To show versatility and improve their portfolios, rappers often venture outside of music. Whether it’s fashion, media production, real estate, or tech, more and more rappers are venturing outside of music to see where they can display their skill sets and make money.
One of the most common ventures for an artist outside music, especially for rappers, is acting. Acting is often considered a relative of music. When we look more closely, film requires music to help communicate various emotions. In reverse, music requires music videos (film) to help further communicate the track.
The two art forms are intertwined, so it is no wonder that the first step outside of music for artists is film. However, acting is not easy, and music artists cannot just walk onto a set thinking that they are in for an easy ride. Acting is a hard craft that requires hours and, for professionals, years of honing your skills until you get every emotion down to a tee. The way you walk, talk, and even breathe can change the type of emotion you evoke.
There have been countless films, including rappers, with some of the most famous actually doing extremely well with regard to box office sales. However, this top five is not about who sold the most films or who has appeared in the most films, it is going to rank who did the best job at playing their character, who communicated their characters’ emotions most effectively and who was most believable in their role.
From 8 Mile, to Barbershop and Above The Rim, there have been countless movies that feature rappers in leading roles but below is a list of films and TV shows where the rapper succeeded in the craft and proved they could act.
The five best times rappers proved they were good actors:
5. Mos Def – My Wife and Kids (2002)
Mos Def is an undeniable talent with regard to rap, and nobody could deny that, however, he kept his acting abilities under wraps. that is until he appeared on a 2002 episode of ABC’s hilarious family sitcom My Wife And Kids. The rapper appears in an episode entitled ‘Chairman Of The Board’, in which the Brooklyn rapper plays the part of a disabled individual named Tommy.
The episode is about the lead character Michael reacquainting himself with his old friend, who used to be able to walk but now uses a wheelchair. The episode is funny as well as touching, and although you recognise Def, he completely embodies the character, and after 30 seconds, you forget it’s him and just see Tommy. A classic.
4. Azealia Banks – Love Beats Rhymes (2017)
Featuring Azealia Banks, Jill Scott and Common, as well as being directed by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Love Beats Rhymes doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, part of that is due to the fact the film was enshrouded in controversy after Azealia Banks got into a fight with Russell Crowe, who allegedly (with RZA’s help) was set to having sex with Azealia Banks.
Love Beats Rhymes is about a young girl named Coco Ford (Azealia Banks), struggling to come to grips with the fluid nature of poetry as an avid rap fan. Butting heads with her poetry lecturer (Jill Scott), she begins to break out of hip hop’s rigid beats and bars structure and learns to express herself in a more free-flowing and poetic way. Truly a must-watch, Banks plays the role brilliantly.
3. Diddy – Get Him To The Greek (2010)
This 2010 film is a laugh-out-loud story of a record label A&R, having to escort a raucous and wild rockstar (Russell Brand) from London to LA via New York and Las Vegas. The head of the record label named Sergio is played by Diddy, and he is one hell of a character.
Diddy is hilarious in this film, and by the end of the film, his character Sergio, you hate him but love him because he’s so annoying yet so entertaining. He’s unbelievably harsh on his staff and has severe delusions of grandeur. However, Sergio’s wild and erratic nature is just so hilarious that you forget you’re even watching Diddy. Diddy is an amazingly talented actor, and this 2010 is proof.
2. Common, Ice Cube & Nicki Minaj – Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)
This Chicago-based film is an American equivalent to the UK’s Desmond’s, which used to air in the 1990s. It explores the pivotal role the barbershop plays within the black community and how the barbershop can be used as a forum. In the barbershop, people discuss trivial matters like sports or celebrity gossip but also more serious matters like politics and crime.
In this film, Minaj plays stylist Draya, Common plays the barber and husband Rashad, and Ice Cube plays the Barber, activist and good father Calvin. The film heavily touches on issues surrounding gang violence in the city of Chicago and what people can do to stop it. It also focuses on fatherhood and the tribulations that come with marriage. All three are amazing in the film and are undoubtedly skilled actors. Minaj did however, attend Fiorello H. LaGuardia school, as did Azealia Banks, so maybe these ladies have slight advantages when it comes to acting.
1. Eminem – 8 Mile (2002)
8 Mile is a semi-autobiographical film starring Eminem in the lead role as Jimmy Smith, who raps under the name B-Rabbit. The film depicts the experience of Smith as he struggles to launch a career in hip hop as a white rapper. Directed by Curtis Hanson, the movie also stars Brittany Murphy alongside Eminem.
Smith, played by Eminem, bounces around from job to job and is the stereotypical “white trash” loser. However, the story has many layers. He has a daughter, a family and friends. Some people support him, and some don’t, but Eminem is just extremely good in this film. Named after Detroit’s 8 mile highway, Eminem won ‘Best Male Performance’ and ‘Best Breakthrough Performance’ at the MTV Movie Awards.
The soundtrack, which features the renowned ‘Lose Yourself’, even won Eminem not one but two Grammy awards for ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Male Solo Rap Performance’. 8 mile tops this list deservedly.