Young Music Stars Do More than Just Sing and Dance

Omarion, Bow Wow, and Ne-Yo Talk About Other Projects

In an industry that produces popularity beyond imagination but not always equal fortunes, R&B stars Omarion and Ne-Yo and hip hop artist Bow Wow are using their celebrity for new career options.

All three, treading a path familiar to others in the music industry, have appeared in movies and are pursuing other ventures for reasons ranging from artistic fulfillment to an appreciation of marketplace and economic reality.

Ne-Yo, 24, is doing as much as he can now, while he is in great demand.”The music business is real fickle. They love you today and hate you within the same hour of that day,” he said.

Before becoming a hit breakout artist with his three-million selling debut, “In My Own Words,” Ne-Yo was making a living as a songwriter. He has penned Mario’s “Let Me Love You;” Rihanna’s “Unfaithful;” and, most recently, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” — all of which were top-three hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. While putting the finishing touches on his sophomore disc to be released this spring, Ne-Yo will continue to write for others.

“I’m going in the studio with Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion and people like that this year,” Ne-Yo said.

Not only does he receive a flat rate from selling the song initially, but he also gets paid royalties based on the song’s success and whether it is licensed for use commercially in concerts or on radio and television.

Ne-Yo also starred in January’s hit fraternity film about step teams, “Stomp the Yard,” which opened at number one at the box office.

Omarion, 22, already has starred in two movies (“You Got Served” and “Fat Albert”) and is prepping for the release of two more this year.

“One film is called “Somebody Help Me,” said Omarion. “It’s a scary film I did with Marques Houston. It’s coming out March 16, and I have another film that I did with Jennifer Lopez. She’s actually producing the film. It’s called “Reggaeton.”

Omarion made his film debut in 2004’s dance-themed “You Got Served.” The movie grossed over $40 million and only cost $7 million to make. The movie was lauded for the dance sequences, but hated for the overall acting efforts, only earning a 2.1 rating on a scale of 10 on the Internet Movie Database.

During his six years as a teenage hip hop star, Bow Wow has sold over 5 million albums and raked in additional millions as an actor. Bow Wow, 19, has starred in “Like Mike,” “Johnson Family Vacation” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” He is considering two movies this year and seems to be especially drawn to film as an artform. “There’s no comparison. I love acting way more than music,” he said.

Bow Wow said he intends to stay connected to the music business, but as an executive rather than as a performer. He is the CEO of LBW Entertainment under Sony Records.

Bow Wow joins a long line of artists making the shift from the concert stage to film. Rappers Mos Def and LL Cool J, who, respectively, starred in “Monster’s Ball” and “Any Given Sunday,” have won respect as actors who have shown range by taking on roles where their characters and parts were not attached to hip hop culture. This is a far cry from how rappers first appeared in film.

In 1985 “Krush Groove” was the first film to have hip hop artists as its main characters. The movie chronicled the beginnings of Def Jam Records, and all the artists in the movie played themselves. LL Cool J, just 17, was part of an all-star hip hop cast including Russell Simmons, Run-D.M.C., and New Edition. Since, he went on to star in his own sitcom, “In the House,” and to pursue a wide range of movie roles, starring alongside Morgan Freeman in crime drama “Edison” (2005) and Gabrielle Union in romantic comedy “Deliver Us From Eva” (2003).

And, though his rhymes may draw mixed opinions, no account of urban music stars who succeeded in film is complete without Will Smith. Smith won the first ever rap Grammy in 1988 before becoming an A-list film star with blockbusters “Independence Day” (1996) and “Men In Black” (1997), which together grossed about $1.2 billion worldwide. Since the decline of his music career in the late ’90s, he’s actually been known more as an actor. He just received his second Academy Award nomination this year for his lead role in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” a film about a man’s shocking ascent from poverty to corporate America.

Smith is not the lone hip hop star to snare Academy Award nomination, however. Proving the successful transition from hip hop to film is more than a man’s world, Queen Latifah won an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as “Mama” in musical “Chicago” (2002). Her 2003 comedy with Steve Martin, “Bringing Down the House,” was enormously popular and has won her a handful of lead roles since.