You know it's still hard out here for a pimp, and if you don't, allow me to educate you, mane. If you're not familiar with Hustle & Flow, let me take you back a few years – 2005 to be precise. Memphis, Tennessee – DJay (Terrence Howard) a pimp who's struggling in the current market decided to switch gears and fulfill his lifelong dream: to become a rapper. His main ladies, Shug (Taraji P Henson) and Nola (Taryn Manning) stick by his side because they're a family – and family looks out for and supports each other. That's exactly what his ladies do, even when things get tough and especially when the odds are against them.
So why am I talking about a movie that's old enough to have a learner's permit to drive in the United States? Simple: I feel this has been under-appreciated in its time.
Now that we have some really bomb shows about the music and hip hop industry that are really successful, I feel like we've forgotten a little bit of where we came from. For starters, the women in this film are straight badasses. Oh – you don't believe me that there's representation of hookers living under a pimp who are empowered and outspoken role models? Reevaluate that stereotype you have in your head, friend because Hustle & Flow defy that.
Now, don't get me wrong, Hustle & Flow doesn't glorify sex workers nor does it act like life is so great; but it also doesn't wallow in the negative aspects of the life. It presents everything with the gritty realism of the Memphis streets, not the glossed-over Graceland and blues glory of Beale street and the Motown heyday, but how things really are.
To follow that up, this film has heart. At the core of it, it's about defying the odds and statistics and chasing your dreams – living life to the fullest as opposed to keeping on hustling because it's what you fell into years ago and you're good at it. You may be good at something, but if your heart isn't in it, it's time to move on; it's time to get out, otherwise, you're as good as dead, emotionally speaking. DJay shows us that firsthand, and he has his ladies who support him in his dreams. He finds friends and what he needs to accomplish the goals he set for himself, and he doesn't give up.
Now, I'm not spoiling the ending here at all, but it's uplifting and full of unexpected heart and a lot of expected soul. Besides – how many films can you point to as cause for Three 6 Mafia to win an Academy Award? Besides, in case all that wasn't enough, Ludacris is in it. It's a who's who of the Memphis rap game at the time, and they really keep it authentic. Love it or hate it, Hustle & Flow has heart and soul, and all of my respect. If you haven't given it a shot or are due for a rewatch, it's available streaming free on Crackle.