Perhaps more than any other genre of music, hip-hop’s foundation is storytelling. At its most naked and pure, it’s the art of putting lyrics over a beat. Without a need for technical fireworks like “a melody” or “complicated chord progressions” (which, of course, plenty of ever-evolving hip-hop has), many of the best rap tunes lock in as narrations of narratives, self-contained stories that give you a sense of place, time, and perspective with startling clarity. This facet of hip-hop, essential to its success as a cultural touchstone, might be why rappers make such good actors.
From T.I. in the MCU, to Mark Wahlberg fightin’ robots, to Post Malone appearing in G-D Bud Light Super Bowl commercials, our culture is saturated with rappers turning their skills on the mic into skills in front of the camera. These rappers tend to acclimate to this new mode of performance quite seamlessly — after all, they’re still fundamentally telling stories, they’re just not rhymed to a beat. In honor of this lovely intersection between movies and music — and in honor of the 4K blu-ray release of the classic Boyz n the Hood — we’ve got 10 of the best movie performances from rappers. And if you don’t know, now you know.