Rapper-actors broaden spectrum

Hip-hop has taken many turns in today’s world. We have heard about artists’ deaths, going to jail on numerous convictions, dating other artists, creating clothing lines and the list goes on.

But rappers and hip-hop artists are constantly appearing in one of today’s most focused mediums – the big screen.

From directing, to producing, to acting, they are doing it all, from actor-in-training Mos Def to producer and director Ice Cube.

Queen Latifah, Ice T, Master P, LL Cool J, Tone Loc, Tupac Shakur, Ja Rule and Will Smith are just a few others in the acting realm.

But do we as consumers really want to see our favorite rappers in movies? Do they even deserve to be in movies as opposed to the seasoned actors such as Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett?

Jackson made a comment earlier this year about rappers in movies, specifically when “Barbershop” hit theaters.

He mentioned he wouldn’t act in a movie with a rapper. He doesn’t consider them to be actors. It’s one thing to see a hip-hop artist in a cameo appearance in a movie, but it’s another to see a rapper with a major role.

Even in television shows, artists are becoming visible actors.

One way we can determine if we want to see these rappers in movies is by thinking logically. Are we paying to see the movie for entertainment purposes only, or are we supporting the rappers in one, perhaps minor role? And another question to think of – can they really act?

Anthony Simmons, also known as DJ Kool Ant of WHPX 96.1, thinks its great that there are a number of mediums for people to move into, such as movies.

“Rhyming is a state of mind,” he said. “It’s just a performance, just like acting. Film is a way of the artists promoting themselves.”

But Simmons also said there are limited rappers who have acting capabilities. “Some rappers are talented enough to grace the big screen, but some can have more training to be as seasoned as well-known actors like Sam,” Simmons said. “You have some rappers who are good for certain things,” he added while making reference to Method Man’s comedic skills versus his acting skills.

Of course, there are some actors who speak out about rappers in movies. For example, on BET’s “Holla” talk show, actor Hill Harper (“HavPlenty”) said “Snoop is not a good actor.”

Do we beg to differ? There are plenty rappers who lack major acting skills and there are some who are natural.

Damar Smith, a graphic communications student from Miami said some artists look like they are acting for the money, but have no skills at all. DMX is an artist he considers to have acting skills.

“DMX has persona to make viewers think he is in real character,” Smith said.

Some producers might feel a rapper’s name would bring publicity.

“It will help sell a movie,” Smith said.

Movies that featured characters breaking into hip-hop or even the ones that featured the hip-hop culture starred rappers, who eventually sold millions.

For example, the classic “Krush Groove.” This movie featured Run DMC, LL Cool J and so many more of today’s well-known artists.

However, these movies were based on what the actors knew – music.

Then there was “Breakin’,” which probably helped spark Ice T’s musical and perhaps acting career (he was featured as a DJ and rapper).

The growing pattern of hip-hop artists in movies seems like it will continue. Moviegoers and critics will definitely decide.