They started out as music sensations of the 80s, 90s and 2000’s. As they got bigger in the world of Hip-Hop and R&B, they shifted their talents to the big screen. Check out this post as we break it down for ya, the top 7 most successful rappers turned movie stars of all-time:
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #7: LL Cool J
He was born James Todd Smith in 1968. LL Cool J was one of the most successful rappers in the late 80’s and 90’s. This was after featuring in very successful battle rap contests and mainstream music. The fact that he sold multiplatinum albums and singles justifies his inclusion in this illustrious list. While conferring the BET Lifetime “I Am Hip Hop” Award to LL, rapper Busta Rhymes regarded him as the true representation of hip-hop culture.
For example, his album Radio shipped over 1.5 million copies, Bigger and Deffer raked in 3 million copies, Walking with a Panther sold over 1 million copies, Mama Said Knock You Out was certified double platinum, and Mr. Smith managed an impressive 2 million copies.
LL is also a good actor having featured in mainstream blockbuster movies. Halloween H20; Deep Blue Sea, which grossed over $250 million and won him a BEA Award; Deliver Us from Eva, Mindhunters; S.W.A.T.; and NCIS: Los Angeles, which won him five NAACP Image Awards, are some of his most successful movies and series.
He has over 30 IMDB acting credits to his name. His films have sold over $500 million at the box office. In a career that spans over 30 years, LL Cool J or Ladies Love Cool James has won 2 Grammy Awards, 10 NAACP Image Awards in both music and acting, and raked in 23 others nominations.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #6: Mos Def
Both as an artist and as an actor, Mos Def or Most Definitely symbolizes the modern entertainment culture. According to About.com and The Source, he is one of the most phenomenal lyricists of all time.
He was born in 1973 and started his career early as a child actor and featured in the popular film God Bless the child. Following his early success in acting, Mos followed his passion of becoming a very successful actor.
He later featured in successful movies like The Woodsman, which won him a Black Reel Award for the best independent movie actor; The Italian Job; Something the Lord Made, which was nominated for Primetime Emmy, NAACP Image and Golden Globe Awards; Brown Sugar; Boondocks; Cadillac Records, among other movies.
Apart from being a phenomenal underground favorite in the hip-hop and Afrocentric world, he produced mainstream albums. Black on Both Sides and The New Danger were certified gold.
For over 30 years, Mos Def, who officially changed his name to Yasiin Bey in 2011, has been in acting and music circles. He is also a passionate activist with a focus on police brutality, racism, and discrimination in the justice system.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #5: Common
Rapper, songwriter and actor Common was born in 1972. Originally, he wanted Common Sense as his stage name, but a legal dispute forced him to shorten the name. This, however, did not shorten the man. He is both a successful musician and a prolific actor.
His most popular musical works include “Love of My Life,” “South Side” featuring Kanye West, and “Glory” featuring John Legend. His notable albums include Water for Chocolate, Finding Forever, and Be, which were all certified Gold by RIAA. He has also performed quite well in music sales outside the US. He is a proud winner of 3 Grammy Awards, 1 Oscar Award and 14 other wins and 33 other nominations.
On the acting front, he featured in at least two mainstream films every year from 2007 to date. They include Wanted, which grossed over $340 million; Happy Feet Two, which grossed over $150 million;Selma, which grossed over $65 million; Smoking Aces, which grossed over $57 million; and Brown Sugar, which grossed over $27 million on box office. He starred in television series Hell on Wheels from 2011-2014.
His movies have grossed over $2 billion worldwide on box office, further cementing his place in this list.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #4: Ice-T
This legendary actor was born in 1958. Definitely, the oldest in this list, but certainly not frail. He started acting and rapping in the early 80’s. He has been in the business for at least 35 years from writing songs to producing movie series.
His music albums Home Invasion, Murder for Hire, and Body Count have a gold certification. His musical genius was best illustrated in his song “Back on the Block.” The song won a Grammy Award for the best rap performance.
In the acting front, though most of the films are concentrated in the 90’s, he has 87 IMDB acting credits to his name. He also features in one of the longest standing TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that has aired on NBC since 2000.
Ice-T has played the role of the lead detective in the series in other mini-series based on the character ‘Odafin Tutuola’. Ice has also produced several successful films and TV series including Ice & Coco and Crossed the Line.
He also featured in several video games including the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as ‘Madd Dogg’. Oh, and who can forget the recent Lemonade Not Ice T: It’s Not Surprising – GEICO television commercial.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star: 3: Ludacris
Born Chris Bridges in 1977, Ludacris is one of the most successful rappers turned Hollywood star. From multiplatinum album and singles to box office’s blockbuster movies, Chris has done it all to eke his name in the history books.
He started his career early as a DJ and later MC. After recording his first album, Luda unlocked his musical talent to become the first Southside rapper to gain mainstream success. His albums Back for the First Time and Word of Mouf were certified triple platinum.
Luda released two back-to-back albums Chicken-n-Beer and The Red Light District, which sold over 4 million copies. On this musical front, he won over ten awards including three Grammy Awards and nine BET Awards.
On the acting arena, Chris films gross over $3.8 billion in the box office. Notable films include Universal Studios’ Fast and Furious franchise, which happens to have a massive global following. It is the first movie to gross over $1 billion outside the US. Furious 7 raked in over $1.5 billion worldwide and currently sits sixth in the box office all time worldwide highest grossing films. It also helps that Ludacris is one of the leading actors in the movie.
He also featured in successful films; No Strings Attached, which grossed over $150 million; Crash, which grossed over $90 million; and New Year’s Eve, which grossed over $140 million. Ludacris won the Screen Actors Guild Award for his outstanding performance in the movie Crash.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #2: Ice Cube
If there is a person who typifies his character in both music and film, then it is Ice Cube. Born 1969 in Los Angeles, he announced his musical talent with N.W.A. as a gangsta rapper. It was a time when gangsta rap was the most lucrative hip-hop sub-genre.
He gained significant success with NWA, but his breakthrough success came when he went solo. His extended play “Kill at Will” was certified platinum, The Predator was certified double platinum, Lethal Injection, and War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc) were certified platinum. On this musical front, Ice Cube has 7 awards and 24 nominations in various other categories.
On Acting and producing, he starred in Sony’s 21 and 22 Jump Street, which grossed over $140 million each; Barbershop franchise; Three Kings; Ride Along; Anaconda; and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which grossed over $340 million.
He produced popular biopic film Straight Outa Compton, movies, Are We There Yet?, and The Rebels, among others. His box office gross over $2.2 billion as an actor and over $1 billion as a producer and director. He has 42 acting credits and 28 producer credits. He featured in 10 movies that grossed over $100 million.
His expansive career, as a pioneer gangsta rapper and a prolific actor, put him second on this list just ahead of Luda.
Rapper Turned Hollywood Star #1: Will Smith
The undisputed king in this list is Will Smith. Born 1968, he is affable, friendly, professional, and dedicated. No wonder he is this successful as an actor, rapper, producer and writer. His career started with music with a particular focus on mainstream rap.
Big Willie Style (1997) is his most successful act yet in the musical front. The album sold 9 million copies, which was an impressive haul to achieve in the late 1990s. His second album, Willennium (1999), shipped out 2 million copies. He had other albums notably Born to Reign (2002) and Lost and Found (2005). Some of his popular songs include “Men in Black,” “Summertime,” and “Getting Jiggy With It,” which get millions of airplay every year around the globe.
He has four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, four Teen Choice Awards, 11 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards (USA), and four NAACP Image Awards among others to his belt.
If you thought this is all, you better look at his impressive acting career. Will Smith starred in very successful films including: MIB franchise, Concussion, The Pursuit of Happiness, Bad Boys I and II, Hitch, I am legend, Suicide Squad, among others.
He has also featured in successful TV comedy series notably The Prince of Bell Air. Impressively, 19 of his movies at the box office have surpassed the $100-million-mark, 10 surpassed $300-million-mark, and six surpassed the $500-million-mark. His box office movies gross over $7.6 billion.
He has shown significant success in personal life too with two of his kids doing very well in acting and music. He has also accumulated a personal fortune of over $250 million making him one of the most successful actors of all time.
There you have it. These rappers have changed the game – both in the Hip-Hop and R&B world, and in Hollywood.