Hustle & Flow review

Kids, cover your ears. DJay is about to rhyme. And a one, and a two, and a one, two, three, four...

“I’m gonna break this Moet bottle cross your fucking jaw/And that’s for anyone that’s disrespected D/Watch your back, boy, cause you ’bout to get your ass beat!” That was ‘Whoop That Trick’ (a ‘Trick’ being a John and DJay being a pimp). Follow? This is raw, roots rap, where grievances are genuine, threats and dangers present and clear. An urban-drama pistol-whip to the posturing cartoonishness of chart-tailored ‘Gangsta’ rap.

Hustlin’, though, ain’t enough for DJay. Composing from-the-gutter raps produced by his inspired crew – part street, part Church and part that funny-looking- one-from- Road Trip – DJay is aiming high. Looping samples, laying down beats and yelping obscenities about ghetto grumbles (well, that’s all rap is, right?)... songs like ‘Whoop That Trick’ and ‘It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp’ (“Wait, I got a snow bunny and a black girl too/ You pay the right price and they’ll both do you/That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin’”) four-track his angst, as he continues to scratch a dime out of top-drawer weed and scaggy ho’s. It’s a long way from Surrey.

The film’s witty, humble vibe is partially undone by an ending where, readying himself to impress Skinny Black, DJay blings up, gets high and suddenly, jarringly, lays down a more conventional smack-down. In a film where the standard chest-beating and bitch-slapping are shunned in favour of Howard’s restrained take on the struggles of DJay’s afflicted, real-world pimp, it’s an unnecessary, ill-fitting stereotype to suddenly slip into.

But Craig Brewer’s “Everybody gotta have a dream” story (winner of the Sundance 2005 Audience Award) still successfully avoids the pitfalls new 50 Cent vehicle Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ looks set to trip over. Take along the home county Ali G in your life and let Brewer show ’em – as ol’ Flavor Flav said – what time it is.

A refreshing key change: rap without the pantomime. The music might not appeal to everyone, but the escapist humanity shines through.

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