Some musicians who’ve made the leap into acting have done it with the skill of an Olympic gold medalist. They’ve amazed audiences with such great silver screen performances that their lines could be lyrics. Their acting has eclipsed their musical career to the point where we often forget they were ever musicians in the first place — or that any still are. Here are a few cinema stars whose on-screen performances could rival their best music and lyrics:
Opening scene: camera pans around an arena filled with music fans. Cut to close-up of musicians onstage: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Yes, the rapper formerly known as Marky Mark is now the acclaimed, gifted actor, Mark Wahlberg. As Marky Mark, he earned a #1 hit with the platinum single, “Good Vibrations.” And with these lyrics, there’s no way it could be confused with the Beach Boys’ song: “Pure hip hop/No sell out/If you ain’t in it to win it/Then get the hell out.” Wahlberg has seamlessly transitioned from in-your-face lyrics to his subtle, yet powerfully expressive movie dialogue. He also created the hit HBO series, “Entourage.”
Superstar Will Smith manages to give an accessible “everyman” quality to all role he plays, often tinged with perfectly timed touches of sly humor. But before the silver screen turned Smith into box office gold, he was part of the rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, known for lighthearted lyrics. Even when he was rapping in songs like “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” the lyrics about a teenager shopping for clothes with his mom reflected his sense of humor: “She said, ‘What’s wrong/This shirt cost 20 dollar’/I said, ‘Mom, this shirt is plaid/With a butterfly collar!’ “
It’s good to be the Queen — especially when your riches include a royal assortment of esteemed music and film awards. From the projects of Newark, New Jersey, Latifah first achieved fame as an MC dishing out rap lyrics. Later, she transitioned to singing the lyrics to jazz and soul standards. Latifah starred or co-starred in various sitcoms before stunning audiences with her breakout role in the movie, “Set it Off.” Adeptly handling both serious and comic movie roles, as well as stints on Broadway, Latifah has established herself on the acting throne. She continues to record music for her loyal subjects, as well.
It’s hard to believe that the man who helped establish Gangsta Rap, with its violent, hardcore lyrics, has also turned in endearingly comic performances in films, but Ice Cube is one multitalented guy. Cube founded the rap group, N.W.A., and wrote half of the lyrics to their groundbreaking release, “Straight Outta Compton.” His first, critically acclaimed performance in the movie, “Boyz N the Hood,” led to roles in action films, and hits including “The Three Kings,” and the rollicking comedy, “Are We There Yet?” Cube also wrote and directed “The Players Club,” and wrote and starred in the three “Friday” movies. And he still manages to find time for his music!
These performers’ music, lyrics and movie roles have given audiences many ways to enjoy their talents — and many vehicles for their own turbo-charged creativity.