Thirty years ago, a rapper turning actor would’ve been considered career suicide and seen as a surefire sign of a subpar production. Now, millions of people are subscribing to HBO Max just to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion, or remembering DMX’s legacy by throwing on a classic like Belly. To put it simply, rap blew up, and as their lane widened, its stars started to swerve. The only thing that’s remained the same is the direction—Hollywood.
Surprisingly, a handful of them are pretty good at it! Kid Cudi got a two-season story arc on HBO’s tragically short-lived How to Make it in America. Machine Gun Kelly nabbed a recurring role on a Showtime series. And Eminem’s 8 Mile will legitimately go down as an iconic film, not only in the “hip-hop movie” genre, but of any genre, period. What once felt like a casting risk has become the norm, and with films now being distributed all over non-traditional platforms, from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon Prime, there’s infinitely more space for rappers to make their acting debut without the pressure of the box office numbers to follow. Whether it’s pushing a project that may never have had a way to get noticed before, or simply finding an abundance of roles to audition for that previously didn’t exist, Hollywood is wide open for rappers right now.
Does that mean they’re winning Oscars for their performances? Not necessarily. But baby steps here, folks. And sometimes it’s the most hilarious and worst performances among them that make for the most memorable scenes. But throw a couple of the films mentioned in this list on, and you might be presently surprised by the acting chops of the rappers within. Here’s a collection of rappers as actors, something tells us this list will keep expanding by the year.