Articles: Most Rappers Should Leave Acting to the "Reel" Professionals




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Samantha Ofole-Prince

In recent years, a number of artists in various musical genres have tried to make the leap from the concert stage to the movie set.

Madonna, Britney Spears, Phil Collins, Kid Rock and David Bowie have all explored their acting talents, but their attempts remain marginally memorable.

Enter hip hop. Rappers such as Ice Cube, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and many more have had bigger successes in movies than their pop and rock counterparts.

The one- time Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith was the first rapper to successfully crossover to the big screen. He was closely followed, with varying degrees of success, by Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and Ice-T.

Now it seems every rap artist from Beenie Segal to Fat Joe are climbing onboard the movie bandwagon. But only a handful are onscreen magnets. Smith, who in 1990 lunged into television with a hit sitcom, remains the only male rapper who can command a million dollar salary.

"At that time, nobody in the rap community ever thought I could go from music to becoming successful in TV and films," says Smith who proved his critics wrong after nabbing an Oscar nomination for Ali.

Latifah, like Smith also started in television with the comedy Living Single. She remains the ony female rapper ever to be nominated for an Academy Award (Chicago). Her appearance in Jungle Fever, and a role in the critically acclaimed Set It Off cemented Latifah’s acting career, and she just released her 22nd movie to date Taxi, in which she plays a New York City cabdriver.

LL Cool J’s big break came with Halloween: H20, and he has since proven an onscreen credibility with successes such as Mindhunters, In Too Deep and S.W.A.T. Fans can catch him in Slow Burn with Taye Diggs to be released in a few months.

Emmy nominee Mos Def (The Italian Job, Something The Lord Made) has repeatedly proven himself to be a competent and very talented actor, whilst Ice Cube’s successes with the Friday and Barbershop flicks has made him bankable. With some of the mediocre material given to work with, Tupac Shakur pushed the genre with his compelling portrayal of complex characters in Juice, Gang Related and Above The Rim.

In New Jack City, Ice-T showed enough promise to secure a permanent role on the television series Law and Order: SVU. For Q-Tip (She Hate Me) acting is far deeper.

"It’s just another part of myself that is hidden that I got to dig through to find," he says. "I had to do it."

Former rapper Mark Wahlberg, (The Italian Job, Perfect Storm) found the perfect vocation when he decided to give up an ailing rap career. Attempts by other rappers to enter the movie industry have not always been successful; take Eminem’s amateurish performance in 8 Mile. Perhaps fans can look forward to an improved performance in rumored future flick Devil's Night, which is scheduled for a November release. Ja Rule, since his earlier spate with 50 Cent has resorted to movies, but with credits, which include The Fast and The Furious, Half Past Dead, and a small forgettable role in Scary Movie 3, he would be best advised to stick to rapping.

Treach’s Love and a Bullet didn’t sit very well with fans, but Book of Love and Jason’s Lyric scoured him a few points. DMX, who has steadily churned out monotonous action flicks like Never Die Alone, Exit Wounds and Romeo Must Die is still yet to show his acting range.

Fat Joe and Master P’s low-budget flicks have sunk deeper than the Titanic and DJ Pooh’s roles in The Wash and 3 Strikes remain barely memorable.

Despite nabbing small guest roles on sitcom Half & Half and movie Civil Brand, MC Lyte is still awaiting a big break, which has been slow in coming. Cam’ron showed onscreen charisma in Paid In Full and Kurrupt (Cradle 2 The Grave), might excel if he employed the full services of an acting coach. Nelly wasn’t as bad as critics slammed in Snipes, but fans can be the judge when he appears in The Longest Yard with Chris Rock next year.

The MC dream team Method and Redman scored a hit with movie How High, and although they snagged a Fox sitcom remain boring buffoons. Busta Rhymes and Xzibit’s Full Clip went straight to video as did Charli Baltimore, Cormega and The Eastsidaz’s movie Crime Partners, although Busta did show a flicker of improvement in Shaft and Narc.

Worst actor nods respectively should be shared by Lil’ Kim (Norah’s Hair Salon) and Sticky Fingaz (Torque) who ring true Samuel L. Jackson’s statement that perhaps rappers should stick to rapping and leave acting to the real professionals.

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