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Rapper Ja Rule Builds Acting Chops

Ja Rule at NPR West's studio.
Devin Robins, NPR
Ja Rule at NPR West's studio.

Hip-hop star Jeffrey "Ja Rule" Atkins has made his mark in the music world. Now, he's pursuing a big-screen acting career.

His latest role is in Assault on Precinct 13, which also stars Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne. In the film, which is based on John Carpenter's 1976 feature, Ja Rule plays a hustler named Smiley. His character is one of several criminals forced to unite with cops when the remote precinct where he is temporarily jailed falls under attack.

Ja Rule has appeared in other films, such as The Fast and the Furious and Scary Movie 3. He's not alone -- other rappers such as Ice Cube and Ice-T have successfully crossed over into acting. At the same time, he has a single out, "Wonderful," that is getting plenty of airplay. He talks with NPR's Cheryl Duvall.

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