From success behind the mic to success on the red carpet, hip-hop and acting have always gone hand in hand. I mean to be a hip hop star you need to believe in yourself and fake it until you make it. Acting is all about faking it until you make it. Some of the greatest movies of all time are centered around hip-hop storylines .
One of the most influential female rappers ever, Queen Latifah has done so well as an actress that some people may have forgotten that she’s a talented MC. She’s appeared in many beloved TV shows and movies including Set It Off, Just Wright, Girls Trip and Living Single .
50 Cent has been carrying Starz ever since he brought his widely popular Power TV to the forefront, which he also stars in. But everyone knows that at one point in time, he was the biggest rap artist in the world. It’s incredible how he’s transitioned from music to television so seamlessly.
There’s no debate, Will Smith is the best-case scenario of a rapper turned actor. He’s not only the most popular celebrity on this list but also one of the most popular actors in the world. He’s a movie star that creates gold with every role he stars in. He’s also the only person on this list with an Oscar for their acting performance .
Donald Glover, aka, Childish Gambino, is one of the most talented humans on earth. Just watch an episode of Atlanta. He can sing, rap, write, and act. Not to mention, he’s also a great comedian. So anything having to do with entertaining people and making art for people to consume, Gambino is the man for the job.
Before he was the biggest rap artist in the world, Drake played the role of Jimmy on the popular Canadian television show Degrassi: The Next Generation .
Kid ‘N Play
I’m counting Kid ‘N Play as one entity. The duo initially gained notoriety for their fun and energetic tracks, but they became immortalized after they starred in the 1990 film House Party .
Even though Ludacris was one of the hottest rappers in the game when he broke into the industry, he may be even more popular from his work as an actor. He’s been a central figure in the Fast & Furious franchise , appearing in all but three movies. Even before his work on Fast & Furious , Ludacris appeared in the 2004 film Crash , which won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards.
Common is as consistent as they come. As an MC , his lyrics were always sharp and thoughtful. As an actor, his performances have always been solid. He’s appeared in many films including American Gangster, Wanted, Selma, Just Wright and my personal favorite, John Wick: Chapter 2 . He even won an Oscar along with John Legend for their song, “ Glory .”
Yeah Ice T has appeared in some movies, but everyone recognizes and loves him for his role as Fin on Law & Order: SVU for the past 23 years.
2Pac was special as an artist and actor. As an artist, his lyrics were genuine, emotional and thoughtful. As an actor, his performances were entertaining, funny and enjoyable. He appeared in a plethora of movies during the 1990s, most notably Above the Rim, Poetic Justice and Juice .
Once known as Mos Def, I’ve always considered Yasiin Bey one of the most underrated MCs of all time. His 2002 album Black on Both Sides is incredible and his work as a member of Black Star is timeless. People forget he’s also not too shabby as an actor. He’s appeared in Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, Brown Sugar and Next Day Air .
I think the younger generation knows Ice Cube as a movie star rather than his rapping skills. Before he was appearing in films such as Friday , Are We There Yet?, Lottery Ticket and 21 Jump Street , Ice Cube was one of the most menacing rappers in the game.
Not the most talented actor on this list, but he’s a helluva rapper. Snoop always brings fun energy to the screen whenever he appears in front of the camera. His role as Rodney in Baby Boy is probably his most well-known role but he’s also been solid as a Pastor in BMF .
Another Wu-Tang member is on the list. RZA isn’t as good an actor as Method Man, but he’s just as prolific. He’s appeared in a myriad of movies and TV shows including American Gangster, A Vert Harold Kumar 3D Christmas and Snowfall. He’s also done work behind the camera, helping write the popular Hulu series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga .
LL Cool J
LL Cool J acts perfectly in the roles he fits in. He’s a big, bruising MC that normally goes for TV roles where a lot of action is involved. He’s still a mainstay on the popular show, NCIS: Los Angeles.
No need to give you a background on Andre 3000 as an MC, he’s one of the greatest ever. As an actor, he’s kept his roles to a minimum but has still appeared in some good films, most notably Four Brothers.
T.I. broke into the rap game as one of the godfathers of Trap. His transition into acting was pretty seamless as he essentially just played himself in the classic 2006 film ATL .
Bow Wow has been involved in the entertainment industry as a rapper and teenager ever since he was a young teenager. He’s starred in plenty of films including Like Mike , Johnson Family Vacation, Roll Bounce, Lottery Ticket, Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and many more.
It’s still sad that he’s passed on, but I still enjoy many of DMX’s performances as an actor. He was the star of the show in the classic 1998 film Belly which featured fellow MCs Nas and Method Man.
Kid Cudi’s acting credits aren’t as expansive as many others on this list, but he’s been solid in the roles he’s appeared in. He was good in the 2022 horror film X, and the voice work he did as Jabari in Entergalactic was excellent.
Another underrated hip-hop figure. Fredro Starr is one of the most aggressive MCs of all time, which only makes sense since he’s a member of Onyx. He was good in the 1996 film Sunset Park and he fit the role perfectly as a hitman for Avon Barksdale’s crew in The Wire .