Tom Hardy knock life: ranking actors with surprising rap careers

Tom Hardy, Tina Fey, Joe Pesci and Mahershala Ali.
Tom Hardy, Tina Fey, Joe Pesci and Mahershala Ali. Composite: Getty

Grant Tom Hardy any wish and you suspect it’d involve destroying the internet. Every couple of months, without fail, some weird little alleyway of his past will surface online and chip away at his well-honed reputation. There were his surprisingly candid interviews about drug use and sexuality. There were those revealing MySpace selfies. And now, inevitably, there’s his career as a rapper.

Except, hang on, it turns out that Tom Hardy isn’t a bad rapper at all. The discovery of a mixtape entitled Falling on Your Arse in 1999 by Tommy No 1 and Eddie Too Tall has shocked people for how little it sucks. Musically it leans hard on Alan Hawkshaw and Barry White samples and, while Hardy can’t quite settle on a signature flow – sometimes he’s channelling Method Man, other times he verges on House of Pain – you’d struggle to find anyone who’d admit that he didn’t have talent. The discovery of this mixtape shoots Tom Hardy close to the top of the list of actors who’ve dabbled with rap. Here is that list, from best to worst.

Mahershala Ali

If Tom Hardy is Method Man, then the Oscar winner Mahershala Ali – who released an album called Curb Side Seven under the moniker Prince Ali in 2007 – is GZA. Look at his verses in The Path; he’s measured and authoritative, bordering on profound at points. This is surprising, given that he spends some of the accompanying video walking up and down a big piano like Tom Hanks in Big.

Vin Diesel

Now we must deviate from our imagined alternative Wu-Tang lineup, because Vin Diesel’s attempted rap career predates the Clan by seven full years. A Soundcloud file appeared six years ago charting a failed hip-hop collaboration between the avant garde composer Arthur Russell and a boy known then as Mark Sinclair. True, Diesel spends his time aping License To Ill-era Ad-Rock as closely as possible, but there were moments of promise nonetheless.

Abbie Cornish

By day, Abbie Cornish acts in well-received films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Candy. But by night, she is a rapper named Dusk. And despite everything you’re definitely thinking right now, she’s good. Displaying neither the nerves nor the misplaced overconfidence of other actor-rappers, she’s aggressive and tight on tracks like 2014’s Evolve. And she supported Nas in concert, too, which doesn’t just happen to anyone.

Joaquin Phoenix

Yes, the mockumentary I’m Still Here was all a big ruse that threatened to derail Phoenix’s career once and for all. Yes, his aborted rap career was ultimately played for laughs. But in the three minutes that he actually spent rapping – before the performance dissolved into a staged fight with the crowd – Joaquin Phoenix was good. A bit lazy, perhaps, but it worked for him. If it was on Spotify, I’d be listening to I’m Still Here right now. But it isn’t, so I’m not.

Tom Hanks

There exists an alternative universe where Tom Hanks isn’t mortified by City of Crime, the single he released to help promote 1987’s Dragnet, and he continues to release a rap single for every new film he puts out. In that universe, River Crashin’ (released in support of Sully) has been No 1 around the world since 2016. Instead, this one outing – in which he successfully mimics most white rap of the 1980s by just shouting really loudly – is all we’ve got. For shame, Hanks.

The Olsen twins

Anyone who ever owned a VHS copy of The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley will be familiar with the rap career of the Olsen twins. The highlight of this quickly aborted career was B-U-T-T Out, in which the twins told their sister Elizabeth in no uncertain terms what an unwanted burden she was to their family. To her face. It is a supreme diss track, and you pray for Elizabeth’s sake that they never record a follow-up about how she’s the worst Avenger.

Tina Fey

So, a complicated one. Donald Glover is a comedian. But Childish Gambino is the name of his non-comedy hip-hop persona. Real Estate is a serious track recorded by Childish Gambino. But it has Tina Fey spitting lines at the end. Tina Fey is a comedian. Does that make her a rapper, or is her appearance just a novelty white-girl bookend? We may never know.

Rodney Dangerfield

Rappin’ Rodney was a 1983 12-inch single recorded by Rodney Dangerfield, in which Dangerfield lists all the different ways he fails to receive the respect he feels he deserves. Although he was 62 when the single came out, it nevertheless received heavy rotation on MTV and was ultimately nominated for a Grammy. All of this actually happened.

Joe Pesci

You already know this, but Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You was a 1998 album recorded by Joe Pesci under the guise of the character he played in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny. No, really. And while the album isn’t a complete write-off – the big band number Take Your Love And Shove It Up Your Big Fat Ass has a certain undeniable charm – its low point is the Blondie-sampling Wise Guy. “Don’t do blow and I don’t sell crack,” it goes, “Stay alert, I got someone to whack.” It is a bad song.

Hulk Hogan

And then there’s Hulk Hogan, who in 1995 released an album called Hulk Rules containing songs like Hulkster’s in the House, Hulkster’s Back, Hulk’s the One and Hulkster in Heaven (which he spuriously claimed was written for a sick child he met in London). However, he raps in the song Beach Patrol (a song about beating up a lifeguard) and it’d be the worst thing ever done by anyone had Hulk Hogan also not opened a Hulk-themed pasta concession stand in a shopping mall that same year.

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