On this day, July 22, in hip-hop history…
2005: The independent film Hustle & Flow was released in select theaters across the world in 2005. Some say the notoriety the film would come to achieve from several diverse audiences is a result of the subtle combination of a familiar-faced cast and a realistic and broadly relative storyline.
The surprisingly well-meshed slew of actors and actresses include Terrence Howard, who plays the hard-knocked protagonist DJay, Taryn Manning, playing Nola as one of DJay’s main prostitutes, Taraji P. Henson, playing Shug as DJay’s pregnant love interest. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and the storyline served as a bit of a romanticization of an otherwise disdainful situation, as DJay struggles to find balance and financial stability between his hustle as a pimp and drug dealer, and his aspirations of becoming a rapper.
While a groundbreaking film in the visual arts industry, Hustle & Flow brought significance to hip-hop in arenas outside of its traditionally occupied demographic. Aside from being a film centralized by the gritty, rags-to-riches themes of hip-hop/rap music, the soundtrack of the film would prove to be particularly moving as well, earning the film an Oscar for “Best Original Song” for Three 6 Mafia’s breakthrough joint “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which they also performed at the 2006 Academy Awards. This earned Three 6 Mafia the distinction of being the first hip-hop group to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the first hip-hop artists to ever perform at the ceremony.
This performance, at a longstanding and well-recognized ceremony in the film industry, made what some would consider major headway in the level of regard and legitimacy for hip-hop held by other industry professionals.—Christina Kelly