NEW YORK (Top 40 Charts) - Brown Sugar
, a Magic Johnson Entertainment film, which opens nationwide Oct. 11, presents the love for and commitment to hip-hop as one big and obvious metaphor for the love between the two main characters.
Directed by Rick Famuyima (The Wood), the film stars Taye Diggs (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) as Dre, an A&R executive at a hip-hop label, and Sanaa Lathan (Love & Basketball) as Sidney, a respected music journalist. The two are childhood friends whose lives were altered and shaped when they watched a freestyle battle on a Bronx street corner.
Rappers/actors Mos Def (Monster's Ball) and Queen Latifah (The Bone Collector) also have supporting roles -- Mos Def as cabbie/rapper Chris, whose skills are his hook, and Queen Latifah, as Francine, Sidney's insightful best friend. Among Brown Sugar's numerous cameos are Russell Simmons, Slick Rick, Jermaine Dupri, De La Soul, Talib Kweli and Common, all answering Sidney's standard first question, "When did you first fall in love with hip-hop?"
That's when the metaphors begin.
As a love story, the film is charming, but predictable. But as an examination of hip-hop, what it uncovers is both sad and admirable. Sad because hip-hop, music that grew from the streets, is now a multi-million dollar enterprise, where labels care little for its integrity. Admirable because of the sacrifices some artists and business people make to maintain its roots.
The absurdity of the business is brought to light by the Hip-Hop Dalmatians, a farcical hip-hop duo who remakes Michael Jackson's "The Girl Is Mine" into "The Ho Is Mine." The label head thinks it is a stroke of genius and radio even spins it.
As he does in real life, Mos Def supplies the conscience, turning in a hilarious performance with his provoking comments that will make those who love hip-hop laugh, but also reexamine what the genre has become.
Brown Sugar's pace is sometimes slowed as the necessary dialogue and scenes are fit in to move the story toward its inevitable conclusion, but for the lover of hip-hop, all that is irrelevant. What's important is the moral tale about going with your instinct, reaching for your dream and following your heart, trying to keep hip-hop real. Is it too late?
The Brown Sugar soundtrack, featuring tracks by Erykah Badu with Common, Angie Stone, Black Star, Jill Scott, Blackalicious, Mary J. Blige, and Canada's Jully Black, debuted on The US Albums last week at No. 18.