Rogues Rant: Rappers as Actors – By The Rogue Reviewers

Brian Morton:

Okay, I honestly don’t care if you can rap or not, and, in all honestly, I’m not a huge rap fan but, if you’re going to be in a movie, for God’s sake, take an acting lesson! Very few rappers are able to make the transition well. Really, the only person I can think of that had a great rap career and then we found out he could act is Ice T, who may be the only reason I keep watching Law And Order: SVU. With movies like New Jack City and Surviving The Game, T proved himself as an actor as well as a rapper…we’ll just walk past and ignore movies like Tank Girl and Leprechaun In The Hood! And, Ice Cube isn’t that bad an actor either, and I don’t feel like either of these guys has been put into movies because of their “street cred”. The people who I know are put into movies because of their rapper status, people like 50 (fity) Cent (who somehow got his own damn bio-pic!) or Ja Rule or DMX who are, both, really just put into movies to play the ‘street smart thug’ stereotype, need to be pulled aside and told to just sit down! If you’re only purpose in a movie is to be the stereotype, then is it really worth the payday? How can you respect someone who talks about ‘the plight of their people’ and then plays roles in movies that just keep the same stereotypes alive? I don’t think you can! That being said, if anyone out there wants to offer me a role as an overweight geeky redneck, I’ll happily sell out right now!

Danny Runion:

Excluding Ice-T, I can’t really think of many other rappers in movies. The few rappers I’ve seen in movies are better than some actual actors like Rob Schneider, provided they aren’t playing the comedic sidekick. Well, anyone next to Steven Segal would appear to be an actor almost on par with Jimmy Stewart. Ok, maybe not quite that much.

I understand having rappers in movies will bring in some people who might not try to watch it otherwise. The buddy action movie can give us guys from different sides of the tracks. Take other celebrities like athletes who try to become the action movie hero. We seen what happened when Howie Long or Brian Bosworth had movies: Firestorm and Stone Cold. However, bad movies with rappers don’t seem to be there fault. Take pop singers like Britney Spears or Mariah Carey; we’ve seen their acting "talents" that are at best laughable.

David Stephenson:

Hello fellow infidels. Hello mortals. How you enjoying this little rant for far? Gangsta Rap in movies eh? Whatever will they think of next?

If you ask me, the tidal wave of heated criticism these guys receive for their roles in films is overly negative. While it’s certainly true that the performances of the vast majority make me want to drown in a bathtub of my own vomit, there are notable individuals that I feel would go overlooked here without my input. That’s not going to stop me blasting the rest though.

You see, it’s all 2Pac’s fault. The bastard. Upon his dizzying rise to fame, Shakur also participated in several (often excellent) movies. Infact, his very rise to stardom came partially because of his performance in the movie ‘Juice’ – a role which, many believe, also lead to the shaved-head, tattoo-covered look he made so uniquely iconic. Tupac was a great actor, his performances bringing shame on modern day ‘actors’ who now pass off whiney bullshit and false machismo as a performance. (What do you say to that, Mr Kutcher?!)

The problem was, after Tupac’s rather untidy demise, Hollywood did what it does best – cloned a good idea into extinction. What was at times a bold and gripping media sensation was diluted into a bland corporate mechanism that brings bile to the back of my mouth. A man sometimes referred to as a Prophet is now replaced by a group of mommy’s boys, gun-worshipping substitutes with all the raw acting ability of a floating shit in a swimming pool. When you’re being out-acted by Earthworm Jim, you should know something’s wrong.

To bring clarity to this issue, here’s my (and therefore the definitive) top 10 of rappers in films. Pay homage…

10. Vanilla Ice. The real life Rob Van Winkle (yes, that really is his name) had a singular and rather humiliating foray into cinema, with his unbearably cheesy debut ‘Cool As Ice’. A shame the Hollywood marketing machine can’t be truly honest; otherwise the movie would otherwise have been entitled ‘Warm As Dick.’ A box office flop, and the most wooden acting since Disney’s Pinocchio, it signalled the beginning and end of his career.

09. Ja Rule. Up next steps Jeffrey Atkins. Gangsta Rap’s resident midget and the recipient of a career-crippling lyrical war with 50 Cent, Jeffrey’s venture into movies has been as painful as it is predictable. Always playing the streetwise badass, Ja brings about as much credibility to his role as Pee Wee Herman. (Albeit with his manhood safely in his shorts…) The fact that his career best performance came alongside Steven Segal says all.

08. Nas Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones has been in a scant handful of mainly forgettable movies – his biggest role occurring in 2001 when he played a man called Fuzzy. The name says it all. The movie was Ticker – the worst Steven Segal movie ever made – a movie so bad it should carry a government health warning. His performance, albeit small, was so bad that he barely seemed to have mastered the English language, let alone this whole acting lark. After reaching such heights, Nas’ film career slid continually downhill into obscurity. Thank God.

07. 50 Cent. Curtis Jackson has had only one movie – Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. “A tale of an inner city drug dealer who turns away from crime to pursue his passion, rap music.” Basically his life story, where he plays himself… and is still somehow unconvincing in the role. Receiving mixed reviews and a relatively disappointing taking at the box office, this promises to be the first of many for Eminem’s bastard lovechild. He got shot 9 times apparently, this being seemingly the main reason for his rise to fame. Maybe JFK should have been a rapper.
06. Dr Dre. Having only appeared in a handful of movies including the excellent ‘Training Day’ (a small role in which he was distinctly average), André Young has seemingly shunned several movie opportunities in favour of continuing his music production career. While being hailed as the greatest rap producer of all time, his movie career will be forgotten long before his musical legacy. His performance in the legendary ‘Yuletide in the Hood’ however, is an acting masterpiece that will forever go overlooked.

05. Snoop Dogg & Karupt. Equal in terms of talent, status and the roles chosen, these two dreadlock-clad rappers duke it out at number five. Both simultaneously annoying and hilarious in whatever role they choose, there’s no shortage of offers for these two. While the humour does sometimes miss the mark, in comparison to the evil scourge of Martin Lawrence, these two seem almost holy.

04. Busta Rhymes & Mos Def Drawn equally in terms of talent and impact, Busta and Mos have both provided the world with promising, if not conclusive evidence of their acting worth. Busta’s excellent performance in the stunning ‘NARC’ stands alone in terms of notable impacts upon Hollywood. Mos Def was also highly convincing in his memorable role as the ever-suspicious cop in ‘The Woodsman’. I’m keeping my eye on both for the future.

03. Eminem. Drew critical acclaim from his outing in ‘8 Mile,’ Mr Mathers has burned his name into the pages of celluloid history with his highly successful debut. Whether or not the film was actually any good is a matter of hotly contested debate (count me amongst the nay-sayers.) As to whether he’s worth his salt as a proper actor may never be seen, as Marshall continues to reject the myriad of screen roles he’s offered, choosing to look after his daughters instead. His screen presence is undeniable; the true extent of his talent may never be seen.

02. LL Cool J. Pissing over all his critics, LL has silenced doubters in highly touted roles from ‘In Too Deep’ (alongside the also excellent Omar Epps) and the trashy yet entertaining ‘Deep Blue Sea.’ I’m going to pretend, however, that the crap-fest that was ‘S.W.A.T’ was never made –for the sake of my sanity as well as my argument. A convincing actor with a natural screen presence and a penchant for (usually) memorable performances, the real-life James Todd Smith is proving to be one to look out for. His recent performance in season 2 of House was merely the icing on the cake.

01. 2Pac. Surprise, surprise. Who’d have thought that out of this list of hardcase wannabes and glorified mommy’s boys, a professional actor would have come out on top? Who’d have thought that the man who made it cool for rappers to act would have found his place as king of the hill?

Tupac Amaru Shakur was raised by a coke addicted Black Panther mother and named after an Incan prince murdered by the Spanish – making him an unlikely candidate for becoming a big name movie star or musical legend – both of which he has been granted posthumously. Trained in acting at the Baltimore’s School for the Arts, Tupac is the only rapper to actually have an accredited background in stage and dance, and appeared in several theatre productions before becoming the multi-platinum selling MC we all know. He played Travis in "A Raisin in The Sun" in his first acting role – a feat alone earning him more kudos than any other rapper to ever try his hand.

Unanimously acclaimed for his performances, from his debut ‘Juicy’ and its follow-up ‘Poetic Justice’ to the two films released after his violent death ‘Gridlock’d’ and ‘Gang Related’, Tupac’s legacy as an actor was tragically cut short by his subsequent death in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas. As with the late Brandon Lee, Tupac would doubtless have risen to movie superstardom had he survived, his acting ability unquestioned.

So there it is. My rant is over. It’s just such a kicker that out of the list, the only one to make a real, valuable and lasting contribution to the world of film got murdered for his trouble. A travesty when Vanilla Ice still walks the streets. A fitting topic really, considering its publication’s close proximity to the 10 year anniversary of 2Pac’s death.

And anyone out there who says I’m a Death Row ass kisser can… erm… well… kiss my ass! Ha!

Duane L. Martin:

Rap is teh sux0rs. Rappers are teh sux0rs as act0rs. They shud use reviewerz as act0rs becuz reviewerz r l33t! 😀

Jonathon Pernisek:

An interesting fact I’ve discovered about myself is my complete inability to name a favorite actor or actress. Many have asked me to put one or even multiple people on this pedestal, and for the life of me I come up blank every time. Perhaps the question itself just puts me on the spot, but ultimately I feel it stems from my love of film and not necessarily the people within. Granted, there is a genuine affection for Robert Z’Dar residing in my heart, but even his making an appearance in a movie wouldn’t guarantee my shelling out money for the viewing pleasure.

Therefore, if I can’t be lured into a theater by the regular pool of Hollywood actors, I certainly can’t be tricked by stunt casting. This can especially be applied to those actors who were previously rappers, as I’m not a fan of the genre and thus have no idea how to differentiate DMX from any other alphabet-oriented moniker. And from what I have seen, most rappers-turned-actors don’t make the transition well at all. They’re almost always type-cast as the hardened thugs, which requires nothing more than a stony expression and the crunching of knuckles, so their thespian skills rarely have me glued to the screen.

Recently I watched the trailer for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, a film which has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the franchise and thus probably should not have been made at all. The story has the creepy kid turned creepy adult from Sling Blade (okay, I’ll look him up…ah, Lucas Black) going to Tokyo for some dumb reason, and while there he gets involved in, of course, the underground racing circuit. Who acts as his guide you might ask? Why, none other than Bow Wow. No, not Lil’ Bow Wow. Apparently when you turn thirteen you’re allowed to drop the “Lil’” and officially have your name be just a phrase. But come on, isn’t “Bow Wow” still a lame, completely laughable credit to trumpet during a trailer? Ooh, the kid who probably sang a song I’ve never heard is in the film? Where do I not sign up? Oh, Zachary Ty Bryan is also in Tokyo Drift, so that’s…something.

This kind of casting doesn’t apply simply to rappers, though. I could care thirteen pig slops less if Willie Nelson is in the Dukes of Hazard movie or if Pamela Anderson makes a one minute cameo in Scooby-Doo. These decisions all come from the same shallow pool of greed, and while they may trick those with expendable income and easily entertained minds, it doesn’t move this fellow one bit. First, convince me you’ve made a good movie, with a worthy story and whatnot (or lots of ‘splosions), and then maybe I’ll come. But don’t tell me Ice Cube is playing the wacky dad, ‘cause Jon ain’t listening. See? This is me not listening: Tum de dum…la da doo…