There is a lot of soul that goes behind rap, and that emotion can actually translate well to the big screen. Though some rappers have been used as actors because of their star power, some have proven to be great actors who can carry a movie. Today, we’ll look at the five best movies that starred A-list rappers (in no particular order).
For this list, we wanted to use rappers who were still in the prime of their music careers when they decided to hop into acting. We tried to exclude any films that used a rapper who had been years removed from their last album release. Also, some of the films that just missed the cut include “Four Brothers”, “House Party”, “New Jack City”, “Juice”, and “ATL”.
Many consider “Friday” to be a stoner comedy cult hit while others believe it’s one of the best comedy films of the 1990s. There was plenty of acting experience on the set of “Friday” thanks to the likes of Chris Tucker and Nia Long, but the top billing went to Ice Cube just a couple of years removed from his days with NWA.
In the movie, Ice Cube plays the role of Craig Jones, who had just lost his job and spends most of his time with his friend Smokey. The two get into a lot of hijinx in their Compton neighborhood, and Ice Cube himself wrote the film alongside fellow rapper DJ Pooh. “Friday” only cost $3.5 million to make, but pulled in over $27 million at the box office plus plenty of VHS rentals and sales.
Boyz N The Hood
“Friday” isn’t the only classic 1990s film starring Ice Cube, but his other major foray came a few years earlier in his career and had a much more serious tone. Starring alongside Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, and Larry Fishburne, Ice Cube was one of the mains tars of “Boyz N The Hood”. This film also featured South Central Los Angeles as a backdrop, and it became a critically acclaimed smash hit.
With a $6.5 million budget, “Boys N The Hood” took home $57.5 million in ticket sales, giving many of those in middle America a glimpse of what gang life in Los Angeles was like. The coming-of-age film was nominated for a slew of awards, including a pair of Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The soundtrack wasn’t too bad, either, going number one on the R&B charts.
There have been only a handful of cameo appearances as an actor for Detroit-based rapper Eminem, and only one film in which he starred. The movie, of course, is “8 Mile”, which is loosely based on the life of Eminem back when he was simply Marshall Mathers. In “8 Mile”, his stage name is B-Rabbit, but you certainly get the feeling that much of “8 Mile” was based on truth.
The film also stars Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, and Kim Basinger, all of whom were already accomplished actors. Still, Eminem wasn’t outperformed and looked comfortable in the role, leading to “8 Mile” being a massive blockbuster. The movie made more than $240 million at the box office and Eminem won an MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance to go along with his Oscar for Best Original Song.
Set It Off
Fresh off of a several-year stretch where she was the most well-known female rapper in the world, Queen Latifah took to acting and had her best performance in 1996 with “Set It Off”. Queen Latifah stars alongside Jada Pinkett, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise in a heist film that, like the first two movies on our list, takes place in Los Angeles.
While it might not have been as critically acclaimed as “Boyz N The Hood”, “Set It Off” did get met with overall positive reviews and earned an impressive $41.6 million at the box office. Queen Latifah earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for her performance, setting the stage for her acting career.
Above the Rim
During his illustrious yet brief music career, Tupac Shakur also had a knack for acting. This was showcased in multiple films, including 1994’s sports drama “Above the Rim”. Centered around basketball and penned by “New Jack City” writer Barry Michael Cooper, Shakur stars as Birdie, the younger brother of Leon’s character Shep.
“Above the Rim” didn’t have a ton of box office success with just $16.2 million at the box office, but it was another showcase of Tupac’s acting talents. Even critics who gave it a poor rating couldn’t help but note how Shakur never seemed out of his element in the movie.