Law & Order ends its 20-year run tonight. Throughout the show’s long reign, phalanxes of honorable detectives have cleaned the New York streets of crime and debris while throwing out witty one-liners and re-enacting plotlines ripped from real-life headlines. Grabbing a cameo on the show has also become something of an in-joke in acting circles, with future-stars like Claire Danes, Jennifer Gardner ,and Cynthia Nixon all making pre-fame appearances on the show. But Law & Order, along with its Special Victim’s Unit and Criminal Intent spin-offs, has also acted as a breeding ground for rappers (and rap-related types) to flex their chronic lack of thespian skills — in roles that typically range from the clichéd to the ridiculous. So while Ice-T gets a pass for playing Richard Belzer’s street-savy detective partner Fin Tutuolo, the likes of Outkast’s Big Boi and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man fare less well. Here are five of the best/worst rapper guest spots.
Big Boi (Law Law & Order: SVU, Season 10, Episode 7: “Wildlife”)
In a dispiriting bit of casting, Andre 3000’s Outkast pal plays a gangsta rapper by the name of Gots Money (yup, that’s “Gots” with an “s” — not even a “z” or a dollar sign) in the franchise’s Special Victim’s Unit spin-off. Gots, “just a black guy from Westchester,” is so infatuated by the movie Scarface that he owns a pet tiger — a premise that allows him to tell New York’s finest that he was innocently “on eBay looking for a tiger.” But Gots isn’t the real villain here: he’s merely an unwitting pawn in a larger animal-smuggling ring. After snitching to the cops he’s mauled by a pack of hyenas in his palatial house, leaving behind only his “bling” medallion. (A hyena puked it up, if you were wondering.) Poignant isn’t really the word.
Ludacris (Law & Order: SVU, Season 7, Episode 18: “Venom”; Law & Order: SVU, Season 8, Episode 22: “Screwed”)
Cross-generational rap shenanigans alert! In not one but two episodes, Ludacris, the guy who makes club-friendly, punchline-heavy rap songs, plays the dastardly Darius Parker, the nephew of Ice-T’s detective Tutuola character. Tutuola’s son (not a rapper) is fingered for a murder, but suspicion soon turns to Parker, whom Luda plays with an odious air that anyone who’s had the misfortune of interviewing him will readily recognize. In a line that could have been lifted from one of his songs, he tells assistant district attorney Casey Novak, “Don’t look so happy: Hubris isn’t attractive, especially in women yo’ age.” Then in a dramatic finale, Luda confesses to slaying a mother and her baby, but walks away a free man due to a technicality. Game got switched, indeed.
Fab 5 Freddy/Sticky Fingaz (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Season 6, Episode 14: “Flipped”)
In a plot liberally inspired by a bundle of rap headlines, old school hip-hop personality and one-time Yo! MTV Raps presenter Fred ‘Fab 5 Freddy’ Braithwaite tackles the role of Fulla T, an aspiring rapper who’s gunned down in the lobby of a radio station that may or may not be meant to resemble renowned rap drama spot HOT97. But wait! Ex-Onyx rapper Sticky Fingaz is a witness to the murder — and also happens to be an undercover cop who’s part of a hip-hop task force. At this point you’d be forgiven for expecting dead rappers Jam Master Jay, 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., and Gravy — the still-living MC who was shot in his posterior outside the HOT97 studios in 2006 (and decided to go on the air anyway) — to make cameos in an episode that borrows liberally from their respective life stories.
Method Man (Law & Order: SVU, Season 9, Episode 10: “Snitch”)
If playing the role of pitbull-fighting thug Cheese in The Wire wasn’t typecasting enough, here the Wu-Tang Clan’s smokey-voiced star gets into character as “untouchable cold-hearted gangster” Dennis King. The plot involves a Nigerian polygamist, hammy commentary about the stop-snitching movement, and Mr Mef lumbering around like an asinine lunk. Unfortunately, the writers chose to have him spitting lines like “Maybe they had it coming to ’em,” instead of cribbing from the Wu’s rich vault of skits. Who wouldn’t want to see a rap villain with a death move that involves vowing to sew “your asshole closed and keep feeding you and feeding you and feeding you”?
Debi Mazar (Law & Order: SVU, Season 10, Episode 6: “Babes”)
Queens gal and occasional Madonna video star Ms. Mazar has been around since the early-’80s, when her b-girl stylings were featured in the TV show Graffiti Rock. Since then she’s eked out a career playing the type of roles you imagine were originally ear-marked for Parker Posey, including a spot as wayward mother Peggy Bernardi. After finding out that her son has set a man on fire (after castrating him), and that her Catholic-school attending daughter has entered into a pact with her friends to become young pregnant teen-moms, she logs onto the show’s brilliant MySpace/Facebook-hybrid B Friendz and sends a ringleader friend abusive text-speak messages. So bitchy are her missives that she’s suspected of having caused the girl to hang herself. In brighter news, Bernardi proudly purchases a t-shirt blaring the slogan “G.I.L.F.” ahead of the upcoming addition to the family. Breaking with rap tradition, this time the “G” stands for grandmother.