At this point listeners seem to expect every successful rap artist out there to try their hand in acting. It’s a musical tradition that’s been passed down since the advent of sound in film, albeit one that the world of rap has latched on to hard. Since the early 1990s, rappers and hip-hop artists have been conquering the world of movies… or so it seems. For every Will Smith or Ice Cube, there are several performers whose acting chops have failed to sync with mainstream audiences. From platinum performers to one-hit wonders, here are 15 rappers who failed to conquer mainstream movies.
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Though Coolio’s rapping career can be boiled down to his (admittedly iconic) one hit-wonder “Gangster’s Paradise”, he did manage to worm his way into Hollywood films while still popular. Unfortunately, the majority of his parts were minuscule. Since failing to find breakout mainstream success Coolio has been working in low-budget sector, headlining straight-to-video junk with titles like Dracula 3000 and occasionally getting a TV guest spot on shows like Futurama.
Though his son, Romeo, has had a semi-successful segue from the rap industry to films, Master P’s Hollywood star faded pretty quickly. His comedy vehicles I Got the Hook Up and Foolish made a tiny profit but neither were able to keep future projects from going straight-to-video. While Master P can only seem to lead a film on the indie market, he does occasionally find small roles in major film and TV.
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Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds—DMX should have been the model of how a rapper can be reinvented an action star. At one point he was poised to become the star of the third entry in The Crow franchise. Unfortunately that didn’t happen– the intense performer’s film career fizzled out following Never Die Alone, likely based on a myriad of substance abuse and legal problems.
Method Man & Redman
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Wu Tang rappers Method Man and Redman tried to be the next Cheech and Chong in 2001 with their stoner comedy How High. The film was a mild hit but negative reviews likely kept the duo from attempting a studio-backed follow-up. A short-lived comedy series, Method & Red, followed but the two have since seemed to part ways in the acting world. Though Method has had a fairly successful career in Hollywood playing roles under his given name Cliff Smith, Redman peaked with a supporting role (as himself) in Seed of Chucky.
Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg
We’ll take Method and Red’s How High and raise you The Wash. The other buddy comedy was a remake of the Richard Pryor vehicle Car Wash. While it made a small profit, The Wash would prove the duo’s first and only comedy vehicle. Dre bowed out of acting and has continued his reign as one of rap’s greatest producers. Snoop Dogg’s own starring vehicles (like the 2001 horror film Bones) never quite established him as a leading man. His film and TV appearances have since been relegated to novelty appearances and voice work (in films like Racing Stripes and Turbo).
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Okay, so we’re cheating a bit on this one—Shaquille O’Neal is more well-known for his skills on a basketball court than for his skills on the mic (which are admittedly pretty slim). To give credit where it’s due, Shaq was among the first rappers to implement his musical skills (or lack thereof) in a film. After turning in a supporting performance in Blue Chips, Shaq took the leading role in Kazaam. The vehicle cast O’Neal as a rapping genie(!) and turned out about as well as you’d suspect. Steel, released a year later, also tanked, relegating the multi-hyphenate to the world of cameo appearances for the remainder of his film career.
Regarding Outkast, we’re leaving Andre Benjamin off this list—he’s got that Jimi Hendrix biopic, All Is by My Side, coming down the pike and may be on the cusp of true Hollywood stardom (maybe). However, his former partner-in-crime, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, hasn’t fared quite as well. Following the failure of Idlewild, Big Boi found himself taking leading roles in direct-to-video stuff like Who’s Your Caddy? and The Cookout 2.
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During the height of his one-hit wonder fame, Vanilla Ice starred in Cool as Ice. The film was little more than a loose reworking of Rebel Without A Cause, albeit with more rapping, dancing and Japanese motorcycles. The release simultaneously spelled out the beginning and end of Ice’s acting career until he snagged a small role in The New Guy in 2001. Cool as Ice has subsequently been named one of the worst films ever (yet that doesn’t keep it from getting regular play on VH1).
Ja Rule had a pretty strong run in Hollywood during the early 2000s. The Fast and the Furious started him off on a good start. Unfortunately, like most on this list, he experienced some career missteps (Half Past Dead, Scary Movie 3, The Cookout, etc). These bad career decisions have lead the rapper to roles in direct-to-video fare like Furnace and Wrong Side of Town.
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While her acting career isn’t struggling like some on this list, Eve’s early acting work far outweighs her recent efforts. Adult Videos, Barbershop and The Woodsman showed Eve had some actual range, earning her a three season sitcom called—what else—Eve. Unfortunately, she’s stuck mostly to TV ever since with the notable exception of a role in Whip It.
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This one is also sort-of-a-cheat, but is worth noting within the context of this list. Hill established herself as an actress early in her career with a starring role in Sister Act II: Back in the Habit. Yet, unlike many on this list, Hill shied away from the prospects of being a multi-hyphenate performer. She stuck to music after the film’s release with the exception of a handful of minor roles in films like Hav Plenty and Restaurant. As such, she carries a lot more musical credibility than most appearing here.
Like Hill, Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) has also stepped away from Hollywood. After putting in an uncredited appearance in The Wash, Eminem took the lead in a vehicle loosely based on his own life. As directed by Curtis Jackson, 8 Mile emerged as a critical and commercial success, earning the rapper an Oscar for Best Song. Unfortunately for his fans, Eminem hasn’t attempted a follow-up vehicle since. The closest he got was Wanted, a film based on a comic that used Mathers’ image but ironically cast James McAvoy in the lead instead.
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To give the guy some credit, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has been working hard to make himself a mainstream Hollywood star. Yet, after being at it for almost fifteen years, Jackson’s level of movie stardom still lags far behind the success of his music career. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ got Jackson off to a reasonable start but bombs like Home of the Brave and Righteous Kill eventually put him in the world of indies and direct-to-video releases. Jackson will soon be making a return to theaters with Escape Plan, a prison action film starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 50 Cent may not be out of the game yet, but with Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s own careers lagging, a comeback seems very unlikely.
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Game (real name Jayceon Taylor) saw his acting career take a blow fairly early. A supporting role in Waist Deep turned out pretty well, as did a part in Street Kings. Yet despite these projects’ success, Game has only been able to gain leading parts in direct-to-video fodder like Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club (which did not feature original star DMX) and House Arrest (a rom-com starring Stacey Dash).
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Busta Rhymes made a run at Hollywood in the late 1990s and did fairly well for himself. Finding Forrester, Higher Learning, Shaft, Narc—Rhymes’ performances were surprisingly solid in each film. All this audience goodwill came to an end when Rhymes committed the greatest sin in rapper-turned-actor history. Halloween: Resurrection is known to most moviegoers as the worst of the franchise because of Rhymes’ performance. Playing Freddie, a Kung Fu enthusiast/reality TV producer, Rhyme’s climactic fight scene with iconic slasher killer Michael Myers single handedly murdered the entire film series. Halloween was rebooted in 2009 by a musician-turned-director, Rob Zombie, while Rhymes’ acting wasn’t as lucky.