When Tim Roth revealed that he’d gone into the studio with Tupac whilst they were filming their 1997 movie Gridlock'd (“We rapped together, but I couldn't keep a straight face," Roth said on The Late Late Show with James Corden. "I didn't write a thing. He just made me say stuff”) the world blew a collective sigh of relief, as the Pulp Fiction star added that the end results had never actually seen the light of day. The fear that we’d have had to endure yet another celebrity indulging their inner Slim Shady was just too much to handle, given that we’ve already been subjected in the past to a slew of famous faces snatching at (and subsequently failing to grasp) the opportunity to lay down some fire bars.
That collection of terrible celebrity rappers is already bulging – here for your listening and viewing (dis) pleasure are just 10 of the worst culprits.
Dominic West flies like a guillemot
West is probably best known for his role as Baltimore detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, but even with that kind of street-cred behind him, it by no means meant that he’d be able to rap on command. No, as this unfortunate cameo in the below video attests, West’s skills on the mic are nowhere near his Kanye namesake.
The set-up was good and honourable – an SBTV Warm-Up Session, the home of many a stunning live grime performance, alongside local Nottingham MCs for the promotion of a film about their local area – but MC Dom West (kitted out in a snapback and black North Face, no less) comes across like your science teacher at the decks of your school disco, dropping in between verses to deliver a look-away-now hook. “I wish he did a collab with Bunk,” commented one YouTuber. So do we, gallant YouTube commenter. So do we.
Stephen Colbert gets avalanched
Colbert may be able to count Kendrick Lamar, Nas and Chance The Rapper (who he’s rumoured to be collaborating with) amongst his friends, but the chat show hero’s previous attempts at rapping should have him disqualified from ever actually approaching the mic.
We’re specifically pulling up his appearance on the wonderful improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? as evidence, your honour: as you can see above, once the spotlight falls on the Late Show host, he falls rather… flat. In Colbert’s defence, he is rather put on the spot by the nature of the game – ‘Scene To Rap’ – where the stars are tasked to freestyle about a scenario in front of a live studio audience, and so, well aware that his rapping skills aren’t up to much, tries his absolute best. But Colbert is well and truly shown up here by his improv-y cypher, with Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles pulling off their rapping turns with consummate ease.
Brian Wilson goes surf-rapping
The Beach Boy’s place in the annals of music history have long been secured, so maybe he can use his complimentary get-out-of-jail card here as an excuse for this horror show of a rapping performance. ‘Smart Girls’ was written in 1991 with the help of his therapist (!) who allegedly insisted that Wilson write it as part of his treatment (he said last year that "we were just having a good time. Yeah, it was fun. We were just kidding").
Its sound is so bouncy and squeaky clean that even the ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’-era Fresh Prince would have rejected it. “I make great music with my band” he spits at one point. Yeah, Brian, you do – you should have just stuck with that, really.
Hulk Hogan does not rule
Holy mother of all that is holy, time has done no justice whatsoever to the former wrestler’s horrific foray into rap. The best it can offer is novelty value, but even that’s pushing it somewhat – you probably made a better track than this on your Yamaha keyboard during an idle GCSE music lesson.
Incredibly, some record exec threw money at the moustachioed fool to record an entire album’s worth of music – 1995’s ‘Hulk Rules’, surprisingly not available to stream on Spotify – and while Hogan’s rough flow is at least on beat, there’s very little that’s positive to say about it. “Someone call 911” he gruffs at one point. Yup, that’s about the right reaction to this song.
Tyra Banks loves bacon and Bow Wow
The America’s Next Top Model host demonstrated that she could not spit whilst entertaining the rapper formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow on her eponymous chat show. Sample lines of her flailing attempt include “Baby I’m taken / but you know I love bacon / Can you fry it up? / hook a girl up” and “Fly me on your jet / but not a boat / cos I’m float in the water and I’ma get sick”.
Her freestyling skills are so on point that she even manages to talk herself into giving the rapper a kiss, and it’s just all very confusing.
Joaquin Phoenix is still here, somehow
The well-documented and very public 2009-2010 breakdown of the film star after his first “retirement” continues to resonate in today’s cultural sphere, given that “Joaquin Phoenix rap” is the first suggestion on YouTube when you begin to type his name into the search bar.
Although the breakdown was all staged for the 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here, it crystallised with Phoenix’s disastrous stint on the mic on stage in Miami, which was intended to launch his “hip-hop career”. The overweight, bearded actor drones along to the backing track, barely making sense amid his slurring. But he trolled us all good and proper, didn’t he, so perhaps the joke’s on us.
Snooki x Bow Wow
Jersey Shore star – gosh, how we miss that show – Snooki took to the mic on Anderson Cooper’s show in 2012 as Bow Wow (that man again) gave the 28-year-old a lesson in how to freestyle and… yeah, it went exactly how you would imagine it would go.
Shout-out to a clearly uncomfortable Cooper trying to wriggle out of having to rap on live TV, too.
Oprah fails to go back to back with Jay Z
You get to rap, you get to rap, everybody gets to rap! Well, maybe everyone bar Oprah herself should get to rap, after this ill-fated foray into hip-hop. During a 2009 interview with Jay Z – a small step-up from freestyling on national television with Bow Wow, you have to admit – the host introduced the next segment in true braggadocio style: “And now I understand that Jay is going to teach me how to rap.”
And well, yes, that is what happens – but Oprah proves herself to be so useless at laying down a hot freestyle that HOVA actually ends up doing it for her. Booooo.
Mr. T says respect yo momma
I pity the fool who raps when they really shouldn’t: Mr. T should have heeded his own mantra even when he got the opportunity to dominate the fantastically-titled track ‘Treat Your Mother Right’.
It’s a morality tale that sums up Reagan’s America (there’s a university thesis in there somewhere), with Monsieur T reprimanding two very-differently aged arguers for bringing the topic of mothers to the insult table. “When you put down one mother, you putting down mothers all over the world,” preaches T in his mid-1980s effort to shut down “Yo mama” jokes. The camera then pans out to T (wearing the shortest of shorts) and backing singers, before a fresh, fresh beat cranks into life and the man himself lays down his pro-mom manifesto: “H is for the hard-earned money she spent / to keep clothes on my back and try to pay the rent”.
So good you’ll be crying some very real tears of sadness.
Tom Hanks & Dan Aykroyd hit a low point
Thought you could get away from an inclusion on this list of horrors, lads? So close and yet so far. For the 1987 movie Dragnet, where Messrs Hanks and Aykroyd play buddy cops in homage to the 1950s franchise of the same name, some genius decided that its co-stars should record a rap song. There’s this one caveat, though – neither Hanks nor Aykroyd can profess to being the next Ghostface Killah, meaning that ‘City of Crime’ does not stand the test of time.
Hanks spend much of his time on the mic squealing at the top of his voice, whilst Aykroyd hardly wows with his dull-as-dishwater contributions – the fact that it’s a blatant Beastie Boys rip-off makes it all the more terrible.
Michael Buerk goes in on some Jungle beats
One more, you say? Oh, go on then - former BBC newsman Michael Buerk tried to stave off cabin fever whilst taking part in 2014's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here by freestyling for his fellow campmates. And yes, this is as gloriously terrible as it sounds. There are no more words, just watch it for yourself.
Quick, someone get the RapGenius guys to analyse his opening bars: "Michael's my name and I'm real cool / Stuck in the jungle, feeling like a fool". Bars for days, Michael, bars for days.