Hip-hop stands as a genre of music well-rooted in storytelling. It's simple but effective: lyrics over a beat. No need for complex compositions like melodies or chord progressions (which modern hip-hop has plenty of)-just meticulously crafted narrations providing insight into the setting and perspectives of the story. This artistry perhaps explains why the best rappers that have become actors had such a smooth transition.
From chart-topping songs to massive box office hits, numerous rappers-turned-actors have become renowned multi-talented entertainers. Over the years, this trend of artists migrating from music to film has only gained traction. Their innate performance abilities allow them to make the switch seamlessly.
1. Will Smith
Will Smith is more than just a rapper-turned-actor. His star shone brightly from the moment his iconic sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, premiered, and it's safe to say he's since become one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
From box office bonanzas like Independence Day, Bad Boys, and I Robot to Academy Award nominations for Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness, Smith has cemented himself as one of the best actors of all time with a staggering $3 billion in total grosses. He truly is one of the best rapper actors.
2. Ice Cube
Ice Cube is undeniably one of the most successful rapper-actor combinations. His breakout performance in Boyz In The Hood was a defining moment of his career. Since then, he has continued to take on roles across all genres.
He perfected comedy with his iconic movie Friday, allowing him to also move behind the camera. In 1995, Ice Cube established CubeVision, which produced hits such as Are We There Yet?, Barbershop, Friday, and Ride Along. His influence continues to extend across both the hip-hop and film industries, making him one of the best rapper actors.
3. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah has exemplified cinematic excellence, and noteworthy acting talents since 1996's Set It Off. not just a movie star in hits like Last Holiday and Bringing Down the House. She also graced the small screen in the sitcom Living Single, which ran from 1993 to 1998.
And today, she is the lead producer and actor of the Fox series Star - indisputably attesting to her status as one of Hollywood's power players. Initially best known for her electrifying performance in musical drama Chicago, which staked its claim on mass entertainment at the crossroads of criminal justice and showmanship, Latifah earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress with a mere phrase: "When you're good to Mama, Mama's good to you." Truly, this iconic Broadway lyricist Fred Ebb could not have put it better.
4. Tupac Shakur
The life of Tupac was tragically cut short at a mere 25 years of age. Had his life not been so abruptly ended, the power of his presence in Hollywood today would be undeniable. Although he was primarily known for his musical talents, Pac's immersion into acting began shortly after with his astounding debut performance as Bishop in 1992's Juice.
His career and development as an actor had just begun to take off, and it is not far-fetched to assume that had he survived, he would have become an unquestioned leader in both television and cinema.
If you're acquainted with the Fast & Furious franchise, you've no doubt come to admire Luda's character, Tej: sharp-witted and savvy. But unless you've seen his roles in the acclaimed picture Crash or as the lovable protector in New Year's Eve, it's time to broaden your horizons.
Ludacris is nothing short of naturally amusing and charismatic. Not only does he provide comic relief, but he can bring even the dullest of dialogue to life. The Fast and the Furious films have been a perfect match for his talents and when that franchise eventually finishes, he will undoubtedly continue to find plentiful work considering he's one of the best rappers turned actors.
6. Method Man
Method Man stands out amongst other performers on this list as a character actor of immense talent. With a wide range of tones and styles, his acting portfolio includes both dramatic projects such as The Deuce or The Wire, as well as comedic appearances in How High and The Last O.G.
His remarkable chameleon-like ability to move between seriously intense scenes and lighthearted humor has earned him high praise, particularly in the case of his performance in The Deuce, which could have won him an Emmy had it gotten the attention it deserved.
Ice-T, one of many rappers to gain fame by taking on the role of a police officer in television, is most renowned for his portrayal of Odafin Tutola on Law and Order: SVU. Despite the more than ten years he has spent in the part, Ice-T continues to pursue other acting challenges, such as voicing a character in Ugly Dolls and starring in film productions like Tank Girl and New Jack City.
No doubt, Tutola has been one of the most iconic characters of modern television, and that is impressive in itself. Where some may ascribe a lengthy TV appearance with being stuck somewhere, it's obvious Ice-T has seen it as an opportunity.
8. Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg's stint in hip-hop is not fondly remembered, though he has since found success as an actor. Collaborating with Peter Berg, the pair have created a variety of popular films that have earned critical praise - such as Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, Mile 22, and the upcoming Wonderland.
His artistic choices may be contentious to some, but there is no denying Wahlberg's talent on the silver screen. In an industry saturated by Marvel movies, he has emerged as a leading star. He can still draw an audience and make an impact without relying on special effects. His charisma makes him a commercial powerhouse across the United States.
9. Donald Glover
Childish Gambino, Earn from Atlanta, Troy from Community - all of these names represent one person: Donald Glover. His talent is renowned not only as a rapper and actor, but also as a writer. He has been credited on 30 Rock, and as the creator of Atlanta.
Glover has directed four episodes of the show as well. Now, he's at the forefront of showbiz, having the potential to do almost anything in entertainment. He may well prioritize acting over his other interests; only time will tell.
Known for his impressive soundtracks and scores, rapper Common has proven to boast considerable acting talent. His extensive list of acting credits include a recurring appearance on the television show Hell on Wheels. And, a part in Selma, which was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Song.
Common excels when taking on period pieces, conveying strength and honor in each performance. When it comes to minor roles that call for this mood, he does not disappoint.