Of all the professions to churn out pretty decent actors it has always shocked me that the rap game has been so prolific. From the highs of Oscar nominees to the lows of starring as Steven Seagal’s sidekick, rappers have made huge inroads into the movie/TV biz so it is with that in mind I give you my list of the best rappers turned actors.
5. Will Smith
I know most would have Smith in the #1 position based on his popularity and success on TV and at the box office but for me he is right where he belongs on this list. IDespite being nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Muhammed Ali I never was that big a fan of the movie or Smith’s performance that was to me just an overrated and bad Ali impersonation. Drama is not Smith’s forte as I felt he was mediocre at best in all of his dramatic roles from SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION to SEVEN POUNDS. Where he does excel is in comedy and action movies though and I can’t knock him for any of his performances in films like the MEN IN BLACK franchise, the BAD BOYS movies and the like.
Best Role: Robert Clayton Dean (ENEMY OF THE STATE)
4. Mark Wahlberg
Marky Mark may not have been the best rapper during his hippity-hop days but the guy redeemed himself with his acting choices. Though he has a tendency to get lazy and phone in his performances sometimes, when he is motivated he always delivers quality performances.
Best Role: Dirk Diggler (BOOGIE NIGHTS)
3. Tupac Shakur
It’s a shame that Tupac’s life was cut short so early because I think he was going to end up having a very successful movie career. He made more risky choices in movies than the other rappers at the time were doing and that showed that he was likely to be even more discerning and edgy with his roles as he became more comfortable in his career as an actor.
Best Role: Bishop (JUICE)
2. Queen Latifah
The Queen has built a nice little career for herself with a nice range of roles fromromantic comedies to musicals to dramas. I would like to see her return to the more dark dramatic roles like her breakout film SET IT OFF. She has the chops for it and would it would be a welcome change after so many lighter roles.
Best Role: Cleo (SET IT OFF)
1. Mos Def
The other half of Black Star (with the highly underrated Talib Kweli) is my definitive pick for best rapper turned actor. While he has not had the most box office or mainstream success as others on this list, Mos has put together the most versatile and varied catalog of roles. He’s done sci-fi, period dramas, caper films…pretty much every gener of film to be honest. That fearless streak is what makes him the cream of the crop.
Best Role: Brother Sam (DEXTER)