When Rappers Act: The Credibility Continuum

When rappers start making movies, at what point do people start taking their acting more seriously than their music? With Queen Latifah and Common’s Just Wright opening this Friday, Vulture took this moment to examine where thirteen of the most visible crossover stars (or, attempted crossover stars) rank on the rappers-who-act versus actors-who-used-to-rap spectrum. 50 Cent, for instance, falls somewhere in the middle. His movies look terrible, but there are just too many of them to ignore: The upcoming Gun (“One gun, many lives lost”) is just one of nine in the works. But how do the rest fare?

Music Cred: Multiplatinum rapper and producer. Back this year with Recovery, which is likely to be huge. Hollywood Cred: Can he act? Dunno: He’s played only himself, in 8 Mile (inspiringly) and Funny People (hilariously!).
Music Cred: Snoop still kills it, most recently with young gun Kid Cudi in their new single “That Tree.” Hollywood Cred: He’s tried serious (Training Day), but mostly just does cash-in cameos (Soul Plane, Starsky & Hutch).
Music Cred: Debut album is out June 15 — and with the hit sex anthem “Best I Ever Had,” he’s already a household name. Hollywood Cred: Remember him as the disabled athlete on the teen show Degrassi: The Next Generation? Us neither.
Music Cred: Still on point. This year’s Battle of the Sexes debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Hollywood Cred: Luda’s picked carefully, from Hustle & Flow to Crash (he shared an ensemble SAG award), but he’s a supporting actor.
Music Cred: One of the most influential and best-selling rappers ever. Especially in death. Hollywood Cred: Uneven movie résumé, but several of his films — Juice, Poetic Justice, Gridlock’d — are cult favorites.
Music Cred: More brand than rapper at this point, he’s as renowned for selling novels, self-help books, energy drinks, and condoms. Hollywood Cred: What 50 lacks in quality, he makes up for in quantity, with nine upcoming films (if history’s a guide, all awful).
Music Cred: Still relevant and socially conscious after a decade, with a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. Hollywood Cred: The most balanced crossover star: Picked up Emmy and Globe nods for HBO’s Something the Lord Made.
Music Cred: The original gangsta rapper’s latest controversy was … a Twitter spat with Aimee Mann. Hollywood Cred: Many more people know him as a cop on Law & Order: SVU than as the man who wrote “Cop Killer.”
Music Cred: Another figurehead for positive rap, but Common never dominated the charts — or wowed critics. Hollywood Cred: On the rise: Before Just Wright, perhaps you caught him in Terminator Salvation or Date Night?
Music Cred: Yes, he’s a founding member of N.W.A — but musically, he’s faded over the past decade. (We’re curious how his album I Am the West will fare.) Hollywood Cred: After 1995’s Friday, Cube emerged as a powerful producer-writer-star, paving the way for Tyler Perry.
Music Cred: You can’t go back: Latifah’s supposed return to hip-hop, 2009’s Persona, sold just 37,000 copies. Hollywood Cred: Earned a Golden Globe for HBO’s Life Support and an Oscar nomination for Chicago.
Music Cred: Marky Mark went platinum in 1991 thanks to “Good Vibrations.” Now he refuses to talk about it. Hollywood Cred: You can’t get more money than this actor (The Departed, Boogie Nights) and producer (Entourage).
Music Cred: A lifetime ago, in 1988, the Fresh Prince shared rap’s first Grammy for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Hollywood Cred: Maybe the most bankable star alive (lifetime domestic gross: $2.5 billion), with two Oscar nominations (Ali, Pursuit of Happyness).
When Rappers Act: The Credibility Continuum