Hip Hop goes Hollywood

Karen Schubert

Who knew that Ice Cube’s comedy about a barbershop could be number one in the box office? Or that Eminem could mold his life story into a movie that will no doubt attract millions of prepubescents and gross more money than “Titanic?” Why do rappers find a need to step out of their musical bubble to act?

It is impossible to avoid flicks with crossover artists. Even Britney Spears thinks she can act, so why not rappers too? Think about it: LL Cool J, Ice T, Tupac, DMX, Snoop Dog, Dr Dre. Even Vanilla Ice found himself on the big screen. But where do they get the ideas for movies? When Lil’ Bow Wow becomes a star NBA basketball player in “Like Mike,” we start to wonder what this industry is coming to. And speaking of the NBA, remember the movie “Kazaam?” Professional basketball player, rap star and actor may be too many titles for Shaq.

Trying to figure out how this movement got started in the first place, we can recall a certain theme song: “In West Philadelphia, born and raised…” Who can forget the catchy opening to the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air?” If anyone gets credit for starting a trend, it’s Will Smith. And what came next, but catchy rap songs about “Men in Black” and “Wild Wild West.” It makes sense. These rapping actors cash in on the acting salary and pump out new tracks that make millions.

I admit to enjoying many films with these rap stars. Movies like “Romeo Must Die” with DMX and “Training Day” with Dr. Dre have interesting plot lines, and these rap cameos even add to their entertainment value. Don’t get me wrong, the intent of this article isn’t to insult the film industry, it’s more of a query as to where this trend originated. There’s no problem with these rappers/movie stars, but the trend is starting to get extreme. Ever heard of “Guns and Roses?” I’m not talking about the band; actually it’s a movie. It’s a Western, and it stars Lil’ Kim!

The emergence of rap stars in movies may actually be taking the musical genre to new levels of popularity. In fact, because of movies like “Deep Blue Sea,” my strictly easy-listening parents know who LL Cool J is! My Aunt Katie has nothing good to say about rap, in fact she finds no musical value in it at all — but she undoubtedly knows all of the words to the “Men in Black II” theme. These movies may not change the minds of fans of jazz and classical music, but the ability of many Americans to recognize many of these rapping actors has definitely increased. And this increase of recognition is undoubtedly giving the rap industry a new name and a new angle to pursue popularity.