The 7 worst performances by rappers in mainstream movies

Back in the day, when someone like Ice-T broke through to the silver screen, it was shocking for the general public to see rappers as actors. Somehow it was forgotten that rappers are performers and thus skilled at memorizing lines, playing roles and other qualities germane to acting.

Since then, rappers have stepped into all sorts of roles, with varying degrees of success. Some have developed into creditable thespians, while others should not give up their day jobs.

Today, we’re going to look at some of the worst performances laid down on film by MCs. The “mainstream movies” part of the headline is important because there are dozens of rappers plying their acting trade in low-budget films. Somehow, I don’t think Kurupt’s effort in “I Accidentally Domed Your Son” is one for the ages, but then again, only 117 people are ever going to see that film.

And remember, this is not a judgment on their overall career, because I think some of these guys are really talented, but a look at an atrocious misstep along the way.

50 CENT in “Get Rich or Die Tryin”
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that 50 Cent has an interesting back story, what with being shot nine times, his career as a drug dealer and eventual path to rap stardom. Paramount thought so too, and based off the success of the similar “8 Mile,” put together a hip indie director (Jim Sheridan) and a cast of talented actors to tell 50’s story.

But it turns out that the weak link was Mr. Cent himself. How bad do you have to suck as an actor to not make your own life story believable? But Fitty delivers all his lines in a robotic monotone and maintains the charisma of a wet paper bag throughout.

ICE CUBE in “Anaconda”
Obviously, Cube is one of the most successful rappers-turned-actors out there, and generally, I enjoy his work. And don’t get me wrong, I love “Anaconda.” It’s one of the great B-pictures of our generation. But there is no denying that Cube’s work in this movie is AWFUL. The great thing about “Anaconda” is that it also may not be the worst performance in the film, given the over-the-top efforts from Jon Voight and Owen Wilson.

But Cube is saddled with the generic black guy lines, including one of my all-time favorites (thankfully included as No. 2 on this handy compendium of Classic Cube lines). The fact that he and Jennifer Lopez make it to the end of the film is a first-ballot entry into the Black & Latino Characters in Horror Movies Hall of Fame.

COMMON in “Terminator: Salvation”
Common has done the right thing by slowly building his acting brand through bit parts as he learns the biz. His smooth-guy voice and persona make him a perfect fit for gangstery type roles, like the ones he played in “American Gangster” and “Street Kings.”

But handed a role in the big-budget fourth Terminator film, Common fumbled, delivering a hammy, embarrassing effort and getting completely outclassed since most of his scenes were against Christian Bale. I am one of the few people who really liked “TS” and I felt Common was the film’s biggest mistake. Thankfully, YouTube seems to have erased all traces of Common from the film.

Vanilla Ice in “Cool as Ice”
The 1990s were a heady time in rap and cinema, where a novelty act named Robert Van Winkle could transform himself into a charismatic rhyme slinger and release one of the best-selling albums in rap history. Wisely, some Hollywood exec figured that Vanilla’s deft rhymes and smooth moves would translate easily to film, right? Wrong.

While the premise of “Cool as Ice” is no more ludicrous than any number of Elvis films, the movie is sabotaged redeemed by a truly abysmal acting job by the Ice-man, who sleepwalks his way throughout the entire film, delivering droll bon-mots and emoting with his hair. You want a laugh? Take 85 minutes and watch this movie.

Mos Def in “16 Blocks”
Yes, Mos was an actor before he became a rapper, but he’s best known for the latter profession. None of this excuses his work in this derivative Bruce Willis thriller, in which he portrays the most annoying character on the face of the Earth.

Mos is a gifted actor who can hold his own in any genre, and I’m sure he had his reasons for playing this character a certain way, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t hoping for everyone to catch this guy and kill him with extreme prejudice. I could barely make it through the movie because his voice was like an icepick straight to the frontal lobe.

NAS in “Belly”
Yes, the movie may be a certified hood classic, and it does have its shaggy charms – most of which can be placed at the feet of longtime music video director Hype Williams – but there’s no getting around the fact that NAS’ work as Sincere is the movie’s weak link.

Now, I’m prone to give NAS a break seeing as it was his first major movie role, but the few things that he’s done since – including appearing with Steven Seagal in “Ticker” – suggest that acting is not his forte. All the “serious” lines NAS is given wind up sounding like he’s reading them off a teleprompter given his flat, monotone delivery. Anytime you make DMX look like an Oscar nominee, you’re in trouble.

Busta Rhymes in “Halloween: Resurrection”
The folks behind the Halloween series probably thought they got lucky with the casting of LL Cool J in “Halloween: H20”. The problem is, LL is a much, much better actor than Busta. Delivering the worst performance in the worst “Halloween” film says a lot about how bad Busta is – and he’s the star!

Somewhere between him beating up the unstoppable Michael Myers or delivering a painfully corny line like, “Trick or treat, muthafucka!”, I started rolling my eyes and never stopped. No one goes to a Halloween movie for great acting, but jeez, this was insulting effort at pandering to a young, urban audience.

BONUS!! Marky Mark in “The Happening”
Yeah, most people overlook the fact that Mark Wahlberg got his start as a rapper, and he himself has disowned his earlier career. But his “acting” in M. Night Shyamalan’s train wreck of a film deserves special credit. I can only imagine the direction Night gave Mark for this scene: “Mark, I want you to act like a functioning retard here. No, no, that’s not retarded enough!”


~ by Elliott on March 11, 2010.

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