11 Of Our Favorite Musicians Who Can Act

July 26, 2011  |  
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Who else is not a fan of actors who try out singing? I knoooow I’m not the only one. But what’s surprising is that our favorite singers, rappers and musicians in general usually have better luck when it comes to switching it up and trying the thespian lifestyle. Sometimes they’re even better than folks who have been acting for years. There have been an epic number of artists who have picked up scripts and tried to recite lines, and a lot of them have been awesome. Others…awful. So whether the people on our list are awesome or awful to you, you can’t hate on the fact that they’re definitely multi-faceted and doing it big. It was hard to bring the long list of Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman wannabes down to 11, so let us know your recommendations for others (hopefully without starting your sentence with “how could you leave out”) and why you think they’re awesome as actors below in our comments section.

Jennifer Hudson

JHud was riding the wave of her post-“Idol” popularity when she snatched up the role of Effie White in the film version of Dreamgirls. A huge opportunity to star alongside the likes of Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Queen B, Jennifer could have blown it. But not only did she kill it, but she was the film’s standout star, with her performance earning her rave reviews, a huge number of awards, and of course an Academy Award. Jenn has continued to act, but has done a great job balancing putting out music with being a screen star. Surprisingly, homegirl will take a comedic turn as a nun (*side eye*) in the Farrelly brothers’ next film, The Three Stooges, to be released next year.

Mos Def

You would think that this brotha’s thick Brooklyn-bred accent might be some sort of hindrance when it comes to embodying a plethora of diverse characters, but the Mighty Mos has stood out to be one of the best rappers-turned-actors out there, garnering critical acclaim for dramatic and even lighthearted comedic work. If you ignore Carmen: A Hip Hopera, everything else in his filmography is stellar work. From his small role as Billy Bob Thorton’s neighbor in Monster’s Ball, his awesome portrayal of Chuck Berry in Cadillac Records, to his Emmy nominated work in the TV movie Something the Lord Made, Mos has been consistent in his acting work. He’s actually done more film work than music over the past few years, but we’re not mad at him for it. Get in where you fit in bruh.

Brandy

Sure, Brandy is in no way a Oscar-nomination worthy actress (maybe BET Award Best Actress possibly?). Her movie work is definitely not anywhere near classic, but you have to give props to one of the few young black women to show up with their own television show in the ’90s. Not only was Moesha a funny show, it was a positive portrayal of a black family post “The Cosby Show,” and one of the few to tell stories from the viewpoint of a female character. The “I Wanna Be Down” crooner was cute, comical and very believable all at the same time.

Jamie Foxx

You might have seen him first on “In Living Color,” but before he was getting laughs as Wanda the Ugly Woman, Jamie Foxx was studying classical music and composition, and had been playing piano since childhood. But Foxx got his big break doing comedy, and so he did that successfully, starring on “The Jamie Foxx Show.” But as a dramatic actor, Foxx has done his best work, showing out as Willie Beaman in Any Given Sunday and winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray. Foxx was just recently tapped to play the main character of a slave named Django in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Expect some more Oscar talk to come his way after the movie is released next year.

Diana Ross

On the real, Diana Ross kind of started this whole musician-turned actor thing. Instead of showing up on soundtracks or making cameos, Berry Gordy made it a goal to have the Supreme singer be a film star. Ross was the lead in films that were filled with posh black folks living well and doing it big, even if just for a moment before their worlds came crashing down. Her role as Dorothy in The Wiz wasn’t all that (still love it though!), and she’s had other notable roles over the years, but D got the most love and acclaim from me and everyone else for portraying Billie Holliday in Lady Sings the Blues. Definitely a difficult role for anyone, Ross put her stamp on it, and in the process, received an Academy Award nomination for her effort.

Tupac Shakur

As acclaimed of a lyricist as Tupac was, in his short life, he also provided us with great performances on top of dope music. Whether he was making small cameos on television shows like “A Different World” (as friend Jada Pinkett’s old flame) or scaring us a lot as the sociopathic Bishop in Juice, Shakur owned any and every scene he was in in all of his movies. But outside of lauding Juice or his bad boy with a good heart turn in Poetic Justice, which I’m sure you’ve seen a thousand times, see Pac as a heroin addict in the film Gridlock’d alongside our homegirl Thandie Newton.

Jill Scott

I was very much surprised to find that Jill Scott would be a very talented actress. I first saw the vocalist on an episode of “Girlfriends” during its UPN days, playing a boo of character William Dent. She was ‘aight to say the least.

But time has passed and girlfriend must have obtained the best acting coach out there because she’s become a favorite to watch. She’s the best part of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married films (sorry Janet), and she got a lot of critical love on the TV side a second time around, playing lead character Precious in “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” on HBO. Now that she has a new record out, Jilly from Philly will probably be taking a break from the big screen, but we hope it’s not too long.

Justin Timberlake

The former boy band commodity turned solo Pop&B star has been breaking our hearts for the past few years, denying his musical urges to star on the silver screen. I’d send him an angry letter, but I can’t front, JT is one of the more talented musician-turned actors out there. Check his two Emmy’s for confirmation of that. Not only can he be uber-dramatic (see him as Napster playboy Sean Parker in the stunning The Social Network), but homeboy can be hilarious as well. He’s hosted “Saturday Night Live” a number of times, and appeared in many skits notable skits even when he wasn’t a host. Seriously, who could deny the hilarity of the “package in a Box” skit? Black, white, whatever, to leave him off anybody’s musician-turned actor list would be a travesty.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah is obviously one of the better musicians turned actresses since she’s clearly made being a thespian her number one focus career-wise for some years now. Starting off with small roles in films like Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever and on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” it was clear she had potential to be dynamite on the big screen. We loved her on “Living Single” as our girl Khadijah (or at least, the girl we wished we knew), and we knew she would kill it when she took the role of short-tempered Cleo in Set it Off. She pretty much owned that movie, totally transforming from the pretty tomboy magazine mogul at Flavor magazine to the gun-toting thugged out bank robber. Since then, she’s got Academy Award nominations for movies like Chicago and made us laugh hard in Bringing Down the House. We’re sure there’s even more greatness to come very soon…

Will Smith

My favorite bubblegum rapper turned actor, Willy from Philly (another one!) has the kind of depth important to succeed in Hollywood, and he’s become one of the most bankable actors out there because of it. He’s funny, and we’ve known that since he was the Fresh Prince. But he’s also believable when he gives a role his all. For proof of that, all you have to do is rent Ali, Six Degrees of Separation, or of course, The Pursuit of Happyness. The true definition of a Hollywood star, he was able to come back musically in the ’90s and successfully make “good” music (HELLO, “Getting Jiggy With It”???), owning TV, film AND music. The man can do it all, and he looks good while doing it.

Ice Cube

Hands down my favorite rapper turned actor who has the word “Ice” in his name. Period.

After Boyz in the Hood, there was no stopping the Jheri curl-adorned rapper, who surprised us with his dope acting skills, and even more with the fact that he could play more than just an angry or hood fab character. Ice Cube is funny (Friday), an action star (Adult Videos: State of the Union), and kind of Hot (Barbershop–hey, I know I’m not the only one who noticed), and he’s one of the few rappers that gets taken seriously in the film making game. Now he’s also making moves and making the big decisions as an executive producer and writer. Do your thing O’Shea.

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