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Brown Sugar, 08/08/2003

From: Jennifer Tawiah
Category: Films
Date: 16 August 2003


Brown Sugar, Director: Rick Famuyiwa, Starring: Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Release: July 2003

If you’re looking to watch a movie with a combination of excellent directing, talented acting, beautiful people and a great storyline, Brown Sugar is for you.

Brown Sugar tells the story of a hip-hop producer, Dre (Taye Diggs) and hip-hop writer, Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) who have been best friends since meeting during a childhood rap jamming session at an outside basketball court. Both sharing a passion for hip-hop music, the film follows their adult relationship with both music and each other.

The film opens with cameos from many hip-hop artists including Common, Kool G Rap, Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, ?uestlove, Black Thought, Method Man, and Russell Simmons – all describing how they "fell in love with hip-hop", supposedly answering the question posed to them by Sidney.

Having spent time apart pursuing their own careers, Dre is delighted when Sidney leaves her job as hip-hop writer for the Los Angeles Times and moves back to New York to work as editor for XXL. However, Dre who is a successful producer at Millenium Records, is seeing someone, Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), whom he has decided to marry after dating for only a few months. Sidney on the other hand, can’t seem to find anyone whom she clicks with as well as Dre, but she insists that Dre is ‘just a friend’.

Up until Sidney moved back to New York, Dre was happy with his successful career and love life. However, she begins to make him realise that real hip-hop isn’t about profits and he begins to think about his options.

During Dre and Reese’s wedding, Sidney suppresses the real love that she has for Dre although she cringes every time she sees them snuggle up to each other. Her cousin Francine, (Queen Latifah), nudges her to speak up, however, Sidney insists that they are just friends and hooks up with New Jersey Nets star, Kelby (Boris Kodjoe), whom she meets during his interview.

Realising that Millenium Records wasn’t about true hip-hop, Dre confides in Sidney about wanting to start his own record label but doesn’t know where to get the money from. Without hesitating, Sidney writes him a cheque. When he goes home that night and tells Reese his plans, she is extremely put out that he had confided in Sidney before discussing it with her. From then on, their marriage is strained.

Dre approaches taxi driver Chris (Mos Def) to sign up as the first artist on his record label, Brown Sugar. Having turned him down many a time while Dre was still working for Millenium Records, Chris eventually agrees when he realises that Dre was interested in getting real hip-hop produced.

The movie progresses. At Sidney’s New Year’s party, Dre makes a speech, giving special thanks to Sidney for her support. Not to be outdone, Kelby proposes to Sidney, who says yes. Reese begins to flirt with Kelby who asks her how she deals with Dre and Sidney’s close relationship. Chris in the meantime flirts awkwardly with Francine.

When Dre mistakenly takes Reese’s phone to the studio and answers it thinking that it’s his, he finds out she’s having dinner with another man named Richard, who doesn’t know she’s married. So he drags Sidney to the restaurant with him to confront and embarrass Reese and eventually asks her for a divorce. That same night Dre and Sidney have sex but Sidney thanks then sends him away because she has to meet Kelby.

As Dre and Chris are trying to get their first single, Brown Sugar, aired on the radio, visiting the radio station every week, they hear Sidney being interviewed about her book, which she calls ‘her love letter to hip-hop’. Dre immediately phones the radio station and asks her when she first fell in love with hip-hop. She mentions the street rappers but he asks her the question again. This time she answers correctly, saying she has loved him since she was ten years old. Meanwhile Dre is rushing to the radio station and holds up a sheet of paper with the question, ‘will you go out with me’ and three check boxes – yes, no or maybe. She says yes; Francine asks Chris out and the single, Brown Sugar is played on air.

Designed as a romantic comedy intended to "cross over," Brown Sugar succeeds as it portrays beautiful lovers destined to be together, obstacles, which they have to overcome, comical but supportive sidekicks. However, it isn’t as predictable and annoying as some typical romantic comedies. Hip-hop helps the film maintain a certain perspective because the characters have careers, experiences, and other interests that give them lives beyond each other.

In addition, the hip-hop metaphor is very strong as Sidney frequently reminds us that hip-hop is her first love, that it sustains and instructs her. Towards the end of the movie, we see the true meaning of this metaphor come to light as the real love that Dre and Sidney have for each other.

Overall, you don’t have to be a lover of hip-hop to enjoy Brown Sugar. If you’re after a feel-good movie that portrays the positive side of African-American life, then this is a movie to watch and should definitely be part of your video collection when it goes on sale.

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