Queen Latifah in 'The Equalizer,' Childish Gambino in 'Atlanta,' and Ice Cube in 'Ride Along 2'
Source: CBS; FX; Universal Pictures

Rappers-Turned-Actors Who Dominated the Booth and the Box Office

Many hip-hop icons are celebrated for their catchy punch lines, but these rappers-turned-actors are known for their box office success, too.


Oct. 25 2023, Published 5:55 p.m. ET

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When Ludacris rapped: "And when they say rappers shouldn't act, nah, suckers / We see Samuel L. Jackson, like, 'Wassup, motherf---a,'" on T.I.'s song, "Top of the World," he was referring to the multi-talented recording artists below.

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In the world of entertainment, we've seen some of our favorite rap artists make the jump from the mic to the big screen. These multi-talented performers have proven that their skills don't stop at just spitting rhymes.

While we all know about big names, like Snoop Dogg and Will Smith, let's take a closer look at some of the other rappers-turned-actors that are taking over right now.

Childish Gambino — The Renaissance Man

 Donald Glover attends GQ's Global Creativity Awards in New York City.
Source: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, is a true Renaissance man. He's not just a rapper and actor; he's also a writer, comedian, and producer.

You may have seen him in his critically acclaimed TV series, Atlanta, where he played the role of Earn Marks. Or maybe, you recognize him from Amazon Prime's Guava Island, in which he starred in alongside Rihanna.

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His acting skills and wit have made him a standout in the world of acting, and now, directing. He was one of the masterminds behind Prime's Swarm.

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Mos Def — The Wordsmith

MC Mos Def of the American hip hop duo Black Star poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California.
Source: Bob Berg/Getty Images

Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def, is another rapper who successfully transitioned into acting.

With a magnetic on-screen presence and a knack for portraying a diverse range of characters, Mos Def carved out a niche in the acting world that's uniquely his own.

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His performances in movies like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Be Kind Rewind showcased his versatility. Although his last movie was in 2016, we are keeping our fingers crossed that he will pop out with a new project soon.

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Ice Cube — West Coast Thespian

Ice Cube performs on day two of the ESSENCE Festival Of Culture™ at Caesars Superdome
Source: Josh Brasted/WireImage

Ice Cube's career in entertainment has been marked by success. His career-altering role in Boyz in da Hood was a pivotal juncture in his journey.

Later, his iconic performance in the cult classic Friday not only established his comedic brilliance but also propelled him into the world of filmmaking.

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Since then, he's traversed diverse genres, consistently demonstrating his acting genius. Needless to say, he's left an impact both in the booth and on the big screen.

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Queen Latifah — Queen MC-Turned-Hollywood Royalty

 Queen Latifah attends the New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala
Source: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Queen Latifah has consistently showcased cinematic excellence and a remarkable ability to make an emotional connection with her audience every time she's onscreen.

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Her acting journey began with her standout performance in Set It Off in 1996.

Beyond being an iconic trailblazer in hip-hop, the trajectory of Queen Latifah's acting career is proof of her enduring talent. Just look at her seamless transition between TV, movies, and music.

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Ludacris — ATL's Finest

 Ludacris looks on from the grid prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome
Source: Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

While many might recognize him for his role as Tej Parker in the Fast & Furious franchise, there's much more to Atlanta rapper Ludacris than meets the eye.

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For those who appreciate thought-provoking cinema, Ludacris's performance in the critically acclaimed film Crash is a must-see. The ensemble piece explored themes like racism and social injustice.

His role in Crash showcased his ability to bring depth and nuance to complex characters.

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Bow Wow — The So So Def Protegé

Bow Wow attends the BET Hip Hop Awards 2023 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
Source: Photo by Nykieria Chaney/FilmMagic

Lil Bow Wow, now known as Bow Wow, made a name for himself in the rap game at a young age. But he didn't stop there. He snagged his first big role in the hit film Like Mike — thus, an actor was born.

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He played a young boy who magically gets the skills of basketball legend Michael Jordan through a pair of sneakers. It was a slam dunk of a debut performance and set the stage for his acting career for years to come.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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