Second Verse: 10 Rappers Who Dropped Their Mics For Other Victorious Careers
These somewhat retired rappers have found immense successes in other industries.
February 11, 2022 at 6:48 pm
Fickle as it may be, the music industry has successfully turned everyday people into acclaimed celebrities. Rappers often brag in their songs about the financial come-ups they’ve experienced and how their statuses catapulted well beyond their upbringings by making music. Some have even gone on to become legendary and highly respected in the genre, but then there are the few who have stepped away from massively prosperous rap careers for something else. And while it seemed like a huge risk, there is a special group of rappers who essentially quit making new music in pursuit of other industries to amass similar or much greater levels of opulence.
Here are 10 rappers who dropped their mics for other careers that they're equally or more successful in.
1. Will Smith
We’ll start with one of the obvious ones here. Will Smith, previously known as the Fresh Prince, once took the rap world by storm with his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff by his side. The West Philadelphia duo were the recipients of the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. They found themselves at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, won multiple other high honors, yielded a platinum album and sold a total of 5.5 million records. Smith then pushed rap somewhat to the side to pursue a television career, which later catapulted him to becoming a top-notch movie star. While he's leaned into his rap past a few times, Smith has not recorded an album since 2005. His latest movie, King Richard, which is still in theatres, brought in $21.8 million on its opening night, which set a grossing record for movies premiering during the COVID-19
New mother Eve tossed her pit-bull-in-a-skirt narrative for a career in acting. The former first lady of Ruff Ryders made a name for herself as a hard-hitting emcee who was able to hold her own in a crew full of men. She was the third female rapper to have her debut album land at number one on the Billboard Hot 200. The Grammy Award winner followed that up with a bevy of chart-toppers. The Philadelphia native made her acting debut in 2002 in the movie Barbershop. Since then, Eve has appeared in countless films, reality shows and television series, including her own sitcom Eve, which ran on UPN from 2003-2006. The actress hasn't made an album since 2013; however, she is a current lead on the ABC series, Queens, where she portrays a rapper.
In the late ‘90s, N.O.R.E. was one of the biggest names in hip-hop. His debut solo album quickly went platinum and charted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 200. He went on to continue similar levels of success in rap and even added some reggaeton to his offerings, which also saw top placements on various Billboard charts. These days, the rapper-turned podcaster is amassing high levels of acclaim through Drink Champs, his Revolt TV venture with DJ EFN. A prominent theme of the podcast is to give people, mostly rappers, their flowers while they can still smell them. He’s also a cast member of Love & Hip Hop and was recently featured on Couples Therapy. N.O.R.E. 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’s now widely known for his work in TV and film, which began in 1984 with a role in Breakin’. He embarked on his most successful acting role as Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2000 and has since appeared in nearly 500 episodes. While he carried on making music through 2020, the former gangsta rapper continues to amass critical acclaim as an actor.
got his industry start as a radio personality, later shapeshifting that into a prosperous rap career that saw the southern rapper atop Billboard charts. As a rapper, he has earned three Grammy Awards, among other industry accolades. His work in acting, however, catapulted him into a bonafide movie star. His most lauded work is his portrayal as Tej Parker, a recurring role in 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, a line of headphones, real estate and even a restaurant.
6. MC Lyte
Legendary Brooklyn lyricist MC Lyte still performs often, and during such shows, she reminds fans that she is not just the lady who voices the BET Awards. However, her voice has given her incredible opportunities outside of her once-dominant rap career. She was the first solo female rapper to release a full studio album with her 1988 project, Lyte as a Rock. Throughout her career, she’s received multiple icon-level and lifetime achievement awards and has been hailed as an early influence for many female emcees to follow. She made her acting debut in the ‘90s and scored a recurring role as Kai on UPN’s Half & Half from 2004-2006. She began her voice acting career in the mid-'90s and has since become the voice of various ventures. Her last studio album was released in 2015.
7. Ice Cube
As a rapper, Ice Cube is synonymous with gangsta rap. Through his role as an original member of N.W.A. and his solo rap career, his placement as an OG of the subgenre was immediately solidified. Forming around the same time as his solo ventures, was his growing career as an actor. First prominently starring as Doughboy in John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz n the Hood, he became a breakout star and went on to have an amazing career in acting. He’s got more than 30 films and a multitude of TV spots under his belt. He’s likely most popular for his work in the Friday and Barbershop franchises, the former for which he served as a writer and star. Outside of acting and other ventures, he also co-owns a three-on-three basketball league, Big3. Ice Cube released his last album in 2018, but he is still very much a performer.
8. Method Man
Rapper turned actor turned sex symbol, Method Man has been heating up the big and the small screens for quite some time. These days, fans can watch him on Power Book II: Ghost. While he's certainly proven his acting chops over the past few decades, he is, of course, one of the most widely celebrated rappers of all time. An original member of Wu-Tang Clan, the immediate phenom went on to earn a Grammy Award-winning solo rapper. During such time, he began starring in films like Belly and How High. His on-screen charisma has led to a prosperous career in TV and film. He's also a podcast host and a graphic novel series producer.
9. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah first shifted her rap career into something different when she let it be known that she could also sing. She then became a full-on actress with her starring role as Khadijah James on Fox's Living Single. During the first year of the show, she was still very much a rapper and even became the first female rapper to have an album receive RIAA certification. Her role on Living Single led her on the path to TV and movie stardom while also having her lean more into her work as a singer. Her outstanding career outside of rap has featured jazz albums, show tunes, mega box office movies and her very own talk show. She's also a celebrity spokesperson for Cover Girl and represents her own makeup line through the makeup conglomerate. And, we’re certainly not omitting that she was an early rapper-owner of a hip-hop label that was home to legendary New Jersey rap group Naughty by Nature.
10. 50 Cent
Arguably one of the more successful rappers turned something else, 50 Cent has amassed most of his estimated $30 million net worth through ventures outside of rapping. The all-around mogul was one of the most talked-about debut rappers in 2003 with the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin', which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts and became the best-selling album of the year. Throughout his rap career, he's sold more than 30 million records worldwide and earned his fair share of industry awards. He released his last studio album in 2014. These days, he's either the founder or owner/co-owner of more than six corporations spanning from music to boxing promotion and several things in between. He's also the man behind the Starz hit television series, Power, in collaboration with writer and creator Courtney A. Kemp.
Whether moving on to acting, podcasting or launching lucrative entrepreneurial ventures, these 10 rappers have proven that they are not only industry savvy, but also multi-talented. There are plenty of other rappers who have pushed their music to the side for other industries. It’ll be interesting to see where these new roles take them.