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Hustle & Flow
Directed by Craig Brewer
Written by Craig Brewer
Starring Terrence Howard
Anthony Anderson
Taryn Manning
Taraji P. Henson
Elise Neal
Isaac Hayes
DJ Qualls
Cinematography Amy Vincent
Distributed by Paramount Classics
Release date(s) 2005
Running time 116 minutes
Language English
Budget $2,800,000
Gross revenue $27,728,118

Hustle & Flow is a 2005 American independent film written and directed by Craig Brewer about a Memphis hustler called DJay, played by Terrence Howard, who experiences a midlife crisis and is compelled to face his aspiration to become a rapper. DJay, a petty drug dealer and equally petty pimp, and his original and primary charge, prostitute Nola, troll the streets and under bridges and overpasses of Memphis, looking for clients. From the start, it is clear that Nola is more DJay's business partner and fellow hustler (DJay refers to her as his "primary investor"), rather than his subordinate, and that neither of them is satisfied with their lives or with the ins and outs of prostitution; however, each is also in a crisis about exactly what to do instead. While DJay quickly turns to music once he re-discovers the keyboard, Nola remains indecisive and crisis-ridden throughout much of the movie. Despite this, however, the two always remain close, and "in charge" of everything around them, and Nola eventually finds her purpose, as well.

The film, like its own plot, has had a hard life. It experienced many years of near-misses and outright rejection from major studios and potential financiers before finally being backed by its longtime supporter John Singleton (who says in the DVD extras that he decided at last to put up the money himself because he was exasperated at his friends not getting what their film deserved). Once it got made, it was nominated for two Academy Awards: for Best Actor for Howard, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp".



DJay is dissatisfied with his life. After acquiring a keyboard and reacquainting himself with an old friend from school, Key, who has become a sound technician, DJay decides to try making hip hop songs. Key and his sound-mixer friend Shelby help DJay put together several "flow" songs. While DJay quickly proves to have a real talent for lyrics, in which he expresses the frustrations of a small-time hustler struggling to survive, it is his first fixed-length song, done at the urging of these friends, which most obviously has the chance of becoming a hit and getting local radio play.

The group experiences many setbacks throughout the creative process. DJay must hustle those around him in order to procure proper equipment and recording time, and Key's relationship with his wife becomes strained. DJay throws out one of his prostitutes, Lexus, for ridiculing his art. DJay's pregnant prostitute Shug joins in the creative process, singing hooks, and the group eventually records several fixed-length tracks, including "Whoop That Trick" and their primary single "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp". After their first recording, DJay begins to show a romantic interest in Shug.

DJay's friend Arnel informs him that Skinny Black, a successful Memphis rapper, will be returning to the neighborhood for a Fourth of July party. DJay gains admittance to the party under the pretext of providing marijuana, with the intention of giving Skinny Black his demo tape. Black is dismissive at first, but after a long night DJay successfully hustles him into taking the tape. Before leaving the party, however, DJay discovers that the drunken Black has destroyed his tape. In a rage, DJay assaults Black and shoots a member of his entourage(I-20) in the arm before fleeing.

DJay is arrested, but in prison he learns that his prostitute Nola has hustled the local radio disc jockeys into playing his songs, which have become local hits. The end of the film, in a bit of irony, sees a duo of prison guards who have their own rap group asking DJay to listen to their demo, much as DJay had approached Skinny Black. After the guards request DJay to listen to the demo, he accepts their tape and responds with the following: "You know what they say, everybody gotta have a dream," which was the slogan for the film.


Actor Role Notes
Terrence Howard DJay A small-time hustler who is dissatisfied with his unglamorous life and learns to express himself. He is also Shug's love interest.
Anthony Anderson Key A modestly successful audio technician with a passion for music.
Taryn Manning Nola A levelheaded prostitute of DJay's.
Taraji P. Henson Shug A friendly prostitute of DJay's who is pregnant with an unknown client's child. She is also DJay's love interest.
DJ Qualls Shelby A friend of Key's and an amateur musician.
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges Skinny Black A successful Memphis rapper who has forgotten his roots.
Paula Jai Parker Lexus An arrogant and rude prostitute and part-time stripper with a young child.
Elise Neal Yevette Key's straightlaced wife.
Isaac Hayes Arnel A bar owner who is sympathetic to DJay's aspirations

Awards and nominations

  • Black Movie Awards
    • Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Terrence Howard (Winner)
    • Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Taraji P. Henson (Winner)
    • Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Anthony Anderson (Winner)
    • Outstanding Motion Picture: (Nominated)
  • Black Reel Awards
    • Best Actor: Terrence Howard (Winner)
    • Best Supporting Actress: Taraji P. Henson (Winner)
    • Best Original Soundtrack: (Winner)
    • Best Film: (Nominated)
    • Best Supporting Actor: Anthony Anderson (Nominated)
    • Best Ensemble: Nominated
  • Golden Globes
    • Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture: Terrence Howard (Nominated)
  • Image Awards
    • Outstanding Motion Picture (Nominated)
    • Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Terrence Howard (Nominated)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture:
      • Taraji P. Henson (Nominated)
      • Elise Neal (Nominated)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Anthony Anderson (Nominated)
  • MTV Movie Awards
    • Best Breakthrough Performance: Taraji P. Henson (Nominated)
    • Best Kiss: Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson (Nominated)
    • Best Performance: Terrence Howard (Nominated)
  • Sundance Film Festival
    • Audience Award, Dramatic: Craig Brewer (Winner)
    • Excellence in Cinematography Award, Dramatic: Amelia Vincent (Winner)
  • Teen Choice Awards
    • Choice Actor Drama/Action Adventure: Terrence Howard (Nominated) also for Crash
    • Choice Actor Drama/Action Adventure: Ludacris (Nominated) also for Crash
    • Choice Summer Movie (Nominated)


  • Terrence Howard initially turned down the role of DJay. He reportedly was attempting to avoid being typecast as a "pimp" archetype. However, after recognizing the complexity and depth of the character, he reversed his earlier decision and took on the role.
  • As concepts of both hustle and flow are unique to African American culture, it turned out to be nearly impossible to find proper translations for international release of the film. For example, the Russian translation of the title means "The fuss and the torrent".

See also

External links

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