Does Being An Actor Compromise Your Rap Career?

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Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday that isn't a national holiday, Rocks Off will have some of them discussing issues relevant to their culture.

This Week's Panel: Paul Wall, Damien Randle, Sam Sneed

Not Invited: Freekey Zeekey, for getting Dipset back together. Ack.

This Week's Prompt: More and more rappers are looking to branch out into other fields of entertainment. Paul, last we spoke, you told us about a movie that you were working on. Will Smith did it. Andre 3000 did it. T.I. did it. Ice-T did it. Shit, even Mike Jones did it. But with the exception of T.I., nearly all of those guys abandoned their music career to do so ;Mike was already losing his grasp on relevancy, so that might not be the best example. So here's the question: Can a rapper focus on more than rapping and without it negatively affecting his music?

Paul Wall: That's tough to say. Ludacris has been doing both, and seems to be pretty successful at both. But a lot of other rappers seem to transition into acting toward the end of their careers. But maybe that's because they don't have anything left to prove in rap.

Some of our most successful actors used to be rappers. Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube. They're some of the most successful actors that all used to be rappers. They dominated rap, and then transitioned to dominate movies and TV. Ice Cube still puts out some music occasionally (and is still successful with the music).

Almost every successful, well-known rapper has at one point or another been offered a TV show or movie role, whether it be a big role or small role, big-budget or low-budget. Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Andre 3000, TI, Xzibit, Ice T, Eve, Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Tupac, Queen Latifah, way too many more to name.

For me, I realized that actors have much longer careers, and usually make way more money than rappers. So, of course, I became interested in acting. I've done a couple of small roles in lower-budget movies. But I still have a sincere love and passion for music.

Even though I'm not at the top of the totem pole anymore, I still really love making music and performing. But shit, believe me, if I was making the money Ice Cube or Will Smith was making on movies, I'd probably slow down on music, or just give it away for free [laughs].

It's not just rappers, but all types of musicians dabble in acting; Beyonce, Madonna, Jill Scott, Janet Jackson. But it seems to be mostly toward the later part in the artist's career. It's kinda like how athletes transition into commentators. But you rarely see somebody act and rap successfully at the same time.

Damien Randle: I think it really depends on how well the acting career goes. In the case of Ice Cube and Ice-T, this has clearly been the case. Same for Will Smith, obviously.

Motion pictures are a natural progression from the audio-based music industry. If someone does well in a medium that represents a progression, then it really makes no sense to go back to something that was less lucrative.

The ways that artists get paid in music vs. movies are like night and day; who wouldn't want a guaranteed payday vs. a per-unit payout? As far as compromising their music careers, jumping into film can prove hazardous if the acting gig doesn't work out well, because they run the risk of being seen in an unfavorable light. Image is everything, especially in rap.

The bottom line is artists should take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself and make the best of it. Approach it with the same drive that made them successful musically. Surround themselves with people who can offer them honest critiques of their abilities. Some of the people mentioned in your question are horrible actors, but only time will tell if they can develop into mainstream screen stars. Will Smith and Ice Cube have the natural articulation and wit to pull it off; some of the less successful don't.

Sam Sneed: This is a great question, as we see so many rappers go from rockin' the mic to the big screen trying to expand their revenue streams through other creative outlets. This is a topic that I am personally dealing with myself right now. I work full time, I am a full-time student studying for my Master's Degree, I am a full-time musician, and now I am playing a leading roll in an upcoming gospel soap-opera/sitcom entitled Gospel Hill.

They're all important faucets of life, and it's not really tough to balance them mentally. For example, I can work on all these different aspects and complete task in each of them; however, the tough part is time. What I mean by this is literally having enough time to do them all. There is only 24 hours in a day to get everything done that you need to get done that day, which also involves resting and sleeping.

I am now starting to get offered a lot of great projects that I would love to do, but I'm having to turn some of them down because, physically, there is just not enough time to do them all. It's really tough for me because I hate saying no, because I personally want to do a little of everything, and I believe that I have put in a lot of work to have a chance at these opportunities.

So as for the question can a rapper focus on more than rapping and not have it affect his music negatively? I say yes. But if rappers don't properly structure their schedules, it will have a dramatic negative impact on their music careers. The trick is to schedule and balance your agenda so that you physically have enough time to do each thing.

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