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Straight outta 'Community'

  • Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino (Getty Images )
December 15, 2011|By Anthony Roberts, For RedEye

I've been swagged, Auto-Tuned and taken to the club to pop bottles way more times than I can handle. It's official: I'm sick of rappers making noise and calling it music.

So in the spirit of complaining about a problem only if you present a solution, I may have a cure for the hip-hop stereocide that's been assaulting my ears: Rappers, get a TV show.

Most artists try their hand at acting only after they've achieved a certain amount of name recognition in the music business. To them, I say, you're hustling backward. A little digging indicates that—with certain obvious exceptions—getting a gig on the small screen before getting a gig on the mic might be the actual key to success.

Donald Glover is a prototype example. Before he dropped his critically acclaimed rap debut, "Camp," last month under the name Childish Gambino, he was honing his writing skills at "30 Rock" and evoking belly laughs as Troy Barnes on "Community." His witty wordplay and irreverent humor cross over into his lyrics, making him a welcome change from the heap of recycled rappers littering the radio.

Then there's Drake, arguably is the biggest rapper in the game at this point. As we all know, before he was getting all emo on songs and professing his love for Nicki Minaj, he was the wheelchair-rollin' Jimmy Brooks on "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Acting on a cheesy teen drama must have given him plenty of time to earn his chops as a performer, and now he's rolling to the bank.

And don't forget Jamie Foxx. While not a rapper, before he was blaming it on the alcohol, he was "ret ta go" as Wanda on "In Living Color" and a mainstay on his own "Jaime Foxx Show." He may be a crooner, but rappers should still take note.

Of course, there are obvious exceptions. Ice-T is an OG, and he's seamlessly gone from ponytailed pimp lyrics to ponytailed police work on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." LL Cool J also did his thing with "In the House" and, more recently, on "NCIS: Los Angeles," all after being a bona fide rap star. But that's Uncle L—he could even make FUBU fashionable again.

Some may also count Will Smith as an exception, but ... eh, not really. Smith did have rap success before he was chilling with Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." But the show itself still was the launching pad that catapulted Big Willie into a household name—not just a teen heartthrob—and ensured his subsequent albums would sell like energy drinks at a Ben Stein lecture.

Wouldn't a rapper like Wale benefit from a stint on a smart comedy like "Parks and Recreation"? He's already professed his love for "Seinfeld" and could be the new Tracy Morgan of TV, if Tracy could rap. Or imagine the ridiculous antics of Lil B mixed with the ridiculous antics on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

Perhaps the lesson here is we shouldn't be looking for our future rap stars on stage—well, at least not the music stage. It seems like TV's the new Compton, and it's producing its own NWA (new wave of artists).

Which begs the question: When is Jason Segel going to drop his rap debut?


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