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The 10 Most Successful Rappers Turned Actors

by Sarafina Wright
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Top 10 Best Successful Actors Hip-Hop Music Turned

(Courtesy of Getty Images/Stephen Lovekin)

Ever since the turn of the millennium artist in the entertainment industry have taken to have more than one career. It is like the norm these days to see your favorite artist in guest spots on television shows and even movies. However, no other music genre has broken down the doors of Hollywood like the genre of rap.This list is composed of rap artist who are exceptionally good at the craft of acting and who is so believable on-screen you totally forget they are rappers.  Here is the list of  “The 10 Most Successful Rappers Turned Actors”.

10. Ludacris - Coming in at number 10 is Christopher Bridges who famously goes by Ludacris made his first major acting debut in “2 Fast 2 Furious”. An action packed flick about street racing. A year later he would star in the critically acclaimed Crash, which would win an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. Ludacris continues to act and has since then starred in movies such as Gamer, Fast Five, and No Strings Attached along with many others.

9. DMX - Although today Earl Simmons maybe a little off his rocker there was a time when he was a rapper dominating action flicks. His first on-screen debut was the hood classic Belly in 1998. Since then he starred in major blockbuster hits such as Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 The Grave, and Never Die Alone. Hopefully, the “X” man will return to the big screen soon.

8. Mos Def – Dante Smith began his acting career at the tender age of 14, starring in commercials, pilots, and sitcoms. In the midst of his rap career he has starred in Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Monsters Ball, Brown Sugar, The Boondocks, and a stellar performance in Cadillac Records.

7. Ice – T - Tracy Marrow “The Original Gangster” started out as a gangster rapper and “cop killer”, but he got bit with the acting bug very early in his career. His debut acting role was in Breakin’ in 1984. Since that time his most notable movies include New Jack City, Surviving The Game, and The Wrecking Crew. Today Ice – T stars in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He has played Detective Odafin since 2000. It’s great that Ice – T has found other avenues to make money and remain relevant being that not many people are checking for a 54 year old rapper.

6. Common – Lonnie Lynn who came into the rap game as Common Sense in 1991 has totally transformed his spoken word image into a Hollywood star. His breakout role came in 2007 in the film Smokin’ Aces. He has also starred in American Gangster, Street Kings, Wanted, and Happy Feet 2 to name a few.

5. Queen Latifah - The only woman in this category, she is an actor, singer, rapper, cover girl she is Dana Owens! No rapper has had more mainstream success than the Queen. Her first debut in a motion picture was in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever”. She went on to star in House Party 2, Juice, Set It Off, Chicago, Brown Sugar, Bringing Down The House, Taxi, Beauty Shop, Hairspray, The Secret Life Of Bees, and Just Wright to give a brief overview of her catalogue. In 1993, Queen Latifah played Khadijah James in her sitcom “Living Single”. The show ran for 5 seasons. All hail the Queen..  

4. Ice Cube – O’Shea Jackson burst onto the scene in 1988 with controversial group N.W.A. Not soon after leaving N.W.A in 1989 he began filming his first film – the critically acclaimed Boyz N The Hood. Boyz N The Hood along with the growing popularity of rap music launched rap and ghetto life into mainstream America. Ice Cube loved his experience doing “Boyz N The Hood” so much he asked director John Singleton “when was the next one?” Singleton replied,”If you want more of these films, you’re going to have to make them yourself.” That is exactly what Ice Cube did. His franchise of the classic “Friday” has taken Ice Cube’s film career to new heights. After Boyz N The Hood he continued acting in movies such as Higher Learning, Friday, Anaconda, The Players Club, All About the Benjamins, Barbershop, and Are We There Yet? to name a few. A writer, director, actor nobody in rap has made an industry their own like Ice Cube.

3. LL Cool J – Todd Smith came into the limelight as the first rapper and artist on the now iconic Def Jam Recordings. Since his success as a pioneer of rap he has equally been successful as an actor. So much so that LL the actor comes to mind more than LL the rapper. He began acting as early as 1985 in the film Krush Groove. He also landed his very own sitcom in 1995 “In The House”. He would continue to prosper in acting with films such as Deep Blue Sea, Any Given Sunday, Kingdom Come, Deliver Us From Eva, and Last Holiday to name a few. He currently plays Special Agent Sam Hanna in NCIS: Los Angeles. LL Cool J and his thriving career has spanned over twenty years, transitioning smoothly to Todd Smith.

2. Tupac Shakur - Although his life was cut dramatically short, as an actor Tupac had amazing screen presence and was solidifying himself as a great actor. One of the greatest rappers to ever do it, if not the greatest (it’s all debatable) Tupac paved the way alongside Ice Cube for rappers to be in films especially “gangster” rappers. His on-screen debut came in 1992 in the classic “Juice” where he played a crazed teenager Bishop who had a serious infinity for trouble. Tupac portrayed Bishop so well audiences thought that’s who he really was. That troubled image would haunt him for the rest of his career. Tupac’s other films include Poetic Justice, Above The Rim, and Gridlock’d. He accomplished a lot in 25 years of life.

1. The Fresh Prince – Did you forget that Mr. Will Smith husband to Jada Pinkett - Smith, father to Jaden and Willow Smith began his career as a rap artist? In fact, he was the first rap artist to win a Grammy for hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and would win a Grammy for the classic “Summertime”. His acting career began in 1990 with his very own sitcom “The Fresh Prince Of Bell Air”. During the production of his hit show, Smith was bit by the acting bug and set out to be “the biggest movie star in the world”. That he did. Starring in Bad Boys I & II, Independence Day, Men In Black I, II, III, Enemy of The State, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Ali, iRobot, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, I am Legend, Hancock, and Seven Pounds just to name a few. Mr. Smith is among Hollywood’s elite with his collection of films grossing over 5.7 billion dollars in global box office sales. No one deserves the title of “Most Successful Rapper Turned Actor” than Mr. Will Smith!

Do you agree with this list? What do you think? Let us know!

CBS Radio Intern/Sarafina Wright

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