XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this feature.

When it comes to movies, some rappers are getting their act together in a major way. By most accounts, music is an essential part of the filmmaking process: it helps shape emotional responses, which, in turn, creates that much more of a shared experience for viewers. Similarly, hip-hop has the same effect on its audience, most notably in the form of nostalgia. Not to mention, being in the spotlight is synonymous with being paid. So, it’s not surprising that some rappers have managed to expand their careers into other forms of entertainment.

From the stage to the big screen, many artists wear the multitalented crown well. There’s a long list of rappers-turned-actors who are pushing the culture forward, taking on lead roles in coming-of-age stories that speak to hip-hop as a lifestyle. For example Eminem, who made his acting debut in 8 Mile. 50 Cent prospered in the space, too. Not only did he act in a movie that’s based on a true story, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, but the rap vet went on to create the Power franchise, and then followed up with a docuseries that chronicles the birth and evolution of the Black Mafia Family, BMF.

But this isn’t the first example of hip-hop merging with Hollywood. The summer of 1984 might have been the apex of that, marked by two rap-themed movies, Breakin’ and Beat Street, that were competing at the box office. And 1983’s Wild Style is worth noting as well, which is commonly referred to as the first hip-hop movie. There were also a number of films that stood out in the 1990s like House Party, Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice, to name a few.

As time went on, legendary directors such as John Singleton and Hype Williams changed the world’s perception of hip-hop as the medium of choice to communicate ideas, style and beliefs through motion pictures. In doing so, this approach has revolutionized the film industry. And the script is still being written today. Belly is a classic that came to be due to Nas and DMX's authenticity as actors and artists who lived the culture. While there are many films that pay tribute to hip-hop and honor the culture, there are a few must-see movies. Check out essential hip-hop movies to watch below.—Derrius Edwards

See Essential Hip-Hop Movies to Watch

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