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.
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.
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.
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.
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 “184.108.40.206.,” playing the dynamic Latisha. Hopefully, Eve will enjoy similar acting opportunities on this side of the Atlantic.
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.
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.
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.