Daring to make a cameo in a Hollywood movie is a dangerous game for any musician, let alone a hip hop artist. Not only does the artist in question have to navigate a brand new set of surroundings in the movie business, but the character they have been portraying during their sonic career, often wildly exaggerated in hip hop, is now ripped to shreds and left by the wayside. One need only look at the vast range of mediocre appearances Snoop Dogg has made over the years, or indeed Kanye West’s ill-fated appearance in The Love Guru to see that it’s a dicey game to play. However, Eminem and RZA have seemingly always got it right.
Eminem, of course, made his name in Hollywood with the semi-autobiographical tale 8 Mile, which put the rapper under the spotlight in Tinseltown. It’s one thing to star in somebody else’s movies, but to be the figure of your narrative is altogether more complex. However, somehow, the star pulled it off, providing his audience with a classic film and perhaps the only well-executed rap battle in Hollywood history.
The film can also boast of capturing the least embarrassing battle rap scene for a film ever, which considering how many have tried, is truly some feat. The playful interchange between powerful potency and jovial jabs is what makes Eminem a great rapper and lets 8 Mile be a high-quality film. RZA has also had a hand in some of the best films of the last 20 years, providing the soundtrack direction for Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant double feature Kill Bill.
However, perhaps their finest moments on camera came as part of the brilliant Funny People. A film about stand-up comedians and featuring both Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen could swallow up RZA and Eminem. However, they each handle their roles with aplomb. RZA is one of Rogen’s comedian friends and portrays the quick-talking grocery store worker perfectly, while Eminem plays an exaggerated version of himself.
About Eminem, director Judd Apatow said: “He was a fantastic actor, and the best moments ever in my career were pitching him new jokes to say and making him laugh really hard,” he said. “He came early and well-prepared,” he said. “I think he felt like, ‘I’m entering a world of comedy here. I got to be on my game.’ He was really funny, willing to say anything. I thought if I pitched him certain jokes, he’d say, ‘No, no that’s too far.'”
“Apparently, you can’t shock Eminem with anything you have to say,” Apatow laughed. “To make him laugh super hard was really, really fun, and he’s great in the movie. I’m glad that his scene kills, and so it’s really exciting.”
RZA recently gave his own mark of commendation for Eminem, saying he knew he respected the rapper when Marshal Mathers took on Donald Trump during his election campaign. Then, when the businessman gained his seat in the Oval Office, Em went one further and released his evocative freestyle ‘In The Storm’. It grabbed RZA and proved Eminem’s worth.
“I dug it,” RZA said to XXL about the track. “When you write a lyric, you know, you write, erase, scratch and go back and you keep going. You may even write a lyric, like an email. You ever write an email, then look at it and go, ‘Nah, I’m not gon’ send it.’ He wrote it, got it to where it was, memorised it and then performed it. So that means he was committed.
He continued: “I appreciate him being committed to it because for a White man to say that has different weight than a Black man sayin’ it. A Black man sayin’ it, all of a sudden we’re complaining. A White man is like, ‘Nah, bro.’ This is a reflection that is hitting your children now, hitting your people.”
Watch RZA and Eminem make a less political statement in their rare cameos in Funny People.