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Top 10 Rappers and Hip Hop Artists Turned Actors

VO: Rebecca Brayton
These rappers and hip hop artists continue to show us that the life of a musician and celebrity is volatile. Using their street cred and popularity, they've stepped away from the recording booth and tried their hand at acting in movies and television, ranging from comedies, to dramas and horror flicks. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 rappers and hip-hops artists turned actors.

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Top 10 Rappers and Hip Hop Artists Turned Actors

They’ve gone from rocking the mic to lighting up the screen. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rappers and hip-hops artists turned actors.

#10 – Eminem (Marshall Mathers)

Kicking off our list is the controversial rapper who first acted as a crazed psychopath in 2001’s “The Wash.” Eminem must have had a “Guilty Conscience” after that performance, but he redeemed himself with “8 Mile,” which was loosely based on his own struggles. Existing fans and everyday moviegoers alike were shocked to see Slim Shady pull off his trademark aggressiveness, while also showing a deep sense of vulnerability.

#9 – 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson)

“Get Rich or Die Tryin’” was 50 Cent’s chance to make an “8 Mile”-type flick, and it gave him the opportunity to prove he was a true “P.I.M.P.” when it came to acting. Several films of varying quality followed, but he did demonstrate his devotion to acting when he dropped 54 pounds to play a football player who’s been diagnosed with cancer in “All Things Fall Apart.”

#8 – Ludacris (Chris Bridges)

This rapper has become so comfortable on camera that he spends as much time on-set as he does in the studio. Since his first major role in 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Luda has been shaking his “Money Maker” in an ever-widening variety of supporting roles, including romantic comedies like “New Year’s Eve” and the Oscar-winning “Crash.”

#7 – Ice-T (Tracy Marrow)

He’s famous as an “Original Gangster”, a self-professed pimp and a “Cop Killer” – at least in his music. The irony is: you probably know Ice-T best these days for playing a policeman. Okay, we admit some of his early films were painful to watch, but he has become a skilled and believable actor who’s worthy of his role on “Law and Order: SVU.”

#6 – Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus, Jr.)
Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, DJ Snoopadelic – whatever his name is these days – he remains the living embodiment of ‘90s Gangsta rap, in spite of his regular attempts at reinvention. And, he’s one star who draws mass attention no matter how minor his part, so Snoop’s come to enjoy playing laid-back pimp types on-screen. Just check him out in “Starsky and Hutch”!

#5 – Mos Def (Dante Smith)

Aside from his rapping and his social conscience, Mos Def is well known for his acting career, which started when he was a teen. He eventually made waves with high profile projects like “The Italian Job,” “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,” “16 Blocks,” Be Kind Rewind, “Cadillac Records,” and a memorable part on “Dexter.” But, no matter what the project or how similar the character; Mos Def brings a sense of innocence and freshness to every outing.

#4 – LL Cool J (James Smith)

Known for his cool moves and his hot bod, LL Cool J made the transition to acting with films like 1991’s “The Hard Way,” as well as his sitcom “In the House.” This led to many other roles – not to mention the horror flicks – and while he may not be able to live without his radio, we can’t live without him on our TVs on “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Just, don’t call it a comeback.

#3 – Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson)

He may have come “Straight Outta Compton,” but he used that experience to great effect for his debut acting role in “Boyz n the Hood.” Cube then showed off his comedic talents as an actor and writer with his popular “Friday” film series, and has gone on to have a fruitful acting career that spans everything from horror to drama.

#2 – Queen Latifah (Dana Owens)

This human beat-box is the only woman on our list, and is a symbol of female strength who brings natural charisma to every role. Her debut was in Spike Lee’s 1991 flick “Jungle Fever,” and since then she’s become a mainstream success with awards and nominations, including Oscar consideration for 2002’s “Chicago.” She’s also managed to become one of hip-hop’s most positive icons.

#1 – The Fresh Prince (Will Smith)

Taking the top spot on our list is this family-friendly rapper who burst onto the scene with his sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Smith then set his sights on becoming a major Hollywood superstar, all in “Big Willie Style”! Along the way he conquered the action and sci-fi genres, gave Oscar nominated performances and generated several billion dollars in global box office revenue. He truly is the one to beat!

Do you agree with our list? Which rapper turned actor is your favorite? For more entertaining lists, be sure to subscribe to

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