In the summer of 2000, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg headlined the Up in Smoke Tour. The packed bill was bookended by Eminem (in what may have been one of the last times in his life that he opened up for anybody, anywhere), and a mini-reunion of the surviving members of NWA.

Right before Ice Cube’s solo set during the tour’s Boston-area show, the host of the night decided to hype up the crowd. “Do we have any Ice Cube fans in the house?” he asked. “How many people saw Boyz n the Hood?”

While introducing a rapper by mentioning a movie may seem odd at first, it’s a good bet that many of the people in that crowd knew Cube not as the firebrand MC on “Fuck tha Police,” “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” or “Check Yo Self;” but rather as Doughboy or Friday’s Craig Jones. Even 18 years ago, Ice Cube had already largely transitioned from being just a rapper into an actor. 

And he was far from the only one. Many of Cube’s rap peers like Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, and Will Smith were at that point more recognizable for their onscreen roles than their rhymes.

As time went on, the trend only increased. A 2017 study by Dr. Tia Tyree of Howard University showed that the number of rappers starring in movies went from a total of five throughout the entire back half of the 1980s to 36 in 2002 alone.

This is not unprecedented. Comparable rises have happened before with related professions. Singers, after all, historically have not been shy about being on camera in other situations. Whether it was Frank Sinatra’s golden arm, Diana Ross singing the blues, or Dolly Parton working 9 to 5, there’s a long list of vocalists on the silver screen.

“If you look back at the history of things, singers have made good transitions to acting,” The Hard Way director John Batham told Jet back in 1991. “There are emotional ties between singing and acting.”