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Why rappers want to be actors

Lost in all the hoopla these past couple of days re: Fiddy, G-Unit, Dipset and what have you (you could say we were knee deep in it) was this story in Newsweek on the new most powerful man in Hollywood – who just so happens to be a member of the hip-hop community. Well, sort of.

Going on 20 years after the fact, it’s weird to think that Will Smith began his career as “just” a rapper, rather than an actor. Though he’s put out albums at least as recently as 1999′s god-awful Willenium, he’s been in TV and film for most of the time he’s been a public figure. And he’s been ridonkulously successful at it – so much so, in fact, that he’s now considered the most powerful actor in Hollywood.

As the story in Newsweek explains, it used to be the case that power lists in Hollywood were topped by either Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise. But recently, both of them have fallen off – Tom Cruise went all crazy on Oprah that time and hasn’t been quite right since, and Tom Hanks has grown a bit too long in the tooth to play anything other than somebody’s grandpa.

Will Smith, meanwhile? Not so much. At 38, he’s not exactly a spring chicken, but you know how black people tend to age better than white people. Nullus. She’s not the mother of all of his kids, but there haven’t been any rumors of him creeping around on Jada Pinkett, especially with any young white chicks. And, perhaps most importantly, he’s yet to be invited to any $cientology meetings.

Since 1996′s Independence Day, which grossed over $800 million worldwide, he’s been in a pretty steady string of hit movies, including the likes of Men in Black, Hitch, and I, Robot.. Even the relatively dark (by Will Smith standards) The Pursuit of Happyness, for which he was nominated for last year’s requisite Magical Negro Oscar, was one of last year’s highest grossing films.

The Newsweek story doesn’t provide any clue as to his net worth, but you have to assume this jig is getting over like a fat rat. The best paid actors in Hollywood are making $25 million per film up front, not to mention whatever insane amount they make on the back end, provided the film becomes a big hit. And obviously that’s been the case more often than not with Will Smith.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many rappers attempt to make the leap to a career in film? (The other day, when Miss Jones suggested Fiddy Cent was about to give up rap music for a career in film, he replied that she must have been reading his mind.) I mean, even shitty actors were making more money than rappers back when hip-hop was still worth a shit, let alone in a time like this.

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