The Sundance buzz for writer-director Craig Brewer on Hustle and Flow pissed off critics who thought this tale of DJay (Terrence Howard), a Memphis dealer in whores and drugs trying to make it as a rapper, was just a pimped-out Rocky. Point taken. But that limited view doesn't allow for the fierce blast of music and feeling onscreen or the breakout performance from Howard. DJay talks philosophy to his new girl, Nola (Taryn Manning), then sells her cheap out of his Chevy. If he has a dream, it comes out in the raps ("Whoop That Trick," "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp") he records in a makeshift home studio, with his pregnant girlfriend (Taraji P. Henson) doing the hooks. Then DJay puts the hustle on rap Skinny Black (a magnetic Ludacris) to hear his flow. Things go brutally wrong for DJay but hauntingly right for Brewer and Howard, who create explosive entertainment.
From The Archives Issue 364: March 4, 1982