Rapstress-Turnt-Actress: 9 Amazing Female Rappers to Watch on Screen

Many male rappers have made the transition to the big screen, the most laudable being the powerful Will Smith. But more female hip-hop stars are looking to break into the movie business, seeking to express sides of themselves that are deeper than their music personas. These nine rapstresses represent the best of women and hip-hop who also have the biggest chance of making it in feature films. Why let the boys – like Common, T.I. and more – have all the fun? We need to see more from these raptresses-turnt-actresses in the coming years.

The Trendsetter: Nicki Minaj

When Nicki Manaj attended the 2011 MTV Movie Awards, she let it be known that acting will be the next stage in her successful career. She told the press from the red carpet, "That's what I want to do with my life, I want to retire as an actress. I love acting, I studied acting," revealing quite a big surprise. Minaj named Hollywood veterans Will Smith and director Tim Burton as two she’d love to work with, but Nicki is no movie rookie. The omnipresent rapstress has already made her feature debut in the gritty independent release, “Stuck on Broke” (2010). Nicki Minaj will certainly bring her penchant for the dramatic to future roles as she parlays her popularity even further.

The Transformer: Lil Kim

If Nicki Minaj plans to get into acting, it should come as no surprise that her arch enemy, Lil Kim plans to do the same. She announced in late 2010, "Over the next few years, I see myself venturing more into acting. I love the idea of being able to morph into different characters and showing different sides of me." A common pitfall of being such a colorful character in rap, Lil Kim has already made several appearances in movies as herself, including hits such as “Zoolander” (2001) and “You Got Served” (2004). But 2008, she got to express herself in a creative role in the comic book film spoof “Superhero Movie.” Could more serious roles be in the future for her? Maybe she and Nicki will go head to head again, rekindling their ever-entertaining beef.

The Drama Queen: Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown’s life reads like street lit legend. As a female rapper who came up under two incredible mentors, Jay-Z and Nas, Brown’s then life spiraled into a series of nail-biting misadventures that kept the public guessing. From facing multiple encounters with the law, to suffering from hysterical hearing loss, Foxy’s story has primed her for serving drama. It’s too bad that the only movie role she has had to date was in the 1998 Jada Pinkett-Smith vehicle “Woo,” in which she played the blandly titled “Fiancée.” An appearance as herself in the Jay-Z documentary “Fade to Black” (2004) rounds out her filmic career. But now that Foxy Brown has repented for her past sins, she is primed to take on bigger challenges. By overcoming demons in her own life, she epitomized the qualities of the female protagonist.

The Grande Dame: Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah could write a book on how to parlay hip-hop stardom into Hollywood fame. She took her tiny role as a waitress in 1991’s “Jungle Fever” and ran with it, putting in the work over the years until it paid off in an Academy Award nomination for playing Matron "Mama" Morton in “Chicago” (2002). But the rapping queen of the big screen did not stop there. She went on produce and/or star in over a dozen films since then, including perennial favorites like “Ice Age” (2006) and “Beauty Shop” (2005). Queen Latifah’s list of prestigious acting awards include statues awarded by the Golden Globes and the NAACP. For all the other rapstresses making the transition to acting, the Queen leads by example.

The Mystic: Missy Elliot

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot’s music videos are cinematic feats full of psychedelic  eye candy. She has translated the trippy power of her image to the movie arena in small roles, such as playing Diva in 2001’s “Pootie Tang,” and her own fabulous self in the films “Honey” (2003) and “Just for Kicks” (2005). But will Missy make moves into richer forms of celluloid expression?  As a highly unique rapstress with a positive message – and the power to communicate visually -- she would make a great movie star. We hope she gets into the mix.

The Glamazon: Eve

Eve has an impressive career as a thespian, ranging from starring in her own television show to acting in many black-themed films. A veteran of the “Barbershop” franchise, she also starred in the 2004 comedy “The Cookout,” which was co-written by fellow rapstress Queen Latifah. The year 2010 saw the sexy Scorpio break out in new directions in the British thriller “,” playing the dynamic Latisha. Hopefully, Eve will enjoy similar acting opportunities on this side of the Atlantic.

The Comeback Kid: Lauryn Hill

After roles in “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” (1993) and  “Hav Plenty” (1997), Lauryn Hill seems to have abandoned acting to focus on music. Everyone is wondering when she will make her big music comeback, but people should also consider when she will return to the movies. With a presence much like Angela Bassett, but with more sassy style, there is plenty of room in the pantheon of black actresses for her brand. Maybe this rap goddess’ comeback will have that one-two punch, on both the acting and rapping fronts.

The Matron: MC Lyte

Few people know that MC Lyte has acted both on the stage and the screen, giving her a well-rounded foundation for pursuing a larger career. Her movie roles include little-known titles such as “Fly by Night”(1993), “A Luv Tale” (1999), and “Civil Brand” (2002) – but she deserves better. Even though MC Lyte has not had an album out for a while, her name recognition is strong and she still looks as good as she did during her heyday. Lyte would make a great supporting actress in today’s black movie world, competing with the likes of Regina King, with more edge. Let’s hope she gets a break and capitalizes on her previous work.

The Pop Princess: Pepa

Pepa is a much-loved rapstress. Having entered our hearts as half of the dynamic duo Salt-n-Pepa, this star has been shining independently for a number of years. Her recurring role on TV’s “Oz” as Officer Andrea Phelan has primed her for even bigger things. After small roles in the films “The Perfect Holiday” (2007) and “Love and a Bullet” (2002), Pepa could use a stand-out part that showcases her spunk. With more African-American superstars like Will Smith and Tyler Perry producing films, roles like this could soon be on the horizon for her.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.

Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.


Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.


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I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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