There is a modern phenomenon which I'm sure all you film enthusiasts will be aware of. It is called the "Rapper Slash Actor" phenomenon, and it is what I've chosen to Blog about today.
If you are gleefully unaware of this cinematic infestation, the issue at hand is that every bigtime rapper in the music industry seems to think that they are good at acting. Obviously, their names are well known, (and name recognition gets asses on cinema seats), so the bigtime rappers do get employed to act in bigtime films.
Now, my problems with this are many:
Firstly... All the good parts for black males in Hollywood are taken up by rappers. (With the exception of films with Denzel Washington, Lawrence Fishburn, Samuel L. Jackson, or Morgan Freeman.)
NOW, THERE HAVE GOT TO BE MORE DECENT BLACK ACTORS OUT THERE...
...and those guys are getting screwed by people who are already earning a decent living in a completely different field. It's almost like, if you want to be an actor in Hollywood, and you are Of African lineage... you should probably learn how to rap... And that is just ass backwards.
Secondly... A lot of these rappers suck at acting. Look... I like Ludacris, I think he's funny when he raps, I don't need him to be a comedy character in a film to get my Ludacris RDA. So I have to sit through some ironic performance by someone who is a lot better at their day job.
And 50 Cent.... don't get me started on that guy... He sucks at rapping AND Acting. The only thing he's good at is having muscles.
It's stupid and it brings too much of an amateur hour vibe to film-making. Cinema has come so far in terms of getting honesty from actors, so why should we all take a hit for a bunch of rappers on an ego trip?
Thirdly... The believability factor, and the marketing of Rap music, demands the building up of an image... a persona. "Keeping it real", "Real Recognise Real", rap is built on that!
Conversely, Acting demands a certain amount of sacrifice of one's persona. Therefore the two disciplines cannot really work together successfully. (Unless you plan on always playing a role that is similar to your Rap Image. i.e. gangster etc)
So either: Your lack of scope as an actor is of detriment to the films you act in. Or your openness to transforming yourself is detrimental to your image as a performer.
Either way it's a loss of something.
There is only one rapper/actor out there that I think is of value in both his fields. That artist is Mos Def. A critically acclaimed lyricist, and star of some excellent films (notably 'Be Kind Rewind' & 'Cadillac Records'). He is someone who is not afraid to show great scope in his acting, and continues to release great records. His new Album, 'The Ecstatic' is one of his best since his debut album 'Black on Both Sides' (which is a Hip Hop CLASSIC).
Here he is performing "Quiet Dog" on Letterman:
However, I would definitely argue that he's lost some of his bite as a lyricist, not because his lyrics aren't as good, but because my perception of him has been altered. I now have seen him as a sweet and gentle character in 'Be Kind Rewind', as a sidekick in 'The Italian Job' etc etc. It has taken away his ability to exact braggadocio in the same way with his words.
In layman's terms... I kind of like him too much to think he's badass.
On the flip side of this coin, you have Jamie Foxx. An actor who I greatly respected until the release of his first major R n B album, "Unpredictable" in 2005. It's an album filled with vapid references to dancing in the club, sexy women, and drinking. A shallow, flimsy & insubstantialrecord from a man who I thought had real depth. His choice of roles certainely suggested that. But now I find it increasingly hard to take him seriously as an actor, because I just think of him as a cheesy, vacuous RnB pop singer.
Both Jamie Foxx and Mos Def have been acting for many years, and there is no denying that Jamie Foxx has some singing talent. His Performance as Ray Charles in the biopic "Ray" showcased that to great degree. But there is something to be said for a time and a place. Just because you want to have it all, doesn't mean you should.
I know it's a status thing, like, "You haven't arrived as a Bigtime rapper until you've been in at least one film" but that's not really good enough, for us the viewing public.
And I'm positive that a lot of these guys think of themselves as modern day "Rennaissance men". But they need to step back and have a real look at the art they are involving themselves in, and the real effects of it on their legacy... rather than their bank balance.