Memphis Bleek has revealed that he was up for the lead role in the 2002 film Drumline — which eventually went to Nick Cannon and turned him into a household name — and that his mentor, JAY-Z, was “mad” when he turned it down.
The former Roc-A-Fella rapper made the revelation on Drink Champs on Saturday (September 23), where he confessed that he’d have accepted the role had he known how big of a deal it would be.
“Oh, man. If I could go back — y’all n-ggas don’t know this, I never told this story,” he said. “I turned down Drumline. He wanted me to do it and everything, and I was scared.
“He [Chris Robinson, director] wanted to put me in acting school and all that, and I was afraid. Remember, my career had just started working and I’m saying to myself, ‘I’ll do this movie as a drummer and then it don’t work, how am I gonna go back to the hood and tell n-ggas we out here getting this money, we real n-ggas?'”
He continued: “You know what’s so ill? Me and Nick [Cannon] had the same management […] Nick wanted to be a rapper so he used to be in Marcy with me back in the day. And Nick took the role and here we are.
“But that’s one thing: if I could rewind time, I would have did that. I was on some, ‘I’d rather to do this rap shit.’ Almost like Ja [Rule] did with the Fast & Furious shit. I super fucked up with that.
“Hov was mad at me! I remember Hov was super-steamed at me. Like, ‘Why you ain’t do it?!’ And I remember telling him, ‘Bro, I was scared. I’ve never acted.’ […] And I remember Hov, he paid for acting classes for me.”
“Rap was everything to me then. Hip Hop, it saved my life, so I didn’t want to jeopardize that,” Bleek concluded.
Memphis Bleek wasn’t the only rapper who turned down the role in Drumline that eventually went to Nick Cannon. Back in January, T.I. revealed that he, too, was up for the lead role in the film — and he, too, turned it down.
During a conversation on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast about his successful movie career which includes roles in American Gangster, ATL, Takers and more, Tip revealed that Drumline could possibly have been in his filmography if he’d known how to play the drums.
“Coming up amongst the ranks in Atlanta, would bring me into the company of all of the legends in the city,” T.I. said. “And I could not meet all the legends without coming into contact with Dallas Austin. And Dallas Austin was a huge, huge, huge producer-songwriter. Just an incredible talent and an incredible mogul.
“And he was getting into films and he had this one film,” he continued. “I was working on my first album, he was telling me about his first film and you know, I was always like, ‘Yo bruh, put me in it.’ And he was like, ‘Aight, yeah man! Say less.’ And he sent me to go read and I read and they were like, ‘Man, you got to learn how to play the drums.’ And I was like, ‘I could play like I could play the drums.’ They were like, ‘Nah, you gotta learn how.’ I was like ‘Mannn, I don’t wanna do that.’
“I just didn’t want to commit myself to it at the time. It wasn’t there. But I read and I didn’t get it, and that movie went on to be Drumline. Yeah, I was reading for Nick Cannon’s part. But look, that opened the door for me to do ATL! After I didn’t get the role for Drumline, I went back to Dallas and said, ‘Man next time bruh, just give me the role. I ain’t going to read or nothing! Just give me the role.’ And he was like, ‘Cool,’ and he just gave the role for Rashad in ATL.”
The Atlanta rap legend added that he and Nick Cannon often joke about the scenario, but that he’s ultimately happy with how everything panned out.
“A lot of times, Nick Cannon and I, we be going back and forth and we get on each other,” he said. “I be like, ‘Yea man, you took my role.’ And he say, ‘Yeah but I’da traded you for your role.’ I said, ‘You couldn’t have did my role!’ And we just have that kind of rapport. So I’m happy! You know, all things happen for a reason. What God got for you can’t no one take from you.”