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Friday, 8 February 2013

I Wanted to Write About Django, But I Ended Up Writing About a Pimp

This is not Jamie Foxx

I wanted my second film post to be about Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and how I think it's the most important black film of my generation.

But, I've only seen Unchained once and I don't fancy breaking a blog rule so early on. So instead I’m going to write about a film which I had Django like feelings for.

Hustle and Flow.

Did you know that Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for their song “It’s hard out here for a pimp”? Not only did they win an Oscar, they performed the track at the ceremony --- in front of people --- probably in front of Morgan Freeman. I'm just going to leave that thought, and the below video, out there.

I’m one of those idiots who consider themselves a hip-hop head. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what that means, all I know is that I am a big fan of rap music and consume a lot of what hip hop culture has to offer.

To put it another way, I bought a pair of Beats by Dre headphones for 3 reasons: It had Dr Dre’s name on them and I am a big fan girl of his; It’s the closest I am ever going to get to Detox; The headphones actually sound alright. The reasons are actually in that order – sound quality last. £300. Feel free to insult me, I deserve it.

At 19, I was just starting university and I remember bemoaning the lack of great modern hip-hop films (for me, "BoyZ in the Hood" was the last one). Then Hustle and Flow came along. I absolutely loved it.

Craig Brewer’s Hustle and Flow is about a low down dirty pimp’s struggle to becoming a (local) rap star.

If you asked a 19 year old Teddybear why he loved Hustle and Flow, he’d tell you pretty much the same as what a 26 year old Teddybear would. The film has a brilliant cast. Terrance Howard’s pimp, DJay, is a wonderfully repulsive, yet venerable character; Taraji Henson is absolutely sensational as the pregnant prostitute, Shug; Anthony Anderson’s Kay embodies a black man's frustration better than Djay himself. Bluntly put, in 2005, Hustle and Flow was the hip-hop movie I was looking for and with a majority black cast that deserved every plaudit it got and more (Note: the white actors in this film are pretty damn great as well).

The story is well executed. Craig Brewer doesn't put a foot wrong in the movie. You can also tell that the director has a damn good understanding of hip-hop cooked up in the American south.   

Make no mistake, this is a very good film.

The issue I have with it now is entirely my own. It’s aged badly on me. Now when I watch, instead of nodding to the beats or rooting for DJay as he stomps the living day lights out of Ludacris, I sit there awkward and cringing. I know this is unfair on the movie, and I am about to be even more unfair.

Hustle and Flow reminds me of a time when I wanted to be a rapper. I wanted the same things that DJay wanted. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am embarrassed that I related so closely to a horribly abusive character like DJay.

As stupid as this sounds, Hustle and Flow reminds me of the pre-Obama era; a time when most young black men would laugh at you and quote 2-Pac if you told them they could be/ or there would be a black president. This film reminds me of a time when success was being a rapper or an athlete and when it was cool to call women “bitches” or “hoes” – damn it, I did it myself during my ill-fated career as a hardcore rapper (don't kid yourself, I can still spit). This film paints a clear, negative but fair picture of the young black man in 2005 – not just the disfranchised young black man.

I know that is nit picking and I should just shut the F up and enjoy the movie – but – this movie is bloody important for black cinema. Successful black movies are rare. Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for crying out loud.

Hustle and Flow is why I’m trying to tamper my opinion over Django Unchained, a film that I am wild about. Django is clearly an important film, it is also clearly a hip-hop film and for me the film tries to paint a positive picture of the black man.

I just don’t know if this film will age on me like Hustle and Flow.