The trend of rappers shifting into acting is nothing new, and in theory it makes sense. Both roles focus on emotive storytelling, right? Unfortunately, that transition isn't always a smooth one--a point hammered home repeatedly by the new film Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah and Common. It's 100 minutes of pure drivel.
Latifah has made the leap to legitimate movie star, but Common is still relatively new to the game. This is due in large part to the fact that he's a terrible actor (Smokin' Aces? Really?).
In Just Wright, Common plays a basketball star on the New Jersey Nets in some alternate world where they actually make the NBA Finals. He's injured during the All-Star Game, and is nursed back to health by physical therapist Latifah.
The crap factor here isn't all Common's fault. This laughably clichéd film fails on multiple levels, eliciting laughs in the most awkwardly "touching" moments. But his go-to facial expression, sort of a wide-eyed fart-sniffing smile, should be reserved only for moments where he has indeed just sniffed a fart.
He won't be the last rapper to stumble into an acting role, though. So let's look back at past examples of good rappers who are terrible actors.
1) Nas - Belly (Hype Williams, 2008)
Nas's debut album, Illmatic, remains a revered classic. But the rapper struggled in this film fraught with Williams' Technicolor visual style and melodramatic flair. One of the scenes is supposed to be based on his song "One Love," but no dialogue in this movie comes close to Nas's flow.
2) Busta Rhymes - Halloween: Resurrection (Rick Rosenthal, 2002)
Busta is actually pretty funny in this installment of the Halloween series--and this scene, where he curses out Michael Myers, isn't bad. Still, it's not like he's acting here. He's basically just being Busta. One has to wonder how he fit his dreads inside that William Shatner mask, though.
3) Andre 300 and Big Boi - Idlewild (Bryan Barber, 2006)
From start to finish, the members of Outkast sucked hard in their big-screen star vehicle. Whatever chemistry they had in the studio evaporated in this Prohibition-era showboat. Yet they still seem to continue getting new acting jobs. Go figure.
4) Everlast - Who's The Man? (Ted Demme, 1993)
If you love Golden Era 1990s hip-hop, chances are you love Who's The Man? Everlast may have little to do in this movie, but what he does, he does very poorly. Maybe it's the goatee, nose ring, and blunt bringing him down.
5) Cam'ron - Killa Season (Cam'ron, 2006)
Cam'ron wrote, directed, and starred in this straight-to-video release. Here he gets to act tough, flash his gun, and basically be Cam'ron in all his glory. This was the epitome of a vanity project, but clearly Killa Cam doesn't give a fuck.
6) Fat Joe - Empire (Franc. Reyes, 2002)
Fat Joe played a heavy (pun heartily intended) alongside John Leguizamo, Isabella Rossellini, and Peter Sarsgaard in this terrible crime saga. Worth watching just for the shootout scene.
7) RZA/GZA - Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003)
This classic scene from Coffee and Cigarettes with GZA and RZA describing alternative medicine practices with their waiter, Bill Murray, is highly entertaining. But watching these Wu-Tang members act is a trying experience. Sure, they're basically playing themselves. And yes, it's a quirky Jim Jarmusch film. But those are excuses, not justifications. Bung bung!
8) Black Thought - Brooklyn Babylon (Marc Levin, 2001)
This high-minded movie tried to capture multi-cultural magic by employing The Roots' Black Thought as a rapper falling in love with a Jewish girl. The film scores points for style, but is vanquished by trite clichés and bad acting.
9) Snoop Dogg - Starsky & Hutch (Todd Phillips, 2004)
Yes, Snoop is mostly charming no matter what he does. But in this remake of the 1970s TV show, he's an empty persona tossing out a bunch of soggy one-liners. Note to directors - don't rely on Snoop's cache of cool alone. Give him something to work with!
10) Will Smith - Every Film He's Ever Been In
To be fair, the first half of I Am Legend was almost awesome. But Will Smith is the most annoying rapper/actor alive. He's so far removed from his hip-hop days that it's hard to include him on this list. But his acting style, a blend of cocky arrogance with smirking confidence, sucks. I guess that's why IMDB lists 28 films he currently has in development.
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