From the Booth to the Big Screen: Musicians Who Took a Shot at Acting and Scored

Think back to the moment where you heard your favorite artists first record, or got into their musical career for the first time. Now, switch gears, and retort back to when you first seen them out the booth and on a Hollywood set, for what would be their major film debut.

It’s no surprise that creatives are prone to trying new things, but one of the most common, for musicians that is, is taking a leap of faith into film, where they are sometimes outside of their comfort zone, and put into positions that are similar, but also different, than making music.

But although it may be a major shift, we’ve seen artists put a foot out on film, and run with it, as the budget and box office numbers grew bigger, and their faces became more and more consistent, in many classic films, in even more relatable and representative roles.

Kontrol has rounded up a few transitioned talents, who have successfully presented their gift through music, and memorable movies.

Ice Cube

Ice Cube as Calvin Palmer in “Barbershop,” 2002

Ice Cube is an icon of music, from his start of being a part of one of the first major Rap groups of Hip-Hop music, N.W.A. and creating socially conscious and aware records about the state of the black men and inner cities in America, fans were anxious to see him use his voice in film.

Cube has gained contribution from over a billion dollars, from producing, writing, acting and directing in films since 91’, with his debut in John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood,” and only four years later would he break barriers, and create a classic with originally written film, “Friday.”

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah as Cleopatra “Cleo” Sims in “Set it Off,” 1997

The Queen herself. Latifah has paved the way for many female rappers, and inspired and influenced the empowerment of woman in “U.N.I.T.Y.”

And only a few years into her career, as one of the hottest female MCs, she began securing small roles in films such as Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever,” and Ernest R. Dickerson’s “Juice,” alongside the talent of another rising actor and music legend in the making, “Tupac.”

But it was when we saw the portrayal of Clepatra “Cleo” Sims, in F. Gary Gray’s 1996 crime action film, “Set it Off.” Latifah’s strength, boldness and badassary put into this film, made her a force to be reckoned with, and a black fictional character favorite, to this day. Anyone else still cry in the shoot-out scene between Cleo and the cops? Yeah, me too.

All hail the queen for her numerous producer credits, versatility in roles that are well-played, and doing it in royalty.

Will Smith

Will Smith as Chris Gardner in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” 2006 (Photo: Youtube)

No matter what, Will Smith will always be in your top five, or even three, and a lot of times number one, of one of the most emotionally driven, ambitious and versatile actors of all time.

The Fresh Prince himself, got his first major television appearance in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” where his character wasn’t too far from home, as far as characteristics of the “Summertime,” and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh prince, affiliate. But it was his charisma and comedic efforts that extended expectations, and got viewers hooked to this multi-talented entertainer.

Smith has given us a legacy of incredible films, where his performance was superior, and the characters he portrayed, were successfully brought to life and felt. Now, we can see the icon himself, as the “King of Instagram,” with fun and relatable content, and impeccable motivation. But that doesn’t mean Smith isn’t working, with those skills, he’s never not, as he’s gearing up to introduce the live action Genie from Disney classic, “Aladdin.”

Not to mention, Smith has two Oscar and five Golden Globe noms under his belt, for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Ali,” and The Pursuit of Happyness,” along with a catalog of other recognizable awards.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez as Slim in “Enough,” 2001 (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

J-Lo single handedly, gave us one of the greatest performances in a biopic film, with her breakout role as Selena Quintanilla-Perez in “Selena.” A portion of which, has a lot to do with her start as a background dancer for “New Kids on the Block,” that she mixed with the smooth moves of the Queen of Tejano music.

In 99’, Lopez released her debut single “If You Had My Love,” which made her the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 with a debut, after Brittany Spears. This being before she would start to be more frequently seen on the big screens, going into the early 2000s, with another memorable role, and more knowingly as Slim, in the 2001 thriller “Enough.”

Tupac

Tupac Shakur as Roland Bishop in “Juice,” 1992

Ambitionz of one of the greatest rappers of all time, who’s acting aspirations were just as up to par.

The first time we saw the late Tupac Shakur take on acting, was in the 1992 film “Juice,” as Roland, a.k.a “Bishop,” the intimidating, hard-head who got on the verge of losing his mind. Alongside another 90s movie favorite Omar Epps, the infamous locker scene between Q and Bishop, is was allowed the general public to see Pac’s passion for being on screen.

Before his passing in 96’, Tupac had starred in nine films, including romantic drama, “Poetic Justice,” with Janet Jackson. We’re grateful to have seen the acting ability of the rapper, with a mind of gold, and how it enhanced him as the incomparable person he was.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J as Sherman “Preacher” Dudley in “Deep Blue Sea,” 1999

Heartthrob of Hip-Hop music, LL Cool J, made a statement with his reaction from the ladies through his aggressive but romantically smooth rap hits, and letting everyone know “Who’s bad?” And as his journey with the rhymes started to slow down a bit, he picked up the pace of another occupation; acting.

His first consistent line of work, rooted from the TV sitcom “In the House,” where he played former football player, Marion Hill. Only running for two seasons, before being cancelled but receiving a reboot, it wasn’t the last time fans would see LL knocking out acting chops, as he took on roles in blockbuster hits such as, “Deep Blue Sea,” and “In Too Deep.”

LL currently is a regular host of the hit TV entertainment show, “Lip Sync Battle.”

Tyrese

Tyrese Gibson as Jody in “Baby Boy,” 2001

“I hate you Jodie!” I know you instantly said that in Yvette’s (Taraji P.Henson) voice, but also envisioned who you were talking to in that “Baby Boy,” moment.

R&B and soul gem, Tyrese Gibson (although recently have been out of the public eye from recent mishaps, which we hope he’s righteously recovering from), gave us a lot of sensual records of love, but the roles he’s been given, showed us a few different sides, than being a serenading singer.

“Baby Boy,” a coming-of-age film, written and directed by the notable John Singleton, was Gibson’s debut performance, where he played Jody Summers, a 20-year-old, unemployed, father, who’s on the journey of true manhood.

Gibson has also had his fair share of success in action films, by joining the multi-hundred million dollar, “Fast and Furious,” franchise, and “Transformers,” films, and also joining forces with actress Meghan Good and rapper, The Game, to fight for his son back in “Waist Deep.”

Jill Scott

Jill Scott as Sheila and Richard T.Jones as Mike in “Why Did I Get Married,” (2007)

The Neo-Soul singtress, with the calming and beautiful tone of voice, is more than her sweet sounds, but also her selective screen time.

Fun fact: Scott lended her voice as Marvel superhero, “Storm,” in the animated series “Black Panther,” in 2010, and before it became a huge live-action, box-office hit. But the role most of us are more than likely familiar with, is Sheila, in Tyler Perry’s, “Why Did I Get Married.”

Just like her music, Scott is able to draw viewers in with her ability to show true emotion, through the characters she play, and how each have in some way, embodied the growth, of a changed woman.

Diamond Jones

Jr. Editor Lifestlye/Entertainment Department

Diamond Jones, 21, is a St.Louis native, born on the west side of Detroit. She is currently a junior, studying Journalism, with a minor in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her writing reaches to audiences everywhere, directing it toward the empowerement and excellence of black people and their accomplishments. She has written for The Daily Egyptian, LoveThisTrackTV, Georgia State’s The Signal and the National Association of Black Journalists, which she is a dedicated member of. She hopes to continue to inspire those through her words and make those who feel underrepresented, see their light.