On this day, July 22, in hip-hop history…

MTV Films/New Deal Entertainment
MTV Films/New Deal Entertainment

2005: The independent film Hustle & Flow was released in select theaters on July 22, 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, gritty and broadly relative storyline.

Director Craig Brewer pulled off a surprisingly well-meshed slew of actors like Terrence Howard, who plays the hard-knocked protagonist DJay, Taryn Manning, playing Nola, one of DJay's main prostitutes, Taraji P. Henson, playing Shug as DJay's pregnant love interest. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and the storyline serve 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 rags-to-riches themes of rap, 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. The song 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

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