Rappers-turned-actors are creating a lot of buzz, box office, and bombast in Hollywood. In the latter’s case, no one has been more vocal than Samuel L. Jackson, who has turned down various roles in movies co-starring rappers. His most recent dislike was 50 Cent on last year’s “Get Rich Or Die Trying.” Jackson opined: “‘It is not my job to give credibility to such a rapper who has just entered the business,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 2002. “I know there is a young actor in New York or Los Angeles who has passed half the time. of his life learning to act and sacrificing himself to learn his trade, but he will not have his chance, because of an actor who has been created. “
In a later interview, Jackson explained, “I’ve worked on movies that have rappers and I had no problem with that. I don’t cast movies. But I think if someone is building a movie around a rapper and they come to me with that I have the right to say no … Acting is a trade, not a whim. “
In the fight with 50 Cent, Jackson said, “I like listening to 50 Cent and I can dance to his music, but I still don’t want to do it on screen. Maybe if he makes five movies and shows some talent.” . “50 replied,” “So I’m coming from being a rapper and he’s coming from being a crack addict,” a reference to Jackson’s early drug problems. The two later crushed things at the Spike Video Game Awards and signed on to make a movie together. .
Criticism on its surface seems unfair. Rappers have a built-in following that generates box office. The movie “Three Kings” starred George Clooney and rappers-turned-actor Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg. Suppose Clooney had starred in it, with LeVar Burton and Matt Dillon. Could it have achieved the crossover success it did? Additionally, many rappers have received critical and industry acclaim for their acting acumen. Both Will Smith (“Ali,” 2001) and Queen Latifah (“Chicago,” 2002) have earned Oscar nominations. Smith has also been a box office champion with “Independence Day” (1886) and “Men In Black” (1997).
However, in Smith’s case, there are people in the music industry who say that he should never have been rapping. Many found his work sophisticated, generic, and clearly commercial. While he’s always been known for the quality of the roles he’s cast, Smith’s “comedy” vehicle from last year, “Hitch,” lacked laughs and was uninspiring.
Other rappers who have made the transition from vinyl to the big screen include the late Tupac Shakur (“South Central”), whose on-screen personality I equate to that of James Dean; Wahlberg (“The Perfect Storm”), LL Cool J (“Deliver Us From Eva”), Busta Rhymes (“Finding Forrester”, “Shaft”) and Ice-T (“Surviving the Game” and as Detective Odafun Tutuola in the TV Drama “Law and Order: SVU”).
However, several rappers find themselves typecast as thugs and murderers. While Snoop Dogg may have a legion of hardcore fans, it hasn’t necessarily translated into a box office hit. Additionally, he has shown little discretion about his roles, including his turn as “host” of the “Girls Gone Wild” videos. Snoop also topped the cast of the worst movie I’ve ever seen, 1999’s “Urban Menace,” along with other notable flops: “Soul Plane” (2004) and “Starsky and Hutch” (2000). To be fair, he received criticism for his performances in “Bones” (2001) and John Singleton’s 2001 urban tale “Baby Boy.”
The problem with Snoop is that he brings the same personality (himself) to every character he plays and, like Keanu Reeves, his range is limited. There have been other rappers who are weak actors, like Eve, whose wooden performance in 2004’s “The Cook Out” made Sophia Coppola’s turn in “The Godfather III” look like Meryl Streep. If DMX could do more than frown and speak in a monotonous tone, he too could get some “stage cred”.
Most of the movies that rappers appear in are low-budget affairs that allow these neophytes to cut their teeth as actors. But the themes hardly vary from ghetto-hunt-for-riches-by-any-means themes. “Set It Off” was in the same class, but it benefited from a moving story and fast-paced action scenes. The cast featured four black women: Queen Latifah. Vivica Fox, Ella Joyce and Jada Pinkett, in a story about four women who see bank robberies as a way to escape the monotony and hopelessness that engulfs their lives. Since this film, Latifah has gained a following in films such as “Bringing Down The House,” where he co-starred with Steve Martin and Eugene Levy.
Ice-T seemed to take a step back from the ridiculous and under-considered plot of “Leprechaun In The Hood,” and lately he hasn’t been seen on the big screen in any prominent roles. Plans are for Ludacris and Jay-Z to make their big screen debut as well. This phenomenon is likely to grow, especially since the 1950s debut on “Get Rich” and Eminem’s turn on “8 Mile.” Both received congratulations on their performances. However, the abilities of these “actors must be questioned, especially when the praise they receive is for acting out scenes from their own lives.
Arguably the most talented and role-conscious of this new generation of “actors” is Mos Def (born Dante Terrell Smith). She became known for her appearances on “Chappelle’s Show” and her memorable role as Dr. Vivian Thomas on HBO. Something the Lord did, which earned him an Emmy and Globe Award nomination for Best Actor, along with a Teen Image Award. He also received critical acclaim for his role as Ford Prefect in the disappointing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
The thirty-three-year-old Brooklyn native began his career with the rap group Thermo Dynamics, but most of his work was unknown outside of the New York underground circuit. Using his popularity in rap circles, he teamed up with Def Jam’s Russell Simmons to create HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam.” Unlike most of the aforementioned rappers, he began his entertainment career at age fourteen by starring alongside Mare Winningham in the television movie, God bless the child. He also co-starred in the short-lived “Cosby Mysteries.” He recently acted alongside Bruce Willis in “16 Blocks.”
This young man is only scratching the surface of his seemingly endless talent. He will bring back “Def Poetry” for a sixth season and will release a new CD later this year. Three films, currently in pre-production, are available for the multi-talented Brooklynite: Stringbean and Marcus, Toussaint, and Brazilian work.