Hustle & Flow

From the moment we first heard Terrence Howard rockin’ the “Hustle & Flow” theme, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, we knew that the tune was super catchy. But Oscar worthy?

I saw the premiere of “Hustle & Flow” on the first night of Sundance ’05. I had two comments walking out of the screening. “We should buy that movie” (which MTV Film did that very evening). And, “That song has a fuckin’ great hook.”

We sang it all week long, half in jest (being that none of us are pimps, at least in the traditional sense of the word). We scribbled it in dust on the back of our SUV. I think I even freestyled it late one night after a long shoot (and a lot of beer).

It is an amazing hook; so infectious. And not just the lyrics (“It’s hard out here for a pimp/When he tryin to get this money for the rent/For the Cadillacs and gas money spent/Because a whole lot of bitches talkin shit”), but the melody. And Taraji Henson nails the last “P” in pimp. Like this, “p-eeeem-P!”

And Terrance Howard killed the rap in the movie. It was a pivotal scene. The pimp-turned-aspiring rapper had cobbled together a recording studion in his home, and was laying down his first rhymes. The scene was like watching “Rocky” run through the streets of Philadelphia before running up the steps of the art museum. You could feel the momentum building.

So when Three-6 Mafia stormed the Oscar stage last night, well, my mouth was a bit agape. And when they won the thing and there was a gaggle of rappers standing next to Jon Stewart all blinged out and swearing, well, you could just feel Middle America cringe (as if “Brokeback” and “Capote” hadn’t already alienated them). It was a fascinating moment, the MTV-ification of Hollywood, the full-fledged co-option of hip hop culture.

The Powers That Be here at The 800 Pound Gorilla were stoked. I was covering the show along with a gaggle of my colleagues online and in L.A., so when the senior management emails began flying (subject line: “Holy Fucking Shit!” You gotta love this place), we snapped into action to be sure the moment was preserved.

So even though they sanitized the hook, changing it from “There’s a whole lotta bitches talkin’ shit” to “There’s a whole lotta witches jumping ship,” well, I say it was a pretty cool moment, one I’d like to think I saw coming.

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