As capricious as it is, the music industry has managed to turn everyday people into acclaimed celebrities. Rappers often brag in their songs about the financial difficulties they’ve experienced and how their status has catapulted far beyond their upbringing by making music. Some have even become legendary and highly respected in the genre, but there are a few who have moved away from massively successful rap careers for something else. And while it seemed like a huge risk, there is a special group of rappers who have essentially stopped making new music in pursuit of other industries to rack up similar or much higher levels of opulence.
Here are 10 rappers who ditched their mics for other careers in which they were equally or more successful.
1. Will Smith
We’ll start with one of the most obvious here. Will Smith, formerly known as Fresh Prince, has already taken the rap world by storm with his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff by his side. The West Philadelphia duo received the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. They went to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, won numerous other accolades, produced a platinum album, and sold a total of 5.5 million records. Smith then pushed rapping somewhat aside to pursue a career in television, which then catapulted him to become a top movie star. Although he’s looked back on his rapping past a few times, Smith hasn’t recorded an album since 2005. His latest film, King Richardwhich is still in theaters, grossed $21.8 million on its opening night, setting a box office record for premiering films during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New mother Eve has thrown her pit bull tale upskirt for an acting career. The former first lady of Ruff Ryders has made a name for herself as a hard-hitting entertainer who can hold her own in a team full of men. She was the third rapper to see her debut album land at number one on the Billboard Hot 200. The Grammy Award winner followed that up with a slew of chart-toppers. The Philadelphia native made her acting debut in 2002 in the film Hair salon. Since then, Eve has appeared in countless films, reality shows and television series, including her own sitcom Day before, which ran on UPN from 2003 to 2006. The actress hasn’t had an album since 2013; however, she is currently leading the ABC series, queenswhere she camps a rapper.
In the late 90s, NORE was one of the biggest names in hip-hop. His first solo album quickly went platinum and charted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 200. He continued similar levels of success in rapping and even added reggaeton to his offerings, which also saw top charts. on various Billboard charts. These days, the rapper-turned-podcaster is highly regarded thanks to Drink champions, his Revolt TV project with DJ EFN. A big theme of the podcast is giving people, mostly rappers, their flowers while they can still smell them. He is also a cast member of love and hip hop and was recently featured on couple therapy. NORE last recorded an album in 2018.
4. Ice T
Known as the first rapper to have an album with an “Explicit Lyrics” sticker, Ice T made waves as a legendary West Coast rapper. He is now widely known for his television and film work, which began in 1984 with a role in Lapping’. He embarked on his most successful acting role as Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on NBC. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2000 and has since appeared in nearly 500 episodes. While he continued making music through 2020, the former gangsta rapper continues to garner critical acclaim as an actor.
Ludacris got his start in the industry as a radio personality, later turning that into a successful rap career that saw the southern rapper top the Billboard charts. As a rapper, he has won three Grammy Awards, among other industry accolades. His acting work, however, catapulted him into a proper movie star. His most praised work is his portrayal of Tej Parker, a recurring role on the fast furious movies, a billion dollar franchise. The Atlanta native is also an entrepreneur who owns or has owned a variety of brands and products, including a record label, cognac brand, headphone line, real estate and even a restaurant.
6. MC Lyte
Legendary Brooklyn lyricist MC Lyte still performs often, and on such shows she reminds fans that she’s not just the lady who voices the BET Awards. However, his voice has given him incredible opportunities outside of his once-dominant rap career. She was the first solo rapper to release a full studio album with her 1988 project, Lyte like a rock. Throughout her career, she has received numerous Icon and Lifetime Achievement Awards and has been hailed as one of the early influences for many female animators. She made her acting debut in the 90s and had a recurring role as Kai on UPN. Half half from 2004-2006. She began her voice acting career in the mid-90s and has since become the voice of various businesses. His last studio album was released in 2015.
7. Ice cube
As a rapper, Ice Cube is synonymous with gangsta rap. Thanks to his role as an original member of NWA and his career as a solo rapper, his placement as the OG of the subgenre was immediately solidified. Forming around the same time as his solo adventures, his acting career was developing. First starred as Doughboy in John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz in the hood, he became a star and went on to an incredible acting career. He has over 30 films and a multitude of TV spots to his name. He is probably most popular for his work in the Friday and Hair salon franchises, the first for which he was a writer and star. Apart from acting and other businesses, he is also a co-owner of a three-on-three basketball league, Big3. Ice Cube released his last album in 2018, but he’s still very vocal.
8. The method man
Rapper turned actor turned sex symbol, Method Man has been heating up screens big and small for quite some time. These days fans can watch it on Power Book II: Ghost. Although he has certainly proven himself over the past decades, he is of course one of the most famous rappers of all time. An original member of the Wu-Tang Clan, the instant phenom went on to earn a Grammy Award-winning solo rapper. During this time he started acting in films like Stomach and How high. Her on-screen charisma led to a successful career in television and film. He is also a podcast host and producer of graphic novel series.
9. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah first changed her rap career to something different when she let it be known that she could sing too. She then became an actress in her own right with her starring role as Khadijah James on Fox’s To live alone. During the show’s first year, she was still a big rapper and even became the first female rapper to have an album receive RIAA certification. His role on To live alone led her on the path to television and film stardom while making her lean more heavily into her work as a singer. His outstanding career outside of rap has featured jazz albums, show tunes, box office mega movies and his own talk show. She is also a celebrity spokesperson for Cover Girl and represents her own makeup line through the makeup conglomerate. And, we certainly don’t forget that she was one of the first female rappers to own a hip-hop label that was home to legendary New Jersey rap group Naughty by Nature.
10. 50 cents
Arguably one of the most successful rappers out there, 50 Cent amassed most of his estimated $30 million net worth through ventures outside of rap. The versatile mogul was one of the most talked about early rappers in 2003 with the release of Get rich or die trying, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and became the best-selling album of the year. Throughout his rap career, he’s sold over 30 million records worldwide and won his fair share of industry accolades. He released his last studio album in 2014. These days he is either the founder or owner/co-owner of over six companies ranging from music to boxing promotion and several things in between. He is also the man behind the hit Starz television series, To be able toin collaboration with writer and creator Courtney A. Kemp.
Whether they’re taking action, podcasting, or launching lucrative entrepreneurial ventures, these 10 rappers have proven they’re not only industry savvy, but also versatile. There are many other rappers who have put their music aside for other industries. It will be interesting to see where these new roles take them.
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