Three 6 Mafia Win Oscar for ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp’ in 2006 – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
March 5, 2006: On this day in 2006, Memphis hip-hop pioneers Three 6 Mafia make history, twice over.
Hustle & Flow is a 2005 film about a Memphis pimp who wanted to pursue a rap career, and Three 6 Mafia contributed to its soundtrack with the song "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp." Both the track and the movie were garnered nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Actor (Terrence Howard), respectively. The actual night of the Oscars would prove to be legendary, as Three 6 Mafia broke new ground for hip-hop's place at award shows.
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson perform the song in the film, but Howard wasn't interested in recreating it for the Oscars stage, so Three 6 Mafia agreed to rap the lyrics and let Henson handle the chorus. Their performance was the first of its kind, as a hip-hop group had never been given the honor of performing at the Academy Awards. They had the odds stacked against them, as the other nominees were "In The Deep" from the hugely popular film Crash and Dolly Parton's "Travelin' Thru" from the movie Transamerica, both are much more traditional songs than Three 6's tune.
But none of that mattered as Three 6 Mafia won and accepted their award with pride. On this historic night, they became the first hip-hop group to perform at the Oscars and the first hip-hop group to win a Best Original Song award.
"It just seemed unreal to me. We didn’t prepare no speech because we didn’t think we was gonna win," Juicy J recalled to Variety in 2021. "We said the first things that came into our minds — I said thank you to Jesus, Paul thanked George Clooney. I still couldn’t believe it, we walked offstage and I'm saying, 'Did we really win??'"
It may be hard out here for a pimp, but Three 6 Mafia made it look easy.