Rappers turned actors | Virgin Media
Rappers turned actors

Rappers turned actors



Rappers are born storytellers, so you’d think their talents would transfer naturally to the big screen. It’s a mystery why so many of them end up looking like mugs when they give acting a go, but there are some notable exceptions. As Straight Outta Compton, featuring a stand-out performance from rapper O’Shea Jackson Jr, hits Sky Movies this month, we’ve compiled this list of the best and worst rapper-actors. Rapactors.

Ice Cube

Now Cube, the character played by O’Shea junior as well as his real-life father, is one of your better examples. While he’s never again hit the heights of his breakthrough performance in Boyz ‘n’ the Hood, he’s been more than solid in plenty of other films and found a “furious straight-man” niche in comedy recently in the 21 Jump Street and Ride Along series.


DMX is not an actor likely to be troubling Academy Awards judges any time soon. In fairness, a couple of his songs are frequently used in films such as Deadpool when a sense of heightened badassery needs to be conveyed, but when it comes to actually being in them you get the overriding feeling the school nativity play is about his level. Check him delivering the immortal pre-murder line “An eye for an eye!” in Lords of the Street, if you can without wincing.

Queen Latifah

One of hip-hop’s pioneering female artists in a male-dominated business, Queen Latifah would be impressive enough if she’d just stuck at that. But on top of it she’s starred in various comedies and screen musicals, voiced a mammoth in Ice Age: The Meltdown, and been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Chicago. There is literally nothing she can’t do. Except particle physics, at which she is apparently rubbish.

Busta Rhymes

Despite having you all in check, Rhymes has struggled to make his mark in film. Aside from a good but basic role in 2002’s Narc, he has variously been in Halloween: Resurrection; Full Clip, a film whose cast almost exclusively comprises rappers, which rarely indicates high quality; and Breaking Point, featuring another truly awful rapper-turned-actor, Sticky Fingaz.

Mos Def

Mos Def, or Yasiin Bey or whatever he’s calling himself this week, is mos definitely rather good at acting. He gave a quiet, measured performance opposite Kevin Bacon in the haunting independent film The Woodsman, was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing pioneering heart surgeon Vivien Thomas in Something the Lord Made, and even carried Bruce Willis through suspense drama 16 Blocks. And Bruce, let’s face it, needs plenty of carrying these days.


It comes to something when your most high-profile role is as a genetically modified kangaroo supersoldier. Ice-T landed the plum gig of T-Pain in 1995’s Tank Girl, but possibly was unaware of the extent of the prosthetics required to get him made up every day. Despite appearing in some distinctly fun 1990s crime dramas like Trespass (also starring Ice Cube for a doubly icy affair) and New Jack City, acting was never his strong suit and he’s now largely settled into reality TV and a long-running role on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Will Smith

Now you’re talking. Smith got into acting in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because he was facing a huge income tax bill after spending too much of the money he’d earned from rapping and needed the cash. Soon he was a major movie star, earning plaudits for performances like Six Degrees of Separation before becoming one of the biggest blockbuster stars of the 1990s with hits like Independence Day, Bad Boys and Men in Black. Despite a few notable turkeys (step forward, Wild Wild West) he’s had continued success, been nominated for two Oscars, and is just about the most likeable guy on planet Earth. There must be something not to like about him. Maybe he’s one of those people who takes ages using the self-service till in Tescos.