawned spin-offs in countries including Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and New Zealand; more importantly, it helped Xzibit pursue meatier roles in Hollywood. Only a year after Pimp My Ride debuted, Xzibit went on to voice a character in the animated film Hoodwinked, land a supporting role opposite Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson in xXx: State of the Union, and appear alongside Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen in Derailed -- all in the same year. Since then, Xzibit has continued to build his acting resume with roles in Gridiron Gang and The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and will next appear in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans for director Werner Herzog.

Warning: Clip is NSFW -- language.


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Common

Some of us remember back when Common was still calling himself Common Sense and beefing with west coast rappers, but Chi-town's finest (eat your heart out, Kanye) has come a long way since then. Common, otherwise known as Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., worked his way up from the underground where he maintained a loyal following, eventually got himself a major label record deal, and ultimately landed in the mainstream consciousness with 2005's "Be." Next thing we knew, he was dancing his way through Gap commercials and appearing on Chappelle's Show. Though his acting credits up to that point had only included a few TV show episodes and appearances as "himself," he took the next major step by accepting a role in 2006's Smokin' Aces, a critical bomb that nevertheless featured a slew of big Hollywood names (Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia). He continued to add to his resume with appearances in American Gangster, Street Kings, and this year's Wanted, and despite his ongoing rap career (a new album is due in 2009), audiences can expect to see him in the upcoming Terminator Salvation with Christian Bale..

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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