With Wanted opening this week, starring rapper Common opposite Angelina Jolie (and, I'm happy to see, getting some awesome reviews, making it one of the few movies I may pay to see just for the heck of it), we thought it would be a good time to revisit seven other rappers who've attempted the treacherous transition from rap artist to movie star.
What makes film producers look to rap stars when casting for the big screen? Well, aside from the built-in audience that comes from casting a popular rap performer in a movie role, rappers have to have stage presence to perform, and that charisma and personality can come across well on a movie theater screen. Here are seven of them; let me know which of your favorite rappers I missed. (And before any of you Outkast fans get all worked up: they are hip-hop, not rap, and this post was for the rappers; Outkast is one of my absolute favorite bands, though, and Andre Benjamin in particular, I consider enormously talented. I'll do a whole column on Outkast and what they're up to movie-wise in the near future, promise.)
1. Will Smith -- Smith charmed TV audiences as a teenager in his popular TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before hitting it big on the silver screen with the triple-whammy of Bad Boys (1995), Independence Day (1996), and Men in Black (1997). Since then, more hits have followed, and Smith and his wife, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, have become Hollywood royalty; Smith's solid marriage and commitment to his family have earned him a reputation as one of Hollywood's genuine "nice guys," to boot. Smith is one rapper who successfully made the transition from singer to big-name actor, largely due to his charm, charisma and natural talent on the screen. His latest film, Hancock, opens July 2.