Originally Published: July 10, 2005
While Terrence Howard’s caramel good looks, even with the help of his permed player coif, may not convincingly lay down the iced-out grill and grit of a Crunk country bamma rapper at first glance – he does. Neither does Hustle and Flow appear to be a Sundance Award winner. But it is.
Produced by John Singleton (Boys N the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers) and Stephanie Allain (Biker Boyz) and written and directed by industry ingénue, Craig Brewer, Hustle and Flow, fared far better at Sundance, winning the 2005 Audience Award, than it did in Hollywood, proving that the film itself has as much hustle as its dynamic cast and crew.
Facing nothing but opposition from industry big wigs, the Allain-Brewer-Singleton team took to the streets of Memphis to film this out-of-pocket project (Singleton decided to greenlight the film; it was picked up by Paramount, MTV Films, and New Deal Entertainment in post-production).
Hustle and Flow is the complex now-or-never redemption story of DJay [Howard], a Memphis pimp whose number one skill is to spit game and whose number one goal is survival- until he bumps into Key [Anthony Anderson] a wide-eyed music producer and old friend trying to make it big in the music biz.
DJay switches gears and decides to take his long-muffled dreams of becoming a rapper off the back burner and into the recording studio. With the help of Key and Shelby [DJ Qualls] a church musician with a beat machine, DJay steps up his rap game as his pimp hand wanes.
When word that Skinny Black [Ludacris], Memphis platinum-selling rapper, is planning a homecoming, DJay plans the ultimate hustle in order to shine, make good on a dream, and find a better life.
But on the way up, some have to move on out. Nola [Taryn Manning], Shug [Taraji P. Henson], and Lexus [Paula Jai Parker] comprise DJay’s trio of hoes. Nola and Shug (short for Sugar) contribute to the metamorphosis, but Lexus is “like a Memphis thunderstorm”- chaotic and destructive.
The idea for Hustle and Flow emerged from the life experience of Memphis born-and –bred Brewer. When his father died unexpectedly at the young age of 49, Brewer felt he was living on borrowed time. Combining these autobiographical details with the reality of the Memphis mean streets, and the Crunk wave, Brewer decided to make good on his own set of dreams by tapping into his creative engine, as reflected in DJay.
Haters aside, Hustle and Flow successfully portrays the neglected dirt-road reality of poverty in the United States. It deglamorizes the playa-pimp images pumped into America’s sometimes myopic urban consciousness while glorifying the resiliency of the human spirit. And that’s what the movie’s all about, lending one’s fate to possibilities of their creative instincts.
CLICK HERE for our correspondent Angie Bruno’s interviews with the cast and crew.